Twenty-six students from Al Maymouna schools in the Bekaa and Akkar arrived at IC on Saturday, March 5, to participate in STEAM activities organized by the Educational Resources Center (ERC). These activities were held at the newly inaugurated STEAM Innovation Center boasting a learner-driven program. The STEAM labs include Coding, Electronics and Digital Arts Lab; 3-D Design and Printing Lab, Makerspace, Laser Cutting room, Drone Lab, LEGO Robotics Lab, Vex Robotics Lab, Audio Studio, and Film Studio.
Accompanied by their teachers, the eighth graders were eager to participate in biology and physics hands-on activities. The activities were prearranged by Al Maymouna teachers and ERC's Director Mahmoud Shibab and Assistant to the Director, Rima Khishen and General Manager for Al Maymouna Education, Ayman Hamidi Sakr. Several brainstorming meetings were held at IC prior to the students' arrival.
"We used materials from the middle school science labs and the STEAM center," explained Khishen. "We felt that the students also needed some basic classical science experiments, so we accommodated both: classical (using physics lab-material) and STEAM (ex. digital microscopes)."
The three-hour session - where students were separated into seven groups - was divided into two parts, with a 'mankoushe' and juice break in the middle.
Integrated into the sessions were math and environmental sciences. "The students were very engaged in the whole process, and the teachers were very enthusiastic."
This engagement, added Khishen, will hopefully spur this and other schools to establish their own STEAM labs - even if only in a small room 'makerspace' – allowing all students a chance to discover the world of STEAM.
STEAM, an interdisciplinary hands-on future-focused learning approach, aims at empowering students by guiding learners to develop personal qualities and skills leading to international-mindedness, intellectual curiosity, adaptability, effective communication, creative expression, compassion, community building, responsible citizens, and an appreciation for cultural diversity.
IC's STEAM Innovation Center was funded by USAID's (United States Agency for International Development) American Schools and Hospitals Abroad (ASHA) initiative, which assists overseas schools, libraries, and hospital centers to highlight American ideas and practices. A condition of the grant was also to allow underprivileged schools to use the Center.
Al Maymouna Tanmiyah, an NGO established in 2014 by IC Board Member, Mu'taz Sawwaf, provides quality education to Syrian refugees in Lebanon and runs two schools in Akkar and Bekaa. It was the first school to officially take part in IC's STEAM Center.
"We want all students to be ready for 21-century skills," said Khishen. " Education is not only what you see in books. It needs to be hands-on and not just theoretical. This is what the market now demands."
Two more visits to IC's STEAM labs are scheduled for Al Maymouna students. These sessions marked a pilot experiment. IC will open its STEAM lab doors to other underprivileged schools next year.
Written by: Reem Haddad Photos by: Dory Khayatt