The SEASFiRE active learning framework grew out of a chance meeting in 2011. A team of PADI dive instructors and the Head of Science at a prestigious international school set out with an idea to mingle arts and science education underwater and publish the results.
Inspired by the TED talks of Ken Robinson and the idea that students learn better by doing, one of our contentions was that education wasn’t keeping up with the technological and lifestyle changes of the touchscreen generation. Our idea quickly grew into an extracurricular programme at Mont’Kiara International School that turns our shared students into mini-‘National Geographic’ teams, carrying out and publishing high quality research and documentation. Our programmes complement science education with meaningful, real-life experiences. We have been working at MKIS for four years, and have recently started running programmes with Shanghai American School.
The centrepiece of the programme is a field trip to Malaysia, during which students complete marine research, the outcomes of which are submitted to globally-respected institutions such as Project AWARE, REEF and CoralWatch. Students also design and carry out experiments that interest them. Some have used the opportunity to carry out work that has formed the basis of their Extended Essays.
By making scuba diving the hub of the programme, the academic knowledge required to complete it becomes exciting and experientially focused. Students develop their knowledge of marine life, the environment, and conservation with a definite aim in mind and tasks to complete. All of our programmes are designed specifically for the group we are working with – there is no ‘one size fits all’ teenager, so we don’t do ‘one size fits all’ programmes. The participants get involved in the design of the programme and its outcomes.
At every stage of the programme, the students document their work on their own dedicated website, thus acquiring digital and publishing experience. The participants work in small, self-managed teams on a number of small projects during the programme. They also have to design and create a larger project that incorporates the scientific knowhow and experience gained through the programme. This could be anything from a podcast on particular marine life to a local awareness campaign.
Students who have repeated the programme have taken on leadership roles within the group and we will continue to have them work with us after their graduation from high school, instructing the next generation of SEASFiRE students in key aspects of the programme. Many of our students have gone on to study marine biology at university, with some having had their SEASFiRE experience cited as a factor in their successful application.
We changed the dynamic of how our students learn and we have been rewarded by unleashing their creativity and their thirst for new experiences. If your educational institution or youth group is grappling with the issues of how to create more interest in STEM subjects and to enhance students’ digital skills, contact us now to find out more.