How lo­cal schools are meet­ing the de­mand for mod­ern tech skills

Schools meet de­mand for mod­ern skills

The Kids Post - - Contents - by Jo-Anne Craine

“Stu­dents are ex­cited to cre­ate, in­no­vate and build.”

New find­ings sug­gest that 65 per cent of the cur­rent pop­u­la­tion of ele­men­tary school stu­dents will be em­ployed in ca­reers that don’t yet ex­ist! That means schools must em­brace the chal­lenge of pro­vid­ing stu­dents with the skills that will help them ex­cel in an ex­cit­ing, un­known fu­ture.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment in­tends to grow “the num­ber of Cana­di­ans equipped with science, tech­nol­ogy, engi­neer­ing and math­e­mat­ics (STEM) cod­ing and dig­i­tal skills,” with plans to fund $50 mil­lion for dig­i­tal skills train­ing for stu­dents and $10.8 mil­lion to sup­port STEM learn­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

Science and tech pro­gram­ming can help stu­dents de­velop the foun­da­tional skills that to­mor­row’s young lead­ers will re­quire, and schools are re­vamp­ing their pro­grams to in­clude th­ese ini­tia­tives in ways that ex­cite and en­gage stu­dents.

Some of the more cut­ting-edge pro­gram­ming is al­ready in Toronto’s pri­vate schools, with in­no­va­tive pro­grams and ac­tiv­i­ties, and the in­te­gra­tion of new tech­nolo­gies. This new ap­proach, cou­pled with a clas­sic ed­u­ca­tion, stu­dents can be­come big thinkers and cre­ative prob­lem solvers.

Here are just a few of the schools ad­vanc­ing th­ese pro­grams.

Ta­nen­baumCHAT has launched an Engi­neer­ing Academy, a pro­gram that pro­vides an un­der­stand­ing of engi­neer­ing fun­da­men­tals, hands-on learn­ing, cod­ing and com­plex prob­lem solv­ing. En­rol­ment dou­bled af­ter its first year, and prin­ci­pal Renee Co­hen says, “Stu­dents are ex­cited to come to school each and ev­ery day to cre­ate, in­no­vate and build.”

UTS (Univer­sity of Toronto Schools) has in­vested in state-ofthe-art 3D print­ers and in­ter­ac­tive touch screen mon­i­tors to fa­cil­i­tate tech-for­ward learn­ing. STEM ini­tia­tives in­clude a 3D de­sign club, de­vel­op­ing apps, build­ing robots and tack­ling com­plex top­ics with some game-based learn­ing.

The York School opened the Schad Art and De­sign Lab, a space that in­te­grates STEM dis­ci­plines. Stu­dents test their skills in engi­neer­ing chal­lenges like Bridge Busters and the Pinewood Derby, re­quir­ing them to un­der­stand the prin­ci­ples of de­sign.

Cres­cent School boys en­gage with ro­bot­ics in science cour­ses and par­tic­i­pate in com­pet­i­tive teams. It’s not just about the ’bots, though.

“The lessons learned … go be­yond the me­chan­ics and cod­ing skills,” says Don Mor­ri­son, di­rec­tor of ro­bot­ics. “The boys learn the value of col­lab­o­ra­tion, com­plex prob­lem solv­ing, crit­i­cal think­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tion.”

Don’t for­get the girls! There is a dearth of fe­males in univer­sity science and engi­neer­ing pro­grams, as women com­prise only about 20 per cent of un­der­grad en­roll­ment in those ar­eas. More girls' schools are hop­ing to change that.

At Lin­den School, lessons in cod­ing, engi­neer­ing, ro­bot­ics, elec­tron­ics and science are taught in the new CERES lab. Events like the So­cial Jus­tice Data Fair show­case projects cen­tred on math and data while also ex­plor­ing is­sues that syn­the­size some of the so­cial sci­ences. Cur­ricu­lum leader Beth Alexan­der says her goal is for girls to dis­cover they are cre­ators of tech­nol­ogy, not just the users of it, and to de­velop skills so they can con­sider the op­por­tu­ni­ties in th­ese un­der-rep­re­sen­tated fields.

Haver­gal Col­lege has also com­mit­ted to science and math ini­tia­tives, break­ing ground on a build­ing for STEM ap­pli­ca­tions, ready in 2019. Stu­dents have taken field trips to Google Canada, tested air­foil pro­to­types in the school’s wind tun­nel and par­tic­i­pated in cod­ing hackathons. Clubs in­clude Lego engi­neer­ing, crafty science, mind ben­ders and science de­sign.

If your child isn’t con­sid­er­ing a ca­reer in the sci­ences, STEM pro­gram­ming is still ben­e­fi­cial.

It can open the minds of stu­dents, al­low­ing them to brain­storm cre­ative ways to ap­proach a prob­lem. It en­cour­ages them to ex­per­i­ment, learn from mis­takes and work with peers to find so­lu­tions.

All skills es­sen­tial to any ca­reer.

Cres­cent School stu­dents en­gage with ro­bot­ics in science cour­ses

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