Kenya: STEM Frontier
A 21st Century Model of Success
The history of START (Solutions to Achieve Real Transformation) dates back to May of 2012 when educational pioneers, Matthew and Kathy Collier, partnered with the LEGO Foundation to launch Kenya: STEM Frontier. A pilot project to train up teachers and students in methods of Project Based Learning (PBL), the projected outcome would identify Kenyan schools as leaders in the move toward innovative STEM educational models in Africa.
Implementing educational strategies formed as STEM for Kenya Education, the Colliers teamed up with Kenyan teachers and administrators to train students to use LEGO Education materials, LEGO MINDSTORM Robots, and a variety of STEM materials from PITSCO as engineering tools. Among the first schools involved in the early pilot trainings were Alliance Boys High School, Njoro Boys High School, Precious Blood Girls High School, Alliance Girls High School, Larmudiac Provincial High School, Mount Kenya Academy, the Green Garden Schools, and Mustard Seed Schools. Here is a video link to see the impact of that launching in 2012 of Kenya: STEM Frontier: http://vimeo.com/45280771
Kenya: STEM Frontier addressed the current and projected needs for establishing innovative ICT and STEM content area instruction within schools in Kenya and East Africa. For long term sustainability, Kenya: STEM Frontier, coordinated a system whereby cohorts of Kenyan district education professionals were recruited into an ICT/STEM program that demonstrated active use of PBL and constructionism methods in the classroom using these LEGO materials. The school partners, both rural area schools and suburban schools, were impacted by significant numbers of culturally diverse students, both male and female.
Pictured at right, introduction of Kenya: STEM Frontier POJECT Based Learning to students of Alliance Boys High School
Phase 1 participation included teachers and students from 8 schools as well as a “How to Teach Project Based Learning” workshop for students at Thogoto Teachers College. Direct, initial contacts were also established during Phase I for future implementation of programs at Emerald International School and Nairobi Jaffrey Academy.
Phase 2 involved the addition of LEGO MINDSTORM robots.
Dynamics embedded within the STEM for Kenya training model for students and teachers provided tools for developing upper level, critical thinking skills, paramount to the success of a young person’s ability to contribute to the needs of their country and humanity in the 21st century. LEGO materials proved to be dynamic tools for allowing these children to accomplish those goals.
Kenya: STEM Frontier: 2 goals and 4 objectives
Goal 1: Equip Kenyan faculty with skills for creating viable and meaningful Science, Engineering, Technology and Math (STEM) educational experiences for students in their classrooms. Teachers learn how to leverage the use of LEGO Education materials and other STEM resources to build exceptional STEM classrooms.
Objective 1.1 Prepare teachers to provide projects that accelerate student participation in the acquisition of problem solving skills (including the acquisition of academic skills in science, engineering and technology).
Objective 1.2 Immersion experiences to introduce teachers and students to the endless possibilities using LEGO materials to create STEM challenges.
Goal 2: Provide professional, capacity building training for teachers in the development of PBL (Project or Problem Based Learning) STEM programs for their students. Teachers are trained in using LEGO materials to create effective, innovative classrooms and/or extension programs in STEM.
Objective 2.1 Improve the preparation of ICT/STEM trained faculty regarding effective strategies for the instruction of 21st century learners.
Objective 2.2 Increase the use of effective ICT and STEM strategies through the use of LEGO materials and integrated PBL curriculum in teacher education courses.
To meet the goals and objectives of Kenya: STEM Frontier at each school and assure longevity of successful outcomes, workshops for the teachers and administrators consisted of training in the following principles adapted from, A Review of Research on Project Based Learning, John W. Thomas, Ph. D:
Project Based Learning (PBL) projects are central, not peripheral to the curriculum. This criterion has two corollaries: First, according to this defined feature, projects are the curriculum. In PBL, the project is the central teaching strategy; students encounter, experience and learn the central concepts of the discipline via the project.
PBL projects are focused on questions or problems that "drive" students to encounter (and struggle with) the central concepts and principles of a discipline. This criterion is a subtle one. The definition of the project (for students) must "be crafted in order to make a connection between activities and the underlying conceptual knowledge that one might hope to foster." (Barron, Schwartz, Vye, Moore, Petrosino, Zech, Bransford, & The Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, p. 274).
Projects involve students in a constructive investigation. An investigation is a goal directed process that involves inquiry, knowledge building, and resolution. Investigations may be design, decision-making, problem-finding, problem-solving, discovery, or model-building processes.… the central activities of the
project must involve the transformation and construction of knowledge (by definition: new understandings, new skills) on the part of students (Bereiter & Scardamalia).
