In this project, students were asking the question “How is plastic pollution affecting our Oceans?   The 4 UN sustainability goals in focus were: Life Below Water, Responsible Consumption and Production, Clean Water and Good Health and Well Being.

Students explored the work of Greenpeace in Thailand and read news articles about ocean animals, including the plight of the pilot whale that died in Songkhla province.  The whale died with 8kg of plastic waste inside its stomach.  Using recycled materials students re-created a model of the whale, complete with eaten plastic to raise awareness of the issue.

Students undertook persuasive writing to write a letter to their parents to encourage their families to stop using plastic straw, which is a particular problem to ocean life.

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Save the turtles

Using the design process students created Lego models of turtles and whales.  Then developing their programming skills with Lego WeDo to have the models move and communicate.

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Students then headed to Bang Saen beach to clean the beach to help reduce the amount of plastic ending up in the sea.

Students created designs for fabric bags supporting their cause of stopping the use of plastic bags. Students took these bags and campaigned outside 7-Eleven to increase awareness of the issues.  Students handed out their fabric bags to members of the local community and customers of 7-Eleven.

 

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Please help support sustainability and life in our oceans. Reduce, reuse, recycle and wherever possible stop using plastic.

 

At Pensmith STEM our curriculum through the UN sustainability goals expose students to real-world problems and how what they are studying is relevant.   Students undertake these projects which combine skills and knowledge from across the curriculum. This develops students’ ability to work in teams, promote their critical thinking and problem-solving skills, develop research skills, and ideate solutions to real-world problems, all through discovery and exploratory learning.

Subjects / Skills directly related to the project: English, Science, Geography, Art, Design, Engineering, Technology.

21st Century Skills Developed: Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Creativity, Leadership

 

 

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.

F1 in Schools Challenge

We were therefore very excited to hear about the F1 in Schools Challenge 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).

F1 in Schools Challenge

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.

F1 in Schools Challenge

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 F1 in Schools Challenge final 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 in School Challenge Race Day arrived.  Teams were nervous as they added the final touches to their pit displays and cars.

As in the national championships for the F1 in Schools Challenge, students present their teams, their pit display, their cars are checked that they meet all the regulations.

Then time to race.

For our first F1 in Schools Challenge, prizes were awarded for best car design, pit display, and the fastest car.  The overall winner was the team with the best overall score.

F1 in Schools Challenge

Winners and their Prizes

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

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.

 

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. Read More

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.
What is Critical Thinking?

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 the information we have.  Then we must assess the strength of that information.  Finally, we must decide what new information we need to help with decision making and to solve the problem faced.

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

Critical Thinking and the Future of Jobs

In 2016 the World Economic Forum released a report: “The Future of Jobs”.  This report discussed 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.

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The data compiled by the World Economic Forum highlight the top 3 most relevant skills needed in the 21st Century.  These 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. Furthermore, critical thinking and problem-solving are transferrable skills. This means that they can be applied to a variety of different situations.  The result is that 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 of 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

http://reports.weforum.org/future-of-jobs-2016/

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.

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0142567

 

A recent World Economic Forum article (http://buff.ly/2pc1wn1) 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.

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 a change, there is a challenge and an 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?  How 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.

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-fourth-industrial-revolution-what-it-means-and-how-to-respond/