A child’s natural desire to learn, experiment and question is fundamentally important to their education and development, so The British International School Abu Dhabi do not give their students all of the answers. Instead, they give students some of life’s most interesting questions and challenges, and the tools to tackle them. The school’s aim for their students is that they learn creativity and resilience throughout their education. When they leave school and take their first steps into university and beyond, The British International School Abu Dhabi want them to do so with the confidence of real global citizens. The question is, how do they teach that?
Exploring real-world challenges with STEAM
STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics, but it equates to more than a series of subjects. Whether in the classroom or through extra-curricular platform Global Campus, the teaching and thinking around STEAM is the key to children learning about their impact on the world around them and how exciting the possibilities are.
From a young age, children begin to explore their surroundings and from there, their perspective grows. STEAM takes this natural curiosity which students have as young learners in Early Years and Primary, through to their teenage years in Secondary School, and builds on it with a contextualised, skills-based approach to teaching. It encourages the natural instincts a child has for learning about where they are, how things work as they do, and why it matters, and asks them to apply that curiosity to solving real-world challenges.
Exclusive collaboration with MIT
Underlying the STEAM education is The British International School Abu Dhabi’s exclusive collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). This relationship with MIT brings opportunities to students which go far beyond their curriculum and the classroom. A student might participate in the new MIT Abstracts series which gives them access to lectures with MIT professors, learning about what they are researching and the impact it will have on our lives, take on classroom or special at-home science challenges like the new Home Labs series, or even visit the MIT campus. The objective behind all MIT teaching is for students to understand and identify a real problem, and collaboratively take on the challenge of finding a solution to it – truly putting their creativity to test.
The most recent STEAM challenge
During the annual House Day event at The British International School Abu Dhabi, students completed a STEAM challenge to gain points for their relevant house. Students in Years 10-13 built a robot hand made out of paper and straws. Despite the challenging nature of current COVID-19 restrictions, they still managed to collaborate and produce designs that could not only move, but also pick up and move other objects!
The British International School Abu Dhabi students are now taking part in the Global Campus monthly STEAM challenges. Each month, a new challenge is set that requires students to apply their imagination and STEAM knowledge to a new context. February’s STEAM challenge was called ‘Elevator engineer,’ which involved students being set a task to design and build a prototype for a schools elevator. They had to ensure it was well balanced, be able to transport heavy loads up several floors, and needed to be as energy efficient as possible.
The current STEAM challenge for March is called “Trashion designer”, where students are being challenged to use ‘trash’ as a resource, and create a wearable item. This can be an item of clothing, a piece of jewellery a hat or a bag. They can upcycle old clothes, or clean up and repurpose something that is considered rubbish.
STEAM for young minds
From the youngest years through to the oldest students, the role of STEAM is to teach core subjects by contextualising them. STEAM careers has been promoted through Primary, and students have been encouraged to consider all the jobs that have a STEAM element. As part of their learning, Primary students at The British International School Abu Dhabi have been introduced to the Global Campus hacking challenge. In a movement to combat Sustainable Goal 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), and also to develop STEAM skills, the students have been busy developing a superhero vehicle, using waste material from home.
Global citizenship in the community
The British International School Abu Dhabi believe that the full value of STEAM is not just in the classroom, but in getting out into the local community. This can be put into practice in lots of different ways. For example, the school may ask students to identify an issue, like a lack of recycling infrastructure, and find a solution to it. Going further afield, students also have the opportunity to attend citizenship expeditions, such as taking part in sustainable development and construction programmes in Tanzania and attending trips to Masdar city, Abu Dhabi sustainable building development, which is powered by renewable energy. The British International School Abu Dhabi students are also part of the Global social leaders programme, where one of the school’s students were successful in winning the Global Goal competition.
Whether at home or abroad, STEAM learning provides amazing experiences which teach students about what being a global citizen really means.