November 9, 2018


Early Learning STEM Australia (ELSA) is a play-based digital learning program for children in preschool to explore science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). ELSA allows children to play, experiment and make sense of the world around them – which is part of STEM, and also part of being a child. ELSA’s STEM Practices encourage children to ask questions, make predictions, experiment, and reflect on what happened and why.

The ELSA Pilot is a key early childhood initiative of the Australian Government. ELSA has been developed by the STEM Education Research Centre (SERC) at the University of Canberra through funding provided by the Australian Government Department of Education under the National Innovation and Science Agenda. It supports the ‘Inspiring all Australians in digital literacy and STEM’ measure, which seeks to increase the participation of Australian children in STEM and improve their digital literacy.

ELSA is led by Professor Tom Lowrie and built on community involvement. The pilot collaborates with early learning educators, preschool program providers and families.

Academic papers

STEM Practices

Professor Tom Lowrie’s paper, STEM Practices: A translational framework for large-scale STEM education design, was published in 2018 in Educational Design Research (EDeR) – an international journal for design-based research in education. This paper unpacks two key pedagogical underpinnings of the ELSA Pilot: STEM Practices and the ERA (Experience, Represent, Apply) model. This was the sixth most-downloaded article from EDeR in 2018.

Experience, Represent, Apply (ERA)

Professor Tom Lowrie and Dr Kevin Larkin’s paper, Experience, Represent, Apply (ERA): A Heuristic for Digital Engagement in the Early Years, was published in 2019 in the British Journal of Educational Technology. This paper presents key aspects of the ERA model used in the ELSA Pilot to address a range of challenges that accompany the use of digital technologies in the year before formal schooling.

More academic papers

Read more academic papers on the SERC website.

ELSA app developers

ELSA has engaged world-class Australian app development companies to create a suite of apps for preschool-aged children, early learning educators and families.

Two Moos

App development company Two Moos, based in Melbourne, created two ELSA children’s apps: Representations and Investigations. Two Moos list Disney, Sesame Street and PBS Kids among their esteemed client list.

Mode Games

App development company Mode Games, based in Sydney, created two ELSA children’s apps: Patterns and Relationships, and Location and Arrangement. Mode are now the preferred supplier for educational games and apps company, Scholastic, in the US.

Stripy Sock

App development company Stripy Sock, based in Canberra, created ELSA’s Educator and Families’ apps. They have also developed some of Australia’s most high-profile entertainment apps, including ABC Kids iView and SBS On Demand.

ELSA partners

Our partners include: