During the government’s Innovation Week expo on Friday, programmer Jesse Field wore a blue shirt adorned with the outline of a skeleton. When attendees approached him, he asked them to aim a tablet at his torso.
This caused a diagram of the human body to pop up on the tablet screen, showing a rib cage surrounding a heart and lungs that moved with each breath.
The educational programme was among many demonstrations on display that day. The event at the Save the Seed Energy Centre in Duffs Bottom — which was organised by the Ministry of Education, Youth Affairs and Sports — showcased various activities that are happening in schools across the territory.
“The theme for education this school year is ‘Virgin Islands education moving full STEAM ahead.’ So STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics,” said Education, Youth Affairs and Sports Minister Sharie de Castro. “Our children have been to the various centres here today and they’ve really been engaging. This type of experience is really exploratory and experiential learning. It says that we want you to do, we want you to touch, we want you to feel.”
Stations at the expo included critical-thinking exercises, chess games, visual arts, robotics, engineering, 3D printing and aLego section. The critical-thinking station — one of the most difficult tables in the minister’s opinion — included puzzles and mazes. Members of the BVI Chess Federation manned another station.
“The types of skills that you learn in chess — the critical thinking, the strategy — are transferable to life,” Ms. de Castro said. “We’re looking forward to putting chess into the curriculum at our schools.”
At the robotics station, Ms. de Castro said she was impressed by how quickly students were able to programme robots to navigate mazes and do other tricks. Students also erected model buildings, helicopters, and other structures at the engineering table and at the Lego station.
To ‘reimagine’ education
Ms. de Castro said government has been trying to “reimagine” education in the territory. Although there have been drastic changes in technology and transportation over the past 100 years, she noted, classrooms “still look the same.”
“How about we reimagine the way our classroom should look?” she said. “The children don’t mind sitting on the floor. They would love to go on the floor with these Legos and sit down all day and build. When they finish building, we ask them to write a descriptive piece or a process piece on what they built.”
Such “project-based learning” increases children’s creativity and ingenuity, she said.
Mr. Field said that the week-long event has brought “excitement in the hearts of kids.”
“This technology is not for us: It’s for our kids,” he said. “It’s for us to give them the opportunities and the skills necessary to create the future that they need.”