Projects are student-driven to a significant degree. PBL projects are not teacher-led, scripted, or packaged…PBL projects do not end up at a predetermined outcome or take predetermined paths. PBL projects incorporate a good deal more student autonomy, choice, innovative/independent work time and responsibility than traditional instruction and traditional projects.
Projects are realistic, not school-like. Projects embody characteristics that give them a feeling of authenticity to students.
This Research Review available on the Webhttp://www.bie.org/index.php/site/RE/pbl_research/29
Kenya: STEM Frontier operationalized our project goals and activities around two essential elements:
Capacity Building for Innovation: Kenyan Teachers
Capacity Building for Innovation: Kenyan Primary and Secondary Students
Project Goal 1:
Capacity Building to Develop Innovation among Kenyan Faculty
Review of progress for Capacity Building among teachers within each of the pilot schools was monitored through a survey done during the first hour of meeting with teachers and administrators to determine level of past exposure to LEGO products and the desire for such products for use within their classrooms. Within the first survey, 100% of the faculty responding stated they wanted resources to assist them in integrating more diverse content into their courses; 100% wanted training about strategies in the use of LEGO materials; and, 95% had never used LEGO products.
Training was conducted in a workshop manner, utilizing hands on demonstrations in the use of the LEGO materials that were provided to each pilot school. Also, LEGO MINDSTORM Robots, to be integrated in Phase II of the project, were demonstrated for experimentation. Teachers took part in open, forum type sessions to assist our team in developing targeted plans for each individual school. The collective goal: Permanent implementation of ICT/STEM classrooms or supplemental science programs utilizing LEGO materials as a platform for PBL.
Numbers of faculty in attendance for the teacher trainings:
Green Garden Schools - 38
Alliance Boys High School - 9
Precious Blood Girls High School - 4
Njoro Boys High School - 12
Mt. Kenya Academy - 5
Larmudiac High School - 10
Mustard Seed Boys High School - 10
Thogoto Teachers College - 30 students and professors (Pictured at above)
Project Goal 2: Capacity Building to Develop Skills for Innovation Among Kenyan Students
Review of progress for Capacity Building among students within each of the pilot schools was monitored with a survey done during the first hour of meeting to determine level of past exposure to LEGO products. Within the first survey, findings among the student population at each school are referenced in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Chart represents students at each school who had no prior experience with LEGO
Student sessions were conducted in a classroom setting utilizing hands on demonstrations in the use of the LEGO materials and an initial demonstration of LEGO MINDSTORM Robotics. Students took materials outdoors as needed for experimentation with the solar panel components of the LEGO materials.
Due to an overall 80% or higher number of students who had never seen or used LEGO, each session began with a quick overview and instruction as to the assembling of the LEGO pieces. From there, a project was introduced, a problem posed and the students allowed to explore solutions through the use of the LEGO materials. Specific projects targeted involved the use of the windmill in the Motorized Mechanisms and Machines and solar panels from both Motorized Mechanisms and Machines. After building the project in the instructions, students immediately began creating their own “inventions” using the LEGO pieces and solar panels.
Numbers of students who participated in the early years of implementing the PBL model of education using STEM and LEGO Education materials at each of the pilot schools:
Green Garden Day School: Over 200
Green Garden Boarding School: Over 150
Alliance Boys High School: Over 150
Precious Blood Girls High School: Over 100
Njoro Boys High School: Over 150
Mt. Kenya Academy: Over 30
Larmudiac High School: Over 500 initially introduced in 1 day training – Robotics program formed from that base involving over 100 students
Mustard Seed Boys High School: Over 50
Alliance Girls High School: Over 100
Accomplishments recorded by the Kenyan schools who participated in the founding of Kenya: STEM Frontier and who have continued to build upon the foundation of training in LEGO robots and creating successful STEM labs/clubs:
Njoro Boys High School, where teachers and administration immediately embraced the PBL training and use of STEM materials, have brought honor to Kenya through capturing top awards since 2014 at national and international science competitions. Wafula Nandasaba, lead teacher working with us in the project, shared, "They have used the materials to make devices which they managed to participate in National and International competitions with 43 countries on 28th- 30th April 2014. Indeed, two of our projects emerged position 3 in their categories and were awarded Bronze metals with 100 dollars. Therefore, bring it on." In March of 2018 and again in 2019, Mr. Nandasaba’s boys took the LEGO MINDSTORM robotics materials beyond the building of robots and used them to create inventions whereby they moved up to the finals in competition again.
Precious Blood Girls High School applied what they learned during training and immediately began to capture awards in science competitions based on their creative use of the STEM materials
Alliance Boys High School gained the personal attention of President Uhura Kenyatta when they presented him with a live demonstration of the STEM projects they had created using the LEGO materials, demonstrating the training they had received through the Kenya: STEM Frontier project. Currently, Alliance Boys High School students have won awards at the Kenya FIRST LEGO League (FLL) tournaments, have pioneered a yearly STEM challenge, inviting schools to participate in innovative challenges each July and are participating in our current pilot project involving Arduino Robots.
