At Pensmith STEM International our students learn through a project-based learning approach – we call these “STEM projects”.  Although they are called “STEM projects” they are not limited to learning about Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.  The projects incorporate other subject areas and skills such as Art, Music, Geography, ICT, and History.  Throughout our learning students are focussed on developing 21st Century skills – we separate these into skills for learning and skills for life.  Skills for Learning include Creativity, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, and Communication.  Skills for Life involves curiosity and imagination, adaptability and persistence, global citizenship and leadership.

F1isS STEM Challenge

We were therefore very excited to hear about the Formula One in Schools Challenges and Competitions have arrived in Thailand.

This is designed as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, English and Maths) challenge.  Students have the task of creating a Formula 1 team.  This involves forming a team of 3 – 6 students, create a business plan, marketing and sponsorship, design, manufacture and race a model F1 car.

The format and approach to STEM learning match really well with the goals for students at Pensmith STEM International which contributed to our decision to integrate this into our curriculum.

Let’s take a look at what this looked like in our first week?

Mission: In teams of 3-4, students will research, design, manufacture, test, promote and race the fastest car possible.

Day 1 : Planning phase

Today started with lots of communication, collaboration, and leadership skills.  Subject areas involved in step 1: English and Global Citizenship, Physical Education (team building).


Teams deciding on team roles

Students had to form a team of 4 people and then decide on which role they would take on for the challenge : A team manager, manufacturing engineer, design engineer, graphic engineer.







Presentation introducing their team

Following these negotiations the teams decided on a team name, assign roles within their team, design a team logo, then gave a short presentation introducing their team.





Step 2: Design and Manufacture

Our teams design and manufacture their model F1 cars, at this level they are made with card, and are completed with an axle, wheels, a car body and a driver. The students got to learn how to use the paper plotter to cut/manufacture their car designs.  Logos and sponsorship were selected for their cars.


A big day for innovation, creativity and problem solving.  Subject areas involved in step 2: Art and Design (logo), Technology (learning paper plotter), Maths (measurement and shape) and Engineering (car construction).

Step 3: Testing

Our teams test their cars in the wind tunnel, learning about how aerodynamics affect the speed of the cars.  Teams had the opportunity to test their reaction times and their cars – making necessary modifications to be ready for race day.  The team managers leadership skills are put to the test in deciding which team member will represent the team to race their car, and a decision on which was the fastest car to use in the race.

This step was about communication, collaboration, and critical thinking, with lots of opportunities for leadership and problem solving.  Subject areas English, Science (aerodynamics), Technology (learning how to use the wind tunnel), Engineering (Problem solving solutions to their car designs), Maths (measuring drag, and reaction times), Physical Education (reaction times).

Step 4: Promotion and Oral Presentation Practice

The pit display shows off the team logo, their sponsors, the roles of the team members and explains the process they followed in the design and manufacture of their cars.  Finally teams and get to practice their 2 minute verbal presentations to introduce their team and explain their team values.

Communication and collaboration were essential today, as teams put their creativity to the test on developing a pit displays. Subject area focus at this step: English (verbal presentation and pit displays) art and design (logo and pit display), citizenship (team values).

Step 5: Race Day

Race day brings together everything the students have learnt and experienced over the week as F1 Primary Challenge Race Day arrived.  Teams were nervous as they added the final touches to their pit displays and cars.

Students then have final presentation of teams, their pit display, their cars are checked that they meet all the regulations.

Then time to race.

Prizes were awarded for best car design, pit display, and the fastest car.  The overall winner was the team with the best overall score.

Winners and their Prizes

Winners and their Prizes

2015 saw an historic agreement between 193 counties.  This agreement resulted the development of 17 sustainable development goals with the aim to make the world a better place.  These goals include an end to poverty, tackling climate change and education for all.

Each of the 17 goals present challenges to be addressed.  At Pensmith STEM International we use these 17 goals as a framework for our learning and in particular, our STEM projects.  During these projects students work on real world problems and challenges, and therefore can contribute towards finding potential solutions.  Students are learning and put into practice their knowledge and understanding of science, technology, engineering and maths. For example, within the Life on Land goal students are learning about habitats to help protect endangered animals and about 2D and 3D shapes and friction to create defences against landslides.

