Our deepest thoughts

Le dernier cri

Aug 8, 2016   written by John Lamerand

Some people see STEM as the latest fashion in teaching. They are right and they are wrong.

“The last cry” in teaching should be balance and by focusing narrowly on STEM we run the risk of providing an incomplete education. The same goes for the so-called “common core”. 

So what to do about the latest fashion in science and maths education?

We should encourage students to see the creative aspects in science and maths, and for that reason we favour the use of STEAM (with Arts) over STEM. What we are wary of, however, is that in rushing onto the bandwagon every teacher is trying to incorporate STEAM or STEM in some way. The result is often little more than a nod in the direction of this trend. 

A policy analyst in our government sees a laptop and a SPRK and says “That’s it, that is what we will do to satisfy schools’ cravings for something new”. Of course, we understand at the school level, that the last thing we want is yet another set of guidelines and subject names to come to grips with. The last thing we want is massive spending on tools that are next to useless without professional training.

Toys look good in photo opportunities and it is comforting for newspapers to report on what our state is doing (read spending) to bring education into the 21st Century.

What we need, more than anything else, is an understanding that the subjects that we grew up with still matter. History, Geography, Biology, Physics, Geology, Maths, English, LOTE, Fine Art, Drama – these subjects still matter no matter what we call them.

The danger is, if we treat STEAM as a fashion trend, that we will miss a great opportunity to teach and enthuse our students and we may continue to experience declining enrolment in science courses at a tertiary level. There has been a steady decline over the last twenty years in science participation. We need more than just a catchy name for what we will do to reverse this trend.

Finally, the potential for STEAM is somewhat like the potential within a friendship;  it’s not about what one discipline can do for another, it’s what the two disciplines become in each other’s presence. The promise of STEAM education is that subjects that were once treated in separate silos might be allowed to mingle.

Move over Heston Marc Blumenthal!

Aug 2, 2016   written by John Lamerand


Years ago I bought a kitchen kit from a little company from Québec called Molécule-R. The kids loved it. They really, really loved it. This was before I’d had the idea to start steamkits so I bought it without thinking “great, a Christmas present that I can declare on my tax as a business sample.” Dear ATO, I am kidding, really, really, I am.

What got the kids so excited? As they put it they “did a Heston” and turned dinner on its head. The vinaigrette pearls, spinach gel “pasta” and mock raw egg dessert complete with liquid yolk in a gel sleeve was the talk of the neighbourhood, the playgroup, the classroom. It was a real buzz.

Well, since we first dipped our toes into molecular gastronomy we have seen the rise of Master Chef and sous vide cooking for the masses (thanks to the crowdfunded Nomiku circulator).

If you don’t know what I am talking about google Heston Blumenthal and you will quickly learn why your class will go absolutely wild for the Molécule-R kit.

Sadly there is a catch: you cannot buy the kits directly from Molécule-R any longer. Boo. 

The good news is that we are going to get some stock in so that you don’t have to resort to ebay. Of course, the added advantage of buying through steamkits is that we have identified where use of the  Molécule-R kit satisfies elements in the  Australian Curriculum – making lesson delivery that much easier.

So if you are looking for a chemistry or a food lesson that is safe and straightforward, think Molécule-R and Steamkits. Your students will love you.


This is what we found when we tried buying kits from the Molécule-R site today.

Prepared to pivot

Jul 31, 2016   written by John Lamerand

When I first turned to Wayne Savill for help it was not to create Steamkits. I was keen to create a science lending library for the Great Southern. The kernel of the idea was that if it is viable to lend books, and to lend toys then why not establish a resource for lending expensive science equipment to local schools. My plan included a desire for ubiquity; I would get it right here in the Great Southern and then roll the process out cookie cutter style to other parts of the Commonwealth.

It is not that the idea would not work, but that the idea needed work. A more immediate win, Wayne explained, would involve the creation of kits that schools could purchase and the revenue generated could fund more kit development and the eventual creation of a science lending libaray. So we started buying multiples of each piece of kit and adapting them to answer the lesson plan requirements. For me this change represented a pivot; I was not abandoning my intial plans but rather going about it a different way.

The pivot sprang from the realisation that it is very hard to fund a library and every library has to contend with items that are “long overdue” (otherwise known as “lost”). As I write this I confess that I have a few titles from our local book library that are in the LO category. Sorry, people – I borrowed too much, I bit off more than my mind could chew and now I cannot renew, again.

It quickly became apparent that the lending library idea was like my stack of library magazines and books – the idea of reading all that stuff, the idea of creating and buying all of those resources, was great. The reality was a little more of a challenge.

So we had to be more practical, more pragmatic.

And this brings me to you, my reader. Have you ever bought something that you thought that you would use in class. An arduino-based robot, or a set of chemicals. And when it came time to create the lesson plan you were pressed for time, and you realised that it was next year’s students who would benefit. So be it. We cannot do everything that our hearts desire, but hopefully with steamkits you will be able to get started in your classroom not long after you rip the tape off the shipping box. That is our plan, one that we hope you will share with us.

author: John Lamerand




  • We started with the idea of a science library
  • We decided that despite its merits we would pivot our focus
  • Steamkits is designed to save you time in preparing for class