Njoro Boys High School shared documented results highlighting the noticeable improvement in their students’ National Test Scores immediately following the earliest years of participation - teachers/administration noted that nothing had changed with their school studies except their involvement with the Kenya STEM Frontier project
Larmudiac High School has established a successful robotics club that has defied all odds, inspiring students to become “inventors” who have successfully competed in robotics and STEM Challenge tournaments in Kenya
Green Garden Girls High School FIRST LEGO League (FLL) team represented Kenya in April of 2018 at the FIRST World Robotics tournament, an international robotics tournament in the US where 108 teams from 43 countries competed – the girls team succeeded in bringing home a trophy to honor Kenya in STEM success – the significance of this award carries a “one and only” title of perpetuity: Not only the first Kenyan FLL robotics team to bring home a trophy but the first from the entire continent of Africa to win such an honor from this highly acclaimed, international robotics competition.
In March, 2019, Alliance Girls High School won the title of Kenya FLL Championship team during the Kenya FLL competition – their team went on to represent Kenya in April of 2019 at the FIRST World Robotics tournament in the US
To date, through the diligence of all those involved in Kenya: STEM Frontier, substantial progress continues to be made toward achieving the goals and objectives of this project.
Green Garden Girls High School Robotics Team with First Lady Margaret Kenyatta – The girls robotics team, a team birthed and mentored through our Kenya: STEM Frontier program, is the first school from the entire continent of Africa to win a trophy during the FIRST World Robotics Tournament in the USA, April, 2018.
Alliance Girls High School, grand champions at the 2019 Kenya FLL Robotics Tournament – the all girls team went on to represent Kenya at the FIRST World Robotics Tournament in the US in April, 2019
Capacity building among Kenyan faculty stands at over 70, representing numerous schools and pinpointing LEGO materials as a viable source for STEM learning in the classroom ()
Provided STEM Teacher training in October, 2017, on campus at CEMASTEA (Centre for Mathematics, Science, Technology Education in Africa), focusing on the development of integrated STEM curriculum relevant to current Kenyan science and math standards, utilizing LEGO materials.
Directly provided services to teachers who then implemented some measure of skill and capacity building opportunities for their students, affecting over 30 Kenyan schools in the use of LEGO and/or STEM materials for creative problem solving classrooms
Furthering vital working relationships with Colleges and other universities to demonstrate the value and use of STEM as a vital need for developing relevant, 21st century PBL and Constructionism learning environments for their students
Conducted 2 Kenya STEM Challenge competitions, tournaments to engage students in utilizing on-the-spot problem solving abilities
Assisted Alliance Boys High School in June, 2018 in their efforts to create an annual July STEM competition for Kenyan students
Provided mentorship during 2017/18 for a successful March, 2018 launch of East Africa FIRST LEGO League (FLL) robotics tournaments
In the Works:
Current projects include:
June, 2019: Launched a pilot Arduino robotics program in secondary schools in Kenya with Alliance Boys High School, Alliance Girls High School and Njoro Boys High School working with our team to pioneer this effort
November, 2019: Signed MOI agreement with Net Fund of Kenya on a collaborative work to pilot STI (Science, Technology and Innovation) competitions for secondary schools and colleges, inclusive of an Incubation Hub modeled after Ministry of Forestry and Environments’ Green Innovations Award.
March, 2020: Preliminary discussions with First Lady, Edna Lenku, of Kajiado County and her education team to establish innovative STEM programs for Pre-school, Primary and Secondary Maasai schools within Kajiado County, Kenya, integrating STEM into all facets of current and future curriculum development and daily operations.
Pictured: Students from the Green Garden Schools
Our sincere gratitude to the following organizations who have contributed to the efforts of our Kenya: STEM Frontier project: LEGO Foundation of Denmark; PITSCO of Kansas City, Missouri, USA; FIRST of New Hampshire, USA; LAUNCH 4 Education, Colorado, USA; STEM Education Inc. of Colorado, USA; CEMASTEA for hosting a STEM teachers workshop in 2017; and, the administrators and teachers of Alliance Boys High School, Alliance Girls High School, Njoro Boys High School, Precious Blood Girls High School, Larmudiac Provincial High School, Mount Kenya Academy, the Green Garden Schools, Mustard Seed Schools, and Naivasha Girls High School.
For more information, call or email:
+254 723 969536
Matthew or Kathy Collier (US) Phone: +1 720 261 5160