Thursday, May 8, 2014

Why I'm going to Singapore and what's in it for you

Jenna Bacolor, Executive Director, Community Education and Recreation

This morning, with some trepidation, I took my first dose of live typhoid vaccine. Something about the words "2 billion unit delayed release capsule" on the label made me pause. Two billion of what, exactly? And I have to take four of these capsules?!

It's a few hours later, and my nerves have passed -- I'm back to being excited about this summer's journey to Singapore that I'll be taking with 19 AAPS colleagues. 

I'll be part of the second AAPS-Toyota delegation to Singapore to learn STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) best practices and methods. The Toyota STEAM Innovation program is a global educational collaboration among Toyota, AAPS, Michigan and the 
International Institute of Education in partnership with the Academy of Singapore Teachers and the Singapore Ministry of Education

Singapore is world-renowned for its commitment to education and for its success infusing science, technology, and math concepts into curricula. Our team will participate in a variety of site visits, lectures, panel discussions and collaborative projects with our Singaporean counterparts.

How does Rec & Ed connect with STEAM?

According to the national Afterschool Alliance (which hasn't yet incorporated the "A" for arts),
After school programs are uniquely suited to STEM, because they specialize in the kinds of hands-on, sleeves-rolled-up learning that is so vital to students’ understanding of STEM subjects. What’s more, after school programs are particularly well equipped to tap community resources—colleges and universities, local businesses and community organizations, and others.
I agree with this wholeheartedly -- our after school and camp environments provide small group settings for collaborative, project-based learning. Our programs also provide opportunities for youth to explore and try new areas of interest without having a test at the end.

For the past year, Rec & Ed staff have been doing what I'd call "intentional dabbling" in offering different types of STEAM after school classes, school break camps, and summer camps. Based on parent requests, last fall we started offering more after school classes with project-based problem solving using math and science. Our new Lego Robotics, Mindstorm and Physics classes are particularly popular. 

Our summer camp catalog features four pages of STEAM camps, such as science camps, Lego engineering camps, and perennial favorite Green Adventures Camp.

While in Singapore, I'll co-present a professional development session on the STEAM opportunities that extracurricular settings offer.

What do YOU think is important for Rec & Ed to consider for our STEAM programming?

As Rec & Ed director, I'll be working with my fellow STEAM delegates, Rec & Ed staff, and others to develop a vision and plan for what types of STEAM experiences we offer over the coming years. Critical questions for me are: what are the benchmarks for these experiences to be complementary to K-12 instruction, and how can we ensure the experiences we offer will be meaningful and fun for kids?

I'll be blogging and tweeting (@A2RecDirect) about my thinking process and my journey. I'd love to hear from parents, students and other AAPS staff about ideas for how Rec & Ed can embrace STEAM. 

How can out-of-school time opportunities help your child learn about STEAM concepts and careers?  Which 21st century STEAM skills do you think are best explored in after school and camp settings? What types of STEAM projects or topics would be appealing to your child?

This is the beginning of the conversation. Please comment below and share this post on your social media sites! I'll respond to all comments.

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