To be successful in these projects our students must also develop and use their critical thinking and problem solving skills, their creativity, communication and collaboration skills. They must be adaptable, curious, and use their initiative and persistence to create viable solutions.  These are all important 21st Century skills preparing the students for now and the future.

Integrating Art and Science

At Pensmith STEM International our focus developing 21st Century skills through  Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) education.  We do this through a project based approach.  Does this mean we ignore other subjects such as Art, Music, Humanities?  No, absolutely not!  These subjects are important for developing 21st Century skills – particularly creativity, communication and collaboration.  We integrate these subject areas into our STEM projects.  As a part of their project “Life on Land” the group below recreate flowers using a variety of materials as an integrated art and science activity.

The 21st August saw the arrival of our founding student group to start their Pensmith STEM International journey.  It is our aim for them to become globally responsible citizens who are prepared for the demands of our changing and developing world.  We are doing this through integrated learning of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, and instilling 21st Century skills to enable them to thrive as leaders, innovators and citizens.

We have a great team of creative and dedicated teachers who have been preparing together over the last 3 weeks to develop some awesome STEM projects and activities to engage our students and develop their 21st Century skills.

Our campus is really taking shape.  Our classrooms are looking fantastic.  Our playground equipment was installed just in time for the students first day, which they were able to enjoy during their first morning break.  Our maintenance team are still working on the multi-sport surface in our playground area.  The weather has not been on our side in completing this one in time for the start of the school year.

This week the students have been learning about the design process, 21st Century Skills and undertaking STEM challenges and getting to know each other.

As our school grows, we look forward to welcoming new students and their families to our community.






It is clear that skills needed at work are changing and the pace at which this is happening in increasing.   Technologies such as Uber, Airbnb, online shopping, and self-driving vehicles have eliminated thousands of jobs, while making way for the creation of jobs requiring 21st Century skills – which are predominately Digital Skills, and involve jobs  that design, manufacture, program and maintain the technology.

How should schools respond to prepare young people for these new skills as we approach the 4th industrial revolution?

Kenneth Baker, the Chairman of Edge Foundation, a leading UK based Education Charity believes that the future workforce will need technical expertise in areas of design and computing and skills that robots struggle with – flexibility, empathy, creativity and enterprise.  Lord Baker said in the Edge Foundation’s recently released manifesto “Knowledge is as necessary as ever, but it is not enough”… “It needs to be connected to the real world through practical application ranging from engineering to IT to the performing, creative and culinary arts. We need a 21st century education for a 21st century economy.”

At PensmithSTEM International we recognise the importance of combining the necessary skills and knowledge to prepare our students for future jobs.  Our focus is on 21st century skills and Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths education.  This is delivered through interdisciplinary  STEM projects enabling students access to engaging, hands on, and practical experience in what they are learning, whether this is a project to prevent people getting sick from diseases carried in water to the design of housing to protect them from flooding or earthquakes.

In his book, An Introduction to Critical Thinking and Creativity : Think More, Think Better, Dr, Lau writes that critical thinkers can do the following:

  • Understand the logical connections between ideas.
  • Identify, construct, and evaluate arguments.
  • Detect inconsistencies and common mistakes in reasoning.
  • Solve problems systematically.
  • Identify the relevance and importance of ideas.
  • Reflect on the justification of one’s own beliefs and values.

Critical thinking is therefore not just knowing lots of information or having a good memory.  A critical thinker can use the information that he or she knows to solve problems.  This requires us to determine the relative importance of information we have, the strength of that information, and what new information we need to acquire to help with decision making and to solve the problem at hand.

Critical thinking promotes, and is an essential ingredient of creativity.   While creativity helps us come up with new ideas, it is critical thinking that is used to evaluate, select and improve on these ideas to achieve a relevant and appropriate solution.

In the 2016 World Economic Forum report : “The Future of Jobs”, in discussing the Fourth Industrial Revolution which is seeing developments in artificial intelligence, machine-learning, robotics, 3D printing, genetics and biotechnology, the report noted the global disruption this will cause in the skills needed in work.


The data compiled by the World Economic Forum suggests that the top 3 most relevant skills relate to critical thinking, creativity, and their practical application through problem solving.

The great news is that these are skills and something that we can learn and use throughout our lives regardless of the career we choose. Critical thinking and problem solving are transferrable skills which means that they can be applied to a variety different situations.  These skills allow us to develop an understanding guided by scientific inquiry and evidence based thinking.  So rather than just noticing that something has happened, we get a deeper understanding why something has happened, through an analysis of the factors that created that outcome.

