This month, a group of staff, students and parents from Salt River Schools will travel to Sri Lanka and serve as ambassadors for Salt River Schools and the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) programming that takes place at the elementary and high school. This opportunity is made possible through a grant partnership with the U.S. State Department and the Embassy to Sri Lanka. This is the first delegation from Salt River Schools to have an official visit to the country of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is located in Southern Asia; it is an island in the Indian Ocean, south of India.
“Teachers in Sri Lanka are very interested in the ‘STEM’ or ‘STEAM’ approach, and we have a wonderful opportunity to showcase the work we are doing in Salt River to incorporate it into the curriculum at the elementary and high school levels,” said Angelo Fernando, Salt River Elementary School computer and technology teacher, who is coordinating the trip.
Students in grades 6–7 were invited to apply for two available ‘STEAM Ambassador’ spots for the trip. Dominique Grey, a sixth-grade student, and Haley Smith, a seventh-grade student, were selected based on their application and essay. Both students are leaders in their respective grades; Haley won a summer STEM scholarship from Arizona State University, and Dominique is the vice president of student council.
Joining them on the trip will be Mr. Fernando along with Salt River Schools Parent/Community Involvement Coordinator Maria Chavez, Dominique’s mother Tara Grey, and Haley’s father Travis Smith.
“Our STEAM mission is to provide students with a dynamic science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics education by serving as a model of inquiry, innovation, collaboration and creative problem solving,” said Erik Haarstad, Salt River Elementary School principal. “This trip is a testament to the wonderful offerings we have at Salt River Schools.”
During the eight-day trip, the Salt River group will travel to the Sri Lankan cities of Colombo and Kandy, where Mr. Fernando will lead workshops for Sri Lanka teachers about how to incorporate elements of STEAM into the classroom curriculum.
“My goal is to introduce teachers to hands-on work and collaborative teaching methods to bring the science and engineering to life,” Fernando said.
During the workshops, the teachers will explore Web 2.0 tools, as well as how to incorporate technology like GoPro cameras and microphones.
Fernando added, “What’s particularly exciting is collaborating with teachers and practitioners from the U.S, who will engage with us using video conferencing software such as Skype. This would be proof of concept for how collaboration works.”
To complement the in-person workshops, Fernando is producing a series of 24 videos in partnership with SRPMIC-TV. In these STEAM videos, Salt River Elementary School teachers and ASU demonstrate techniques for including hands-on activities in the classroom. Twelve of these videos will be produced before the trip, and 12 will be produced after the trip.
In addition to participating in the workshops and sharing their experiences with STEAM in school, the two Salt River Schools student ambassadors will have opportunities to meet and interact with Sri Lankan students and visit cultural sites. Through these cultural exchanges, students will be able to learn about Sri Lanka culture and help Sri Lankan students learn about American education, Native American culture, and Salt River and the O’Odham and Piipaash cultures.
“The Sri Lanka trip is an excellent example of collaboration on an international scale,” Haarstad said. “The students will be attending STEAM workshops, observing and participating. They will also be sharing the O’Odham and Piipaash culture and learning about the Sri Lankan culture and people. Our students will be bringing back with them enriching educational experiences to share and build upon and memories that will last a lifetime. Our students are what our mission is all about.”
“I hope the students participating in this trip come away with a broader worldview,” Fernando said. “We want students at Salt River Schools to go on to do great things—perhaps work for NASA, or Google, or become entrepreneurs—and this workshop is one way for them to gain the international perspective and experience that organizations today are looking for.”
Travel expenses for the trip are being paid for by the U.S. Embassy, and the Salt River Children’s Foundation is providing financial assistance for obtaining passports and visas.
To learn more about STEAM programming at Salt River Schools, visit the “Curriculum” section of www.srpmic-ed.org.