For Naina Mohd, a Science class meant lengthy lectures that she failed to pay attention to. And for Karthik Kumar, grasping of concepts and understanding theorems seemed like an impossible task. For many students aspiring for a career in fields of science and technology remained just a dream! Lack of learning and difficulty in grasping concepts has been one of the lingering issues with students. Due to this, there is a constant focus on introducing schools with innovative forms of teaching and STEAM labs is one such form which has been introduced to schools. These labs are fun and engage students with Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) activities.

A welcome change

Amazon India's STEM initiative

AWS InCommunities joined hands with Amazon Cares in India to set up STEAM labs in six schools located in in Navi Mumbai and the change has to be seen to be believed. As soon as the students hear the bell ring, there is this flow of happy countenances rushing to begin with their session. The classrooms have been witnessing full-attendance and this in itself is a refreshing change for teachers. What’s more? The Science and Math classrooms are filled with kids interacting among themselves, asking questions to the teachers, working on computers, speaking to Alexa and making projects.

According to student Raina Parveen, “We see videos on projectors, which in turn helps us experiment with innovative ideas and other activities.” We are so happy to witness this sea change in our school. Setting up of the STEAM labs in our school and conceptualizing the STEAM SMART programme is one of the best things that have happened to the children studying here. There is so much to learn and it is being taught in such an engaging manner that the kids are really enjoying,” says Ayazuddin Sheikh, the Principal of the Sri Dutt School, Sector 5, Sanpada, Navi Mumbai.

Building collaborative relationships with schools

The STEAM SMART PLUS Program is a comprehensive change initiative that provides opportunities that help acquire, understand and apply skills to develop a smart generation, who can address challenges, think critically, solve problems and be future-ready. The primary focus on the STEM program is sure to bring a huge reform in the education system of India. The program also creates an open access between schools and surrounding communities leading to a holistic development of the society at large. It builds capacity of in-school participants as well as community members.

AWS InCommunities is a dedicated team within AWS' Infrastructure organisation that focuses on community engagement. With a mission to build global programs and collaborative relationships around Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math education; tech workforce development and environmental sustainability, the team is also committed to empower employees to take on to causes that can create a positive change in an impactful and lasting manner. The STEM infrastructure, science models and computers required from the program are provided by Amazon. Instructors too have been hired to conduct hands on training in the schools. The intervention largely focuses on government schools with financially- disadvantaged students.

Developing a scientific temper

According to the teachers at the school, “Due to Amazon launching this project, students are enthusiastic about learning new things and have become aspirational and passionate about education. In fact, providing an early exposure to STEAM skills is helping them Inculcate a scientific temperament and they are thinking creatively and looking innovate.” Students also highlight that the videos helped them with their activities and experiment in a focused manner. “With hands-on experiential immersive STEAM learning through DIY kits and supporting resources in a specially designed learning space - STEM Studio – we are thoroughly enjoying Science and Math classes,” says Kumar Rathod, a student at one of the schools. Teachers further state that earlier they used to read out notes from textbooks and share it with students, but after the introduction of the STEM project, they get to visually see the experiments, allowing the students to learn as well as enjoy the classes.

Mumbai already has a fully operational STEM lab in one school with three labs scheduled for launch on July 24 and two more in November 2019. In addition to the STEAM program, the infrastructure in these labs is also being used to conduct digital literacy classes for community members after school hours.