If you’re interested in innovative approaches to learning, and how kids in Singapore can pick up real-life skills, we need to talk about STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. It isn’t just another buzz-word on the school and enrichment scene – it’s a teaching approach that allows students to apply their skills and knowledge to solve problems in contexts that are relevant to them. Essentially, it’s the answer to the age-old question from school kids: ‘What do I need to learn this for?‘. Now, when it comes to STEM, and how it fits seamlessly into a world-class education, we need to talk about GEMS World Academy (Singapore) – because here, STEM is integrated into all grade levels in the Primary Years curriculum, and isn’t just an extension program or add-on unit. What this really means? All the know-how kids pick up in their science and maths classes, and so on, can be applied in a super fun, hands-on way, as a natural part of their school day – and their learning is enhanced. We know, because we joined a class with STEM Coordinator Brendan Burke, and some sweet students in Grade 3 at GEMS Singapore, and seriously wish our own school days were more like this.
From the moment the kids flood into the STEM room, Brendan gathers them round and fires straight into a lively discussion that explains the concept of centre of gravity. Seeing a bunch of eight-year-olds this eager to talk physics is a major clue why the STEM teaching approach at GEMS Singapore just works. Today’s challenge? To build an ‘earthquake-proof’ building using popsicle sticks, rubber bands, blu-tack and straws – which must be at least 30cm high and stay intact for 15 seconds when tested on an ‘earthquake simulator’.
“STEM is a problem-solving approach,” explains Brendan. “The kids enjoy anything that’s hands-on, and anything that allows them to work in a group… they talk about what works, what doesn’t, and it allows them to be self-aware,” he adds.
The kids, breaking into small groups, take on the challenge with gusto. There’s some serious concentration going on, and we spot some pretty big ambitions, bigger imaginations, and yes, there’s a bit of conflict resolution involved, too – because that’s real life, isn’t it? The kids get a little guidance, but really, they need to work it out for themselves. And when everyone gathers round to test their constructions on the earthquake machines, there’s a real sense of camaraderie – the kids literally cheer on each other’s successes. You can’t help but feel a little moved seeing the kids so clearly proud of themselves, and their classmates.
Check out this video to see this class in action:
The cheers and high fives we saw say it all, really, but we had a little chat with the Grade 3 kids about why they love STEM sessions at GEMS World Academy (Singapore), and here’s what just a handful had to say:
“I like how we learn through play and it’s really fun!”
– Keira Burke
“What I like most about STEM is that we don’t do work sheets: we do hands-on activities and it’s fun to try things instead of just asking and answering questions.”
– Sophie Parker
“I like that we can touch things and build things and not just study by paper.”
– Chloe Holohan
And what does Brendan love about leading these STEM sessions? “Seeing the sheer joy in the kids when they solve a problem they didn’t think they could, or they had difficulty with,” he says. “When they have a successful moment, it’s really fun to watch them. Here they can be noisy and loud, and have great fun with their learning.”
Want to find out more about the STEM program and innovative teaching approach at GEMS World Academy (Singapore)? Get in touch and come by to visit the school – you can have a peek at one of these cool classes yourself!
This post is sponsored by GEMS World Academy (Singapore).