Science learning in the context of a good STEM education not only helps prepare the next generation for better jobs it also teaches them skills that can be used throughout life to help them get through tough times to open their mind to accept information based on factual evidence, and embrace new opportunities.


Lau, J.Y.F (2011) An Introduction to Critical Thinking and Creativity: Think More, Think Better, Wiley, New Jersey

Research by the University of Maryland has found that your mindset contributes to your creativity, which they referred to as the Creativity Stereotype Effect.  If you think you are creative, your chances of being creative increase, and thinking your not creative can decrease your creativity.  Therefore, everyone can be creative by working on our mindset.  At PensmithSTEM we focus on the development of 21st Century skills through STEM education.  The development of students’ creativity is an area where teachers can have a huge impact on developing this essential 21st Century skill.


A recent World Economic Forum article ( by Christopher Brown, Associate Professor of Curriculum and Instruction in Early Childhood Education at the University of Texas at Austin, questioned whether there is enough play time in pre-school and kindergarten?

The article discusses how the trend is for teacher led academic learning, with little time for play. A focus on academic learning over social and emotional development.  Whereas break times allow for students to restore their energy and attention for learning.

At PensmithSTEM our teachers deliver child centred learning and students experience learning through play and hands on learning.  These opportunities allow our students to interact with their peers in a natural setting, learn to solve problems an essential 21st Century skill.

Our Kindergarten learning spaces (no more classrooms!) integrate both indoor and outdoor learning areas where children can play, explore and learn, allowing their development academically, socially and emotionally.

If you have ever wondered why we learn equations such as E=MC² and Pythagoras theorem at school? This World Economic Forum video shows that they have very practical and useful applications that we use every day.  At PensmithSTEM our students learn the practical applications and real world examples of what they are learning, preparing our students for 21st Century careers.

Self driving cars, artificial intelligence, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and virtual assistants: Hey, Siri!  These are just some of the phenomenal developments we are seeing that are coming to define the current technological revolution.

“The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent… it is disrupting almost every industry.… And the breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance.”

  – Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman, WEF

Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum argues the current technological revolution we have entered will be fundamentally different, not only in the speed of development, but also as it will change who we are, our identity.   This is in contrast with previous industrial revolutions which were characterised by improvements in the way we did things resulting in mechanisation, mass production, and automation.

With change there is challenge and opportunity, and lots of questions!   What are the impacts on our lives, our decision making, our careers, on business, our culture, on society and on Education.  How can we adapt and use these technologies to benefit us and our communities? What jobs will be created to meet the needs of this revolution?  What knowledge, skills and characteristics are needed?  What must we do to prepare?

As governments, societies, schools and teachers look for answers, themes relating to 21st Century Skills and STEM education are regularly heard and talked about.  What are 21st Century skills? What is STEM education? How can they help?  Our future posts will share our thoughts about these questions as we look in more depth at 21st Century skills and STEM Education.

Now recruiting : teaching and leadership opportunities

PensmithSTEM will open in August 2017 and is now recruiting for the following positions:

For August 2017 start:

  • KS1 teacher
  • Upper KS2 teacher
  • Middle School teacher (Maths and Science)
  • Middle School teacher (English and Humanities)
  • EAL specialists (3)



PensmithSTEM will open in August 2017.

The Chairman of the School Board is delighted to announce the appointment of Mr Tony Atkinson as Founding Headteacher.

Tony Atkinson is 39 years old and was educated at Appleby Grammar School, from where he went on to study Physiology at the University of St. Andrews. He also holds an MBA and M.Sc in Educational Leadership.  Tony joins Pensmith from Saint John’s for Education, Bangkok.  Over his 11 year at Saint John’s Tony undertook many roles including lecturer and at the University, Principal of their American High School and most recently as Headteacher at Saint John’s International School, where he lead the growth of the school, tripling student numbers during his time at the school.

Tony is married and has a 20 month old daughter who will be joining PensmithSTEM when she is old enough!

The experiences gained at Saint John’s and in the UK uniquely place Tony to lead the development of PensmithSTEM when it opens its Kindergarten and Primary and Middle School in August 2017 and High School in August 2018.