Stamford American School prepares students for the future of work
The Volvo Ocean Race’s recent visit to Hong Kong presented the perfect opportunity to combine innovation with real life experiences and Stamford American School did just that as part of their STEMinn program (science, technology, engineering, math and innovation) which focuses on fully integrating STEMinn into the curriculum by fostering innovative thinking but also moving beyond theory into production. To do this Stamford partnered with MakerBay for an exciting boat building project led by Director Cesar Jung-Harada who is well known for being an environmentalist, entrepreneur and inventor focused on solving man-made environmental issues such as oil spills, ocean plastic and radioactivity.
His passion for the using technology to better the world, His brilliant maker spaces which are expanding in Hong Kong and hands on approach to student learning is what made him a perfect choice to not only work with the students on this project but also join as one of Stamford’s Global Mentors. This program connects students with leaders in a variety of fields in order to find inspiration from adults beyond their teachers and parents and potentially even discover a new career path. Students have already worked with a famous author, Olympians and entrepreneurs.
Before embarking on the boat building project, students spent time researching the Volvo Ocean Race and related topics from a variety of angles understanding the importance of the shipping industry and role of oceans in transport to what life is like on board. After presenting findings to their classmates, students were treated to a visit to the race site itself where they got the chance to see their favourite racing teams up close and also step inside a real sailboat that had been cut in half.
These learning experiences were the perfect groundwork for the boat building project where students had to not only had to understand to basics of physics, design but then also bring ideas to life based on information they had gathered in their research.
“We provide authentic learning experiences which focus on innovation and new ways of thinking,” says Linda Cheung, STEMinn coordinator for Stamford in Hong Kong. “The teaching relies on three pillars, which we call imagine, design and create. Technology support is available to help learning, and we teach children to use technology in a responsible way.”
The underlying principles were the same but the projects were different. Grade 4 students created upcycled motor boats, Grade 5 students made 3 d printed boats and Grade 6 & 7 constructed life size boats from wood and fibre class. All of the boats must then be tested-to hold weight, movement and in the case of the life size boats actually transport students across the newly built Stamford swimming pool. This challenge will be the true test of their work and allow learning from both successes and failures like real-world inventors and entrepreneurs.
For many students this was their first opportunity to have access to to real life tools and see their ideas come to life on a grand scale “The students were super excited seeing all the tools. They were also amazed that they could really use such tools and build life-size boats,” Jung-Harada says. “At first, some of them didn’t have self-confidence, but soon they were all contributing to the work. At the end, they were proud that the boats all worked. Gaining self-confidence can be life-changing,” Jung-Harada says.
This is just the first large scale project with more to come including an upcoming project related to solar energy but the focus on STEMinn will remain as Stamford is passionate about preparing students for tomorrow’s world, Head of School Karrie Dietz commented,”STEMinn is fully integrated into our curriculum but it goes beyond the subjects themselves. It’s a way of seeing the world that develops critical thinking and problem solving skills which is supported by technology. The skills learned will then be transferable to variety of real life situations that build resilience and creativity to be competitive in a changing technological landscape”.