From the editor

In the early years of the 19th century, due to refinements made to the steam engine by Cornish engineer Richard Trevithick and American Oliver Evans, the use of steam locomotives on railroads changed the world.
Most importantly, the steam engines meant that large amounts of goods and raw materials could now be delivered to cities and factories alike at a fraction of the cost travelling by wagon. The thin tracks, snaking across parts of the global landscape, literally cleaved the old world from the new.
Additionally, says history teacher and writer Joseph Cummins:
Those who worked in “the dark satanic mills,” as the English poet William Blake called the factories, laboured at low wages and for long hours under working conditions that were unhealthy and dangerous… Young children now began working along with adults… [a situation] driven by the need for cheap labour. In the burgeoning coal mines providing the fuel that fed the steam engines, a third of the workers were boys and girls under the age
of 18.
Today child labour continues in many parts of the
developing world as well as developed industrialised countries like Turkey and the Ukraine. Children are denied their right to join the lucky ones in schools and benefitting from the latest trend in education, dubbed STEAM.
It’s an acronym derived from the first letters of the subjects science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics and now so popular that in the US, every year on 8 November, the country celebrates National STEM/STEAM Day. Speaking of its genesis, journalist Jennifer Gunn says, “In the 2011 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama told Congress and the country, “This is our generation’s Sputnik moment”. It was his call for the US to ramp up technological innovation to stay competitive with other nations, spur economic growth, preserve national security, and propel ingenuity.”
The addition of the A in STEAM is recent. Whilst some have lept straight to its implementation, many schools are still working with its forerunner, STEM – an approach that advocates blurring the boundaries between subjects in a move to relate classroom content to challenges that need attention in the real world today. It’s an integral part of any transformation agenda in education and is growing in strength in ISASA schools.
In this edition of Independent Education, for example, on page 54, you can read about Johannesburg-based Pridwin Preparatory School’s “state-of-the-art STEAM laboratory [which] boasts a fully equipped MakerSpace with a 3D printer, Spheros, Lego Mindstorms, micro:bits, Raspberry Pis, a dedicated bank of iPads and touch-screen laptops
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with styluses to enhance digital creativity”. And on page 44, says Clare Searle, (deputy head: academics & innovation), Somerset College in the Western Cape, has taken STEAM a step further by incorporating entrepreneurship as an essential and complementary skill that children need. Thus the approach adopted by the school has become ESTEAM. A custom-built centre, says Searle, is generating a new kind of learning and teaching, where both teachers and students: “understand that for most questions worth asking, there are no clear answers, that the facts are only the facts until they change, and that sometimes asking the correct questions is the answer.”
On page 60, marketing manager Sandra Farrenkothen recounts how the German International School in Cape Town recently held a fundraiser to send a team to the First Lego League (FLL) world championships in the US. Says Farrenkothen, “The FLL is a worldwide themed programme to encourage learners to develop practical science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills through a hands-on competition”. The real crowd-pleaser at the fundraising event was, however, South African scientist, researcher and innovator, Adriana Marais, one of the
100 Mars One Project astronaut candidates in the running to move to the red planet within the next decade.
On page 52, you can learn how Kyle Lauf, a life orientation and business studies teacher at Assumption Convent School in Malvern East, Johannesburg, inspired four Grade 11 girls to win the prestigious Johannesburg Stock Exchange ( JSE) Investment Challenge for Schools 2018. And back in Cape Town, reports Rene Fahrenfort on page 42, “This is the second year that the International School of Cape Town is celebrating mathematics”.
In 2018, Richard Lachman, director: Transmedia Zone and associate professor at Canada’s Ryerson University, said: “STEAM inserts arts into the acronym for STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths). I chose to frame the arts more widely to include the humanities. I would like to see [school and] university curricula in STEM subjects expanded… How else do our [education institutions] teach empathy, ethics and citizenship other than through our arts and humanities fields?” Bearing these statements in mind, take a look at page 22, where you will see how ISASA member Nardini Convent School in KwaZulu-Natal is using art to help its students flourish.
I often receive articles for review that start off with this sort of sentence: “We need to prepare our students for the 21st century”. This kind of statement is moribund. The future is here, as our contributing authors show. American writer, publisher, artist, and philosopher, Elbert Green Hubbard put it thus: “A school should not be a preparation for life. A school should be life.”

Category: Winter 2019

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