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Hands-on clubs promote STEM and share creativity across cultures

September 26, 2017

To be the innovators, educators, researchers and leaders of the future, today’s youth need to be prepared with creative problem solving and critical thinking skills. An early start in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is vital in a rapidly changing world.

boys building in classFHI 360’s Design Squad Global project brings 10- to 13-year-olds together in the United States and internationally to increase STEM learning through solving real-world engineering problems.

Here is how it works. FHI 360 and WGBH (a public media producer based in Boston, MA) match students in the United States with counterparts in Botswana, Jordan, Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland and Vietnam. Students work in clubs for six or twelve week programs, focusing on solving local problems chosen by their adult facilitators, such as electricity and water conservation, access to school or shelters that can withstand disasters. Youth participate in hands-on activities, learn teamwork and creative problem-solving and discover how to use the engineering design process to express and develop their ideas. Clubs can share their experiences and progress with their counterparts through emails, photos and videos.

The result? Students begin to see the possibilities for applying science and engineering to their own lives and learn to share their experiences, while gaining an understanding of the cultures and viewpoints of students from another country. Teachers, facilitators and parents also benefit, as they are given the support they need to implement the activities through online guides, lesson plans and training — it is not necessary to be an education professional to lead a Design Squad Global Club.

Over the last three years, Design Squad Global has spread to more than 400 clubs in 34 countries. Design Squad Global is funded through grants from the National Science Foundation and the Lemelson Foundation.

Learn more about FHI 360’s work to assist youth.

Photo credit: Design Squad Global/WGBH