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Wider horizons at Thembelisha Preparatory School

| January 27, 2020 | 0 Comments

BY GINA MARUCCHI

Thembelisha Preparatory School’s senior robotic team, named the Thembelisha Eagle Vortex, with their teacher and mentor, Titus Sithole, set off for Detroit, Michigan, in the uS on 21 April 2019.

They took part in the FIRST®1 Championship, the FIRST LEGO League into Orbit World Festival, alongside 106 teams from 83 countries. Thembelisha
Eagle Vortex was one of four African teams present at the largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM education in the world. More than 70 000 people from around the globe, plus 1 300 robots, travelled to Detroit to celebrate inspiring young innovators, leaders and change-makers. Our team represented the school and Eswatini (Swaziland) on the world stage and were the proud recipients of a medal. These were awarded to the teams who earned more than 60% for their competition projects.

An enormous debt of gratitude is owed to our sponsors: Royal Swazi Sugar Corporation, SAP Rural Sourcing Management, Britehouse (an African-born company with a global footprint, offering leading customised and pre-packaged digital solutions to local and multinational companies)2 and
STEM ESwatini3 for investing in our leaders of tomorrow. It was an eye-opening encounter for our students, experiencing as they did the phenomenal technology displayed by the teams from Europe and South Korea, in particular. As the team put it, ‘The robots from South Korea were insane!’

Robotics programme launched in 2017

We initiated robotics at the school in 2017. Through participation in creative computing and digital citizenship, each class from Grade 4 to Grade 7 enjoys two hours of robotics a week. Sithole has designed a curriculum specific to each grade. These STEM programmes have promoted student engagement at different literacy and mathematical levels and have also
promoted self-directed discovery and hands-on exploration. Our learners apply their 21st century learning skills to identify relevant sources of information using a range of resources, including digital learning. They work as part of a team, learning how to problem-solve, resolve conflict, present information and brainstorm. They modify their design ideas, learn about the concepts of input, process and output, and the importance of
feedback in control systems and they see how complex systems break down into subsystems. They engage in analytical discussions of results and seek to understand the Next Generation Science and Engineering Practices,4 including formulating hypotheses and testing, evaluating and rejecting or confirming hypotheses. Our programme is more than just
robots in class. It empowers students to think critically, behave safely, and participate responsibly in our digital world.

Apps can change the world

This year, our Grade 5s created their own Android apps in an effort to provide a solution to a problem. Some of the apps addressed environmental challenges, another app was created to bring quality education to underserved communities, and one app was designed to scan and identify fake or expired produce or goods sold on streets and rural communities in Eswatini. Atotal of 11 working apps were devised and presented to the school – an exciting event.

Our Grade 2s and 3s are introduced to design, investigation, modelling and computing using LEGO WeDo 2.0 Education5 extramurally, twice weekly. The theme for Grade 4 was ‘Mission moon’ and for Grade 6, ‘Into orbit’. Both grades identified physical and social problems faced by humans during longduration space exploration. Learners designed a way to solve these problems, using LEGO WeDo 2.0 or MindStorms EV3 education resources.6 The teams also designed, built and coded autonomous LEGO® MINDSTORMS® robots that performed a series of missions for the 2019 Into Orbit Robot Game Challenge. Each team had an opportunity to share their
problem and solution with the rest of the school. An interactive question and answer session followed each presentation, and all the senior preparatory learners were enthralled! The prepreparatory and Grade 1 classes will be starting a coding programme next year. We are indebted to Royal Swaziland Sugar Corporation for the financial support of our robotics
programme.

Sithole responsible for success in STEM

We applaud our teacher, Titus Sithole, who has travelled widely as a STEM educator. He has visited the US on eight occasions and has travelled to Mexico, Denmark, Ghana, Kenya and Botswana. He was also invited to judge a robotics competition in the Netherlands.

Success is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skilful execution. With this in mind, we have incorporated character education into our learning programme, instilling and reinforcing Christian values in our children. Character education at our school is built on six pillars: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.7 Cement pillars representing each character trait have been placed on each of our three campuses. Each character trait is woven into the fabric of school life and the learning programme. The pillars are reinforced during assemblies, in the classrooms, and whenever else is appropriate.

Our teachers, children and parents all have a common vision: excellence, which is simply doing the best that you can in the moment, every
moment. Our badge has an eagle in the centre, and from Grade RR, the pillars of character and excellence are instilled in each learner. Our learners are eaglets, and our children are exhorted to ‘soar’ to excellence.

Work hard and be kind

Our learners are groomed to ‘work hard and be kind’ at this child-centred place of learning, where they feel loved and secure. We encourage our
children to find and make meaning in their learning and they are assured that mistakes are a valuable part of this journey. They are coached to embrace the power of ‘Yet’ and the vocabulary for a growth mindset.8 Our parents value education and are active partners in their child’s education, and together we work as a happy team.

With children who want to learn and incredible parental support, both innovative learning and flexible teaching are possible.

We are not necessarily producing the highest achievers, but more importantly, children who assimilate and embrace the skills required to function in a world where their careers have not in some instances yet been created9 and who are comfortable with change, are empathetic and can take their place as global citizens.

References:

See: http://www.firstlegoleague.org/events

See: https://www.britehouse.co.za/about-us/Pages/default.aspx

See: https://www.facebook.com/stemeducationswaziland/

See: http://nstahosted.org/pdfs/ngss/resources/MatrixForK- 12ProgressionOfScienceAndEngineeringPracticesInNGSS.8.14.14.pdf

See: https://education.lego.com/en-us/products/lego-education-wedo-2-0-coreset- by-lego-education/45300

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lego_Mindstorms_EV3

See: https://charactercounts.org/program-overview/six-pillars/

See: https://www.gettingsmart.com/2018/02/mindset-and-the-power-of-yet/

See: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/85-jobs-exist-2030-haventbeeninvented- yet-leo-salemi/

Category: Summer 2019

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