Getting to know STEMpowering Youth!
For the third straight academic year, SciCo, with the support of the Vodafone Foundation and the academic contribution of Ellinogermaniki Agogi, is bringing the extracurricular STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) educational program to 12-16-year-old students in remote areas of Greece. The goal of the STEMpoweringYouth program is to connect schools with their local communities, cultivating the students’ creative thinking and inspiring them to research problems affecting their community and come up with innovative solutions using science and technology.
Each cycle of the program begins with the training of educators. Our educators bring their appetite for creative, fun, and meaningful teaching of science, and the program offers them the tools they need to bring their students in touch with new technologies and scientific thinking through interactive learning. The tools provided by the program include digital teaching scenarios, a teaching handbook and project materials, supported by cooperative learning environments. Each participating educator becomes part of the STEMpowering Youth educational community in the online platform of the H2020 program “Open Schools for Open Societies”- “OSOS”, through which educational material and support is provided to schools all over the world, giving them an opportunity to share good teaching practices as well as their projects and creations.
So far, the program has engaged dozens of middle-school and high-school students almost in every corner of Greece, including Thrace, the NE Aegean, the Dodecanese and Crete. Each cycle lasts 2,5 months, with students following three-hour units centred around STEM-subjects on a weekly basis. Each unit focuses on interactive and project-base learning, with the right combination of theory and practice! One of the units focuses on water as a universal resource in our planet- during the class, students acquire first hand experimental experience of water’s properties, such as surface tension and diffusion, and of sustainable practices such as desalination! The unit on seismic activity includes interactive activities such as seismic wave simulation and building a seismic table, while students utilize teamwork, constructions and digital applications to enhance the Astronomy unit, exploring, among other things, planetary orbits and the phases of the moon. In addition, students are acquainted with new technologies, such as GPS systems and programming of the Arduino micro-controller. With their new knowledge on the function of photoresistors, distance, heat and various other sensors and the development of engineering and building skills, students are able to build their own thermometers, night-lights and other devices, acquiring the necessary skill-set to create their own innovative projects!
Educators are encouraged to add their own personal touch to the classes, by adding their own activities and involving other educators of their local school community in the program. Thanks to STEMpoweringYouth, a nation-wide network and corresponding internet site has been created, connecting our educators all over Greece and allowing them to share their comments and observations on the program and exchange ideas and educational material.
All educational activities converge on the main pillar of the program, which is the development of scientific thinking, problem-solving skills and the practical application of the students’ creativity, leading them to become active members of their community. For this exact purpose, students of the program are encouraged to be inspired by all they have learned in order to identify a problem of their local community, research, experiment, and use their new skills to create a solution. The STEMpoweringYouth innovation contest rewards the best projects of each cycle with individual educational prizes, as well as the opportunity to compete for the grand prize, an educational trip to CERN (the European Center for Nuclear Research).
After the successful completion of the first three cycles of the program during the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 academic years, STEMpoweringYouth will continue with two new cycles during the 2018-2019 academic year. This year, the program will evolve, focusing on “exponential technologies” which include subjects at the forefront of information and computer science, such as virtual and augmented reality and app design. The educational goal is to introduce young students to modern concepts such as crowdsourcing and citizen science- encouraging them to become involved with the current landscape of scientific research, as well as coding, which has an immediate impact on daily life and is immensely useful as a skill for their further personal and professional advancement. STEMpoweringYouth, by following the “project-based learning” approach, continues to focus on developing the students’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills, giving them the tools they need to solve real-life problems!
Stay tuned, this October, for the start of a new STEMpoweringYouth academic year full of creativity, innovation and science!