SVM & STEM: Going Beyond the Science Fair

Smart Village Movement, August 28, 2022

Part 2 of STEM Blog

August 2022 – Anna Fitter for Smart Village Movement In Alliance with Berkeley Haas

Students working on their Science Projects
Source: Canva

We envision a future where quality education is made available to every child regardless of geography, social and economic status.

Smart Village Movement in alliance with Berkeley-Haas builds an ecosystem that provides learning opportunities to children in underserved rural areas.

We do this keeping 4 clear goals in mind:

  1. Inspire Children to participate in the digital world, with a particular focus on girls and those from disadvantaged groups
  2. Practice Open Innovation: We collaborate with Educators, Government Agencies, and Companies to facilitate and curate an exceptional learning ecosystem with modern curriculum materials, training programs, and resources.
  3. Provide Access to Effective Learning: Provide access to maker-spaces and fun learning tools for village students to quickly and effectively learn digital skills and creativity.
  4. Support Communities of Educators and Partners: We build and support communities of educators and partners to remove the barriers to learning digital skills in underserved rural communities where no such opportunities existed before.

SVM & Curiosity Gym’s initiative in building STEM knowledge for rural kids of Meghalaya, India
Source: Innovation Hub, Sohrarim

In Part 1 of our STEM Blog, we discussed how STEM education is the need of the hour to help students make the leap from technology users to innovators.  With combined support from the government, corporates, and education organizations, we explored the opportunities and benefits that a robust STEM education offers.

In this Part 2 of the STEM Blog, where we discuss the tools and resources available globally to incorporate STEM education at age-appropriate stages in school and the community. This article also showcases the various pilot projects and initiatives undertaken by Smart Village Movement Meghalaya in North East India.

First, let’s consider ways to incorporate age-appropriate STEM learning and activities in 3 stages of a child’s life:

Pre-K & Primary School (Ages 3-10)

Middle School (Ages 11-13)

Secondary and High School (Ages 14-18)

Research shows that children develop an interest in STEM fields at an average age of eight. This is due to the fact that technology, gadgets, and gizmos fascinate them. But, the leap from being a user of technology to an innovator rarely happens, and, if at all, it is a very slow transition. The link between engineering-technology-entrepreneurship is evidently missing in India.

A good practice is to expose children to the basics of STEM education early on when they are naturally curious about the world around them and are always asking questions about how things work. The ideal STEM journey is a fun and fascinating one for our youth, with equal opportunities and exposure for girls and kids growing up in rural areas too.

LightHouse made by School Kids in Innovation Hub, Sohrarim
Source: Innovation Hub, Sohrarim

Goals for Pre-K & Primary School STEM Activities:

Keep It Fun with Play and Hands-On Experiences

For most activities we do with kids, the number one goal is fun. If they aren’t having fun, they are not engaged in learning and it is only going to end with negative associations with STEM. In our resource section below, you’ll find some great ideas on how to bring STEM games and projects to life for this age group.

At this stage, it is important to let students have hands-on experiences, with certain safety measures in place.  Demos, group projects, online interactive learning, and creative challenges that involve everyday materials can be great tools.  Engage all their senses; let them touch, smell, see, do, and just experience as much as possible.

School Kids excited about Digital Learning
Source: Canva

Observations

A big part of science and STEM activities is observing what is happening during observation. This means helping children pay attention to what is happening and asking guiding questions such as What do you see? What do you smell? Observations are key to data gathering and understanding how our world works, and helping your child to focus on these things will be helpful for future learning and communication skills.

Asking Questions

This is an easy one for children to do naturally, but do encourage the asking of questions! What do they see? How do they think the activity works? Why do they think the results turned out that way? This is how we build the confidence to explore the unknown.

Primary School Kids watching Science Documentary on Ipad
Source: Canva

Easy Primary School STEM Activities

Now that we know what our goals and expectations are, here are some great resources and learning tools to curate a great STEM curriculum for the early years.

  1. https://www.sciencebuddies.org/stem-activities
  2. https://stemsports.com/stem-activities-resources-age-k-12/
  3. https://www.steamsational.com/stem-activities-for-kids/
  4. www.ixl.com
  5. https://www.splashlearn.com/blog/best-stem-activities-to-spark-innovation-creativity-in-kids/
  6. https://www.earlyyearstabletalk.com/-Fun STEM activities from Early Years Table Talk- an early years education organization based in the UK. Join their Facebook Group to see STEM activities:https://bit.ly/3DcxHsl, https://bit.ly/3RP8VTd

What Does STEM Education for Middle Schoolers Look Like?

STEM curriculum provides an excellent opportunity to teach students about a new and integrated area of study. It also sets them up for success with the soft skills they will need in the workplace as adults. Even if students choose other careers outside of STEM, they can still implement the soft skills they practiced in those classes.

When developing your middle school STEM activities and programs, here are some helpful factors to keep in mind to help you continually engage your students and provide them with a thorough STEM program. Some ideas include:

  • Teaching STEM as Part of the School Curriculum. Middle schools already require math and science courses, but many overlook digital technology and engineering in their curriculum. Some schools may offer STEM electives, which are great for students who already love these subjects, but middle schools should also aim to introduce students who don’t. By including units that cover basic introductory engineering and technology information, students can discover how they feel about the subjects. It can also help kids see the relevance and importance of their studies and help boost their interest in the course material, possibly leading them to their future careers.

