Early Learning STEM Australia

ELSA apps are play-based, encourage active learning, and inspire children to interact with nature and explore it.

University Of Canberra
Game Design and Development
IOS and Android

In partnership with the University of Canberra, we created two apps for the Australian Department of Education. A variety of activities are included in the apps for children and educators to engage in STEM learning. The aim is to improve outcomes in early learning centres.

These apps focus on play, encourage active learning, and inspire children to explore and interact with nature. Two-thirds of the ELSA program takes place off-application, according to the ERA model (Experience, Represent, Apply). Instead of focusing on discrete STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), ELSA apps emphasise STEM Practices: the ideas, methods, and values that underlie STEM.

Within the apps children could do the following activities:

  • Order and sequence a day experience
  • String together decorations
  • Sing-along and dancing exercises
  • Sort healthy food items into lunchboxes
  • Play hide and seek
  • Explore and navigate the zoo
  • Arrange books and objects on bookshelves
  • Create and take photos in a playground

We provided the following services:

  • Game design and development
  • Character development and art direction
  • 3D art and modelling
  • Animation and character rigging
  • Provided print materials to extend exercises into the learning centres
  • An augmented reality experience to teach spatial terms

Within the apps activities, the following STEM topics are covered, this includes: patterns, relationships, location, and arrangement.

In ELSA Patterns, children learn about patterns through three dance songs. This is done through rhythmic movements of their bodies through dance steps.

Play-based activities within the apps encourage children and educators to create their own content (UGC); these reflect their lives and communities. Children's apps for ELSA are available for tablets only.

Children can play many games within each app, depending on the environment they are learning in and what's currently of interest to them. As part of our development, we also created four different characters. Each character has traits and characteristics that make them distinctive and suitable for the topics they represent.

In one of the app's activities, children make paper decorations to learn how to make patterns. Visual and audio cues are used well in this exercise to scaffold children's understanding of what to do. Children can learn how to recognize and make a pattern sequence within a variety of problem scenarios within this activity.

To teach young children STEM concepts, we developed apps. Our first app introduced the concept of understanding patterns and arrangements. Children learned this through activities that included ordering a day's activities, stringing together decorations, singing and dancing exercises, and sorting healthy food items into lunchboxes.

The app activities in ELSA by design allow kids to play and learn freely while teaching STEM concepts. Some activities allow children to play individually or in small groups. Other activities encourage play off-app as a group activity. The flexibility of content we delivered to the client enabled educators to choose activities that suited resources and requirements in the learning centre.

We had the pleasure to work with the Mode Team on the development of digital learning apps for the Early Learning STEM Australia (ELSA) program. The final products were innovative and conceptually strong, in part because they are able to establish a strong nexus between creative design and functional use.

Dr Tom Lowrie - Centenary Research Professor - University Of Canberra

There are four distinct characters that represent each of the ELSA children apps. Toy versions of these characters were made as "Budsies" plush toys and provided to learning centres that were part of the ELSA programme.

In the second app that we made for ELSA, we taught spatial terms, such as over, under, on top of, underneath, etc. Within the app, children could hide and seek, explore the zoo, arrange books on a bookshelf, and take photos (to comprehend viewpoints) in a playground setting. In the hide and seek activity, Augmented Reality (AR) was used appropriately to teach educational content, not as a gimmick. It allows a small group of children to play together and practise spatial terms.

In 2022, the federal government will provide $5.1M for further development of the ELSA apps

The children's apps developed by ELSA include activities for understanding Patterns and Relationships through dance and object arrangement. As well as introducing Location and Arrangement, students should be able to comprehend terms like over, under, on top of, below, etc., as well as grasping what a point of view is.

Children can sort healthy food items into lunch boxes as part of this group activity. The app then asks children to describe why they sorted these items together. Within the ELSA apps, audio recordings from the children are shared as user generated content.

ELSA apps have received positive feedback from educators involved in the ELSA pilot, further research and news can be found on the ELSA website. ELSA was selected as a finalist in the category Education Technology at the 2020 Australian Financial Review Higher Education Awards.

Screenshot Images

No items found.

Concept Art

No items found.

Gameplay Videos


Hear what our amazing customers have to say

"Mode have a level of polish and attention to detail to their work that is impressive and rare. I'd recommend that you talk to them about your next game project."

Photo of Gavin Brown from Scholastic Inc.
Gavin Brown
Digital Product Director, Scholastic Inc.

"Thank you Mode for believing in the kids we work with and throwing everything that you and the team had at this project. And finally – thanks for delivering a super cool and engaging game. Hip hop meets maths and science – got me hooked!"

Photo of Jack Manning-Bancroft from AIME
Jack Manning Bancroft
Request a quote

Say hello

Our team would love to hear from you. Please provide as much detail about your idea or project as possible, this is so we can begin working with you.

Success icon
Your message has been submitted.
We will get back to you within 24 - 48 hours.
cross icon
Check the highlighted fields and try again or contact us at sales@mode-games.com
Mode monster worm top endMode monster worm bottom endMode monster worm middle leftMode monster worm middle right
Our offices

Come and visit us to start a conversation

There’s a free coffee in it and we’re friendly, so let's meet up!

Mode HQ – Sydney, Australia

Suite 709, 250 Pitt St. Sydney NSW Australia 2000

Phone number – available on request
Book a meeting
Mode office photo