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Giving children a chance to shine

Problem solving together: Students in the STEAM Programme learn about electricity

Children have been given an opportunity to delve into science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics subjects through a government-sponsored summer programme.

A focus on these subjects is essential to giving children the best opportunity for success in a world that is being transformed by technology, according to the educators behind the Summer Steam Academy.

The academy, which is in its first year, is based on science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects as well as the arts (Steam).

The Department of Education invited The Royal Gazette to see what they are doing in response to Opposition MP Rolfe Commissiong calling for a national curriculum that has an increased focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects to address the challenges posed by the “technological revolution” that is taking place.

As part of the department’s drive to enhance the quality of teaching and learning in schools, their Gifted and Talented Education (Gate) programme has teamed up with Great4Learning and the Ah! Tempo Performing Arts Academy.

Together they make up the Summer Steam Academy being held at Dellwood Middle School this month.

Great4Learning focuses on electronics theory, coding and robotics, and Ah! Tempo is a performing arts programme.

According to Ms Luann Wainwright-Dill, the education officer for the Gate programme, the two programmes complement each other and help to “develop the whole child and the whole person”.

As part of the Ah! Tempo programme, the children are devising scripts, learning dance, vocal technique and vocal styles, and are also creating a musical production. Ms Wainwright-Dill explained that the arts are included because the “two in this generation are not separate.

“We use technology to create art — all the different forms of the arts.”

She added: “Because the jobs in the future and technology will have grown, changed and expanded beyond what we can see right now, we need to prepare children for that time to give them the best foundation to be successful. This is a generation where we really cannot separate children from technology — it is a part of their lives.”

Lew Simmons, the director of academics at the Department of Education, said the summer programme offers children an introduction to Steam subjects and allows them to apply these in an “interactive, engaging learning experience”.

Dr Simmons added that the programme is one of several initiatives the ministry has implemented in an effort to enhance the quality of teaching and learning across all disciplines.

Darren Burchall, who leads the Great4Learning programme, realised more than a decade ago that “we have to teach today’s children differently”.

Mr Burchall said children are now born into a world of technology and their “minds work differently from when I went to school”.

He is introducing students to the basics of electronics, robotics and coding, and by the end of the programme, each student will be able to build and keep their own robot.

While he is not trying to create robotics engineers, Mr Burchall hopes that by bringing these types of experiences to children in Bermuda he can “train young people to work together, to solve problems and to collaborate”.

Education minister Wayne Scott added that by covering topics that are relevant in this digital age, students are learning “the skills that are necessary to be functional in today’s world”.

Mr Scott said that focusing on Steam subjects is “critical” and that this programme is one “tangible example” of how this can be applied.

He also called on local businesses and other private organisations to continue to offer their support so that they can keep offering and enhancing these programmes.

• The Summer Steam Academy will present a showcase at the Berkeley Institute on July 25, 26 and 27. Tickets cost $35 and are available through ahtempobda@gmail.com or 505-1159.

<p>Focus on STEM subjects ‘long overdue’ says teachers’ union chief</p>

A focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics will help bring the Island’s education system into the 21st century, according to the secretary general of the Bermuda Union of Teachers.

Mike Charles said that an emphasis on these STEM subjects will also help to improve job prospects for students locally and globally.

According to Mr Charles, the “public school system is severely lacking” in its use of technology, which he said is often outdated, limited in numbers or defunct in schools here.

He added that successive governments had “missed the boat” in relation to this and that a focus on STEM subjects was “long overdue” to bring the education system into the 21st century. Lew Simmons, the director of academics for the Department of Education, added: “We know that we are behind the times in terms of technology”.

Dr Simmons said STEM subjects are a “very important focus today” and that “given where we are in the 21st century, we have the opportunity to apply STEM in everything we do and it is in everything we do.”

But according to Dr Simmons, the educations system needs reforming and schools need to be properly equipped to offer an education to 21st century standards.

He added that while the department has been implementing the National Mathematics Strategy and the National Literacy Strategy, they are also looking to introduce coding to schools. This was another recommendation offered by Mr Commissiong and although Dr Simmons said this is feasible, it depends on having skilled personnel and covering the associated cost.