Mid Schoolers boosting their STEM Knowledge with their Trainer  in Innovation Hub, Meghalaya,India
Source: Innovation Hub

  • Focusing on Interactive Experiences: Introducing introductory theoretical information is essential for teaching students what they need to know about STEM, but,  it is a very hands-on field, so the classroom should reflect that. Activities and experiments can allow students to apply what they learn and develop critical problem-solving skills necessary for success in the STEM field. Breaking up lessons with fun and relevant activities where students take charge can also keep students interested and engaged in the subject matter.
  • Promoting inclusivity: Since middle school STEM programs aim to diversify the field, creating a program available to all students will help students to discover their passion and give them the foundation they need to succeed in future programs.

Practice Session on usage of Bridge Rectifiers using Diodes- Innovation Hub, Sohrarim
Source: Innovation Hub. Sohrarim

Learner in Curiosity Gym-Innovation Hub working on his Project
Source: Innovation Hub, Sohrarim

STEM Learning In the High School Years

High school is the perfect time for students to explore and determine which field they want to enter after high school graduation. For students interested in STEM activities, this is the time when they should receive the most exposure.

High school is a critical time for students to explore different areas of interest to determine their interest and passion for college applications and later life. Below are six main categories of in-school and extracurricular activities.

  1. STEM Activities: Makerspaces, Clubs & After-School Centers for Robotics
  2. STEM competitions
  3. Research
  4. Other in-school involvement
  5. Summer Camps/Summer Programs
  6. Internships
  7. Volunteering

Smart Village Movement aims to bring STEM to underserved communities in rural India, especially in the NorthEast where interest in STEM and opportunities are limited.

Some of our STEM-centric Education Projects in rural Meghalaya:

1. Salesforce Trailblazer Labs

Two CommunityTrailblazer Labs were set up in collaboration with Sauramandala Foundation, sponsored by Salesforce for children and youth in remote areas. The labs are co-designed with The Open Door Project, Project DEFY, Curiosity Gym, Hygge Energy, and Tiny Owl enabling learning in children with a hands-on activity. Read More

Kids in Salesforce Trailblazer Lab
Source: Salesforce Trailblazer Lab, Nongwah

2. NavGurukul’s Meraki Python Course

NavGurukul’s Meraki and Smart Village Movement are entering into an understanding to teach youths from 13+ age groups from the rural communities, help them build their social and technical skills and leadership qualities, and be employment ready for the Information Technology sector. Read More

Python Coding Class
Source: Canva

3. Curiosity Gym Innovation Hubs

Curiosity Gym is a Mumbai-based education company that provides a platform for students to enjoy experiential STEM learning as an integral part of education. Innovation Hubs are the space where learners educate themselves by self learning, group process, and hands-on practical projects. Design thinking and scientific temper are at the core of their curriculum. Read More

Learners creating Game of Puzzle through coding in Scratch Software
Source: Innovation Hub, Sohrarim

4. Navgurukul Residential Coding Program for Tribal Girls

This is a full-time residential course for students from low-income & marginalized communities in Software Engineering, enabling them to get an aspirational job, have a voice, and be equipped to bring at least 10 families out of poverty in a financially sustainable model.

Founded by IIT Delhi and Harvard alumni, NavGurukul has placed more than 300 students in various companies including but not limited to Mindtree, Thoughtworks, Unacademy, etc. cumulatively earning more than 12.5 crores per year. Read More

Residential Coding Program for Girls
Source: NavGurukul

5. IBM Coding Classes

SVM and IBM collaborated to bring world-class Data Science Online Courses to the students in Meghalaya. Students completing this course will receive in-depth knowledge of Data Science. With timely assignment submission and passing marks in MCQ Exam, students will be eligible for a Course Completion Certificate, and outperforming students will receive internship offers from the partner organization. Excellent interns will also have a chance to secure a job with the partner organization and have access to Open Power Systems from the University of Oregon. Read More

Online Coding Classes
Source: Canva

ABOUT SMART VILLAGE MOVEMENT: The Smart Village Movement is a collaborative process facilitated by the SVM organization with the Berkeley-Haas Center of Growth Markets to create a Smart Village ecosystem. We partner with Government, Academia, Corporations, and Rural Communities to foster independence and sustainable rural development in Indian villages and other emerging markets. Our mission is to empower rural people through digital technologies and open innovation platforms to access global markets.

Our focus on Open-innovation, indigenous technologies, and natural economic forces build a well-developed SVM ecosystem that empowers rural communities to provide for themselves through entrepreneurship, job skills, and access to global markets.

Visit our website to learn more: https://www.smartvillagemovement.org/

Visit our Open-Innovation Platform: https://platform.smartvillagemovement.org/home

Subscribe to our Newsletter for monthly updates and more articles like this: https://www.smartvillagemovement.org/newsletter/

Early Computer Training Sessions in Schools
Source: Canva

More STEM Tools & Resources:

  1. https://www.edc.org/rural-stemImproving educational opportunities for students in rural and remote communities.
  2. www.ixl.com– Online Learning and printables k-12
  3. https://stemlearning.in/stem-in-india/
  4. https://www.stemlabs.in/stem-education-in-india
  5. The BBC micro:bit is a mini computer that has been designed to inspire young people to get into technology by making coding fun and easy to learn.
  6. Contests and Awards: https://indiastemfoundation.org/wroindia/  The significant component of the enterprise of bringing a radical shift towards science and technology education includes competitions at national and international levels. Some of the notable competitive events include the World Robot Olympiad.
  7. STEM CSR India:  https://indiacsr.in/stemlearning/ The R&D in STEM introduction in school education is being supported under the CSR initiatives of several corporations.
  8. Agencies: There are dedicated agencies in India, notably those like the India STEM foundation that are aiming at the popularization of the STEM curriculum in schools and reportedly, they have been able to establish an outreach to more than 20,000 institutes. The move toward science and technology-intensive education is being supported by state agencies like the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the National Council of Science Museums (NSCM), the notable international organizations that are supporting the efforts include For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) and World Robot Olympiad Association (WROA).