Later this year, March 2017, 25 students from the World Wide Mission Academy will participate in a VEX IQ robotics competition – an unprecedented opportunity for children who until recently have had limited math and science education or hands-on experiences.
Through the support of the new non-profit, Wahjay-STEM, the World Wide Mission has implemented reformed math and science curriculum for all of their 4th through 7th graders in preparation for the first national VEX IQ competition.
When the founder of Wahjay-STEM, Giewee Hammond, made a site visit in September 2016, her focus as she trained the students and teachers was not just on math, science and robotics.
Giewee spent much of her 10-day trip working with teachers and students to build their skills in patience, assertiveness and presentation. For example, during one of three classes, Giewee asked each student to stand up and ask a question about robotics based on what they learned in prior learning sessions.
Giewee explained, “The kids were so shy! They are not used to participating in this way. So it was a waiting game. It would get awkward because the children didn’t want to speak up. It would get tough for me but I allowed for the discomfort,” Giewee said.
It’s not enough that the children are eager to learn and respectful, Giewee said – it was just as important that they learn to engage. “There are consequences for not participating in life,” Giewee said. “If you can’t ask a question or describe an experience, other people won’t know what you have to offer.”
The students applied the engineering that they learned by assembling a robot during their three-day orientation with Giewee, herself a Data Scientist in the United States and descendant of two native-Liberians.
On the first day, the children were grouped teams of five and completed eight to ten steps of the 21-step process of building a robot from the donated kits. Giewee then assigned homework: they were to prepare to speak the next day on three lessons they learned as they built the robot. The next day, it took three hours to coax and coach each of the 20 students to describe what they learned. It was a success, because each of the 20 students wrote their thoughts on paper and each student had their turn to present their thoughts in front of the class.