Innovative curriculum may be the answer, Kita Szpak writesWe’ve all heard over and over, the importance of STEM curriculum. This, combined with the fact that heightened interest in a subject serves as an excellent catalyst in learning and enjoying it more easily, begs the question: what can Ottawa parents do to increase their child’s interest in math and science?
STEM: an innovative curriculum that was created in 2001
Fortunately, Ontario is one of three provinces (Saskatchewan and Alberta are the other two) that offers STEM in its public school system as well as in community settings. What is STEM? It is a content-focused curriculum program based on the integration of four disciplines – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – into real-world, through hands-on learning and relevant learning experiences for students. It’s an integrated approach to learning and teaching that is investigative, hands-on and discovery-based. STEM education focuses on problem solving through real-world investigations and context, rather than text-book learning or memorizing facts and formulas. Another iteration of STEM is STEAM – incorporating arts and architecture into this innovative curriculum.
What’s offered in Ottawa and Area?
Little Medical School: Steering STEM learners into the healthcare world
Dr. Mary Mayson’s passion for encouraging careers in healthcare culminated in the creation of Little Medical School (LMS) in 2010. Today, the company is a pioneer and leading developer of specialized curriculum, educational toys and interactive resources for children offering extracurricular or child enrichment programs onsite at local public and private schools, community centres and public spaces.
In addition to inspiring children to see themselves in healthcare careers, LMS teaches real-life skills. For example, students learn what to do if there is a medical emergency, how to use a first aid kit, and how to prevent hypothermia as well as stressing the importance of taking care of yourself… eating right, exercising, getting your immunizations and flu shot, and not smoking. Where else can you bring home a disposable lab coat and a real working stethoscope?
As Layal Bou Abdo of LMS notes, “STEM jobs, especially in healthcare, are highly in demand every day. We will continue to inspire the children of Ottawa by sharing our passion for learning, health and careers in medicine.”
Programs are offered for ages 4 to 14 years
Scientists in Schools: Education charity reaches over 59,000 in eastern Ontario
The eastern Ontario arm of Scientists in Schools launched in 2005, responding to the opportunity for scientists to collaborate with teachers to create in-school science enrichment that is both exciting for students, and enriching Ontario’s elementary curriculum. More than curriculum-aligned workshops, together with 30 presenters of engineers, scientists, technicians or educators, all share their enthusiasm for STEM every time they visit a classroom.
According to Carol Mothersill, co-regional manager, eastern Ontario, what is important here is to inspire the children who participate in Scientists in Schools workshops to discover that anyone can be a scientist or an engineer, that science is exciting and involves creativity, critical thinking and collaboration with their peers. The perception that science and its math cousin is hard needs to be dispelled as well as being aware of the necessity to have a solid foundation in these subjects for the future.
“There is a rapidly growing need for a skilled STEM workforce in Canada. Children and youth today must be equipped with high-level STEM literacy skills in order to tackle 21st century challenges and to position them for success in the jobs of tomorrow. That’s why we collaborate with educators, parents, and guardians to foster a more scientifically literate generation that is better prepared to shape Canada’s future,” states Mothersill.
Workshops/Programs/Science Nights: Kindergarten to Grade 8 (English); Kindergarten to Grade 6 (French)
Académie de la Capitale: iSTEAM – Adding innovation to its curriculum mix
Académie de la Capitale (AcadeCap) is an independent, bilingual IB (International Baccalaureate) world school in west Ottawa. The school has always been science and mathematics driven, so was very much ready to formally adopt a STEM philosophy when the curriculum was developed. To incorporate iSTEAM into everyday learning, students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 participate in monthly challenges, coding activities, math competitions, science demonstrations and different clubs that highlight the iSTEAM.
Both Shannon Neill and Dr. Bruno Riel of AcadeCap agree that “the classical institutional model for teaching is being upended. The traditional, for-credit universities are being challenged by new entrants, ranging from online courses to demands from learners and employers for the recognition, for credit, of knowledge acquired via work or life experience…This makes well integrated STEM programs more and more critical.”
Full school program for Kindergarten to Grade 12; Summer camps for children from four to 12 years; daycare program