Saturday, January 7, 2017

Making Connections to the Real World - STEM Health Technology Workshop

One of the things which I feel Dumpling benefited a lot on from our early years homeschooling is that she was supported in her interest in the world around her. We made the decision to homeschool her because of her inquisitiveness and this was evident in the way she used to (and still does) question about things around us and how things work.

With the formal education system, to be honest, I feel that there's only so much that the school and teachers can do in extending on the topic of inquiry due to limitations on time and resources. At the start of last year, I organised a private STEM workshop where the children learnt about Aviation. Through the hands on team project, the kiddo understood about "thrust" and "drag" but in a really engaging manner.

In December last year, I helped coordinate another STEM workshop which is on Health Technology. The session was conducted by Yen Siow from Discovering without Borders where she is also the founder of the organisation. The objective of the workshop was to educate the children about the functions of our hearts, the biology behind it and the health technology that supports doctors. 

Yen started off with the introduction and leading the discussion with the children on the functions of the heart.

Yen, during her introduction 

A close look at the chambers of the heart. Can you spot the holes along the walls? 

 One of the workshop participants holding an occluder
(this wire mesh helps to close up holes in heart)

 Dumpling, together with her cousins, listening intently to Yen

Besides discussing closing holes in the heart, the children also learnt about heart rate, the clogging of arteries, diet, etc. Having 3 boys of her own, Yen is no stranger to engaging young children. In the workshop, Yen got the children to do a series of exercises to measure and chart their heart rate, something which they thoroughly enjoyed! 

Children holding on to "plank" for a minute to get their heart rate up

Documentation: an important part of Science. Here a participant documented her heart rate after each activity

The authenticity of the workshop shows in the sharing by Yen. Through creating their own ballooning "procedure" the concepts are made meaningful to these young participants. 

Understanding blockage in the arteries and the ballooning procedure

One thing that I learnt from Yen's workshop is that it always consists of a STEM challenge where the participants engage in a group project in building a "device" / an invention. What I personally appreciate is that Yen provides mainly recycled materials for the children to build their projects with. From a parenting perspective, I find this a good approach as I believe that children should also understand that they can have fun and build their own toys too, as opposed to parents buying them toys all the time. 


In the STEM design challenge that morning, the children were given a case study. From there, they are told to look into the "issues" of the person and to think up a device which will help the person.

The children broke out in teams where they then collaborated on the drawing and the planning of their devices to help the patients

Clearly someone had too much junk food!

Science, to me, is beautiful that way as it encourages children to question, think critically and to explore. So, when it comes to such workshops where there's group collaboration, projects and presentation, I usually take a backseat to listen and observe instead of stepping in.

The children were all given chances to speak up, explain and present their devices to their peers.

R demonstrating how the device works like a timer

No automatic alt text available.
A really cute device from another group

The device Dumpling's group came up with is a robotic dog which is able to scan and measure BP and Heart Rate, as well as dispense medication. The robotic dog (code name Alex LOL) has an inbuilt voice activated phone which the patient is able to make emergency calls too. (Seems like they watched Baymax too many times)

What I really like is that Yen's workshop goes beyond the school syllabus as the children are exposed to a larger spectrum of things and unit of inquiries. The topics are about the real world and it is about equipping our children with an understanding about the world and how they can contribute to it using STEM. I am amazed at how she was able to bring topics like Health to a level that these children not only understand but show interest in. 

The hands-on activities are of course a winner in my books. It is through the "doing" and the "tinkering" that give these children time to process and internalise, something which I find lacking in many of the instructional classes children attend these days. The STEM challenge is of course the cherry on top as it serves to tie in all the discussions they had where they now put their understanding to the "test".

The challenge encourages creativity which is clearly something Yen advocates. As she made her rounds to talk to the participants, she also probed them to think deeper with her line of questioning. She was both encouraging and enthusiastic, something which the children caught on as they happily shared and bounced their challenge ideas with her.

After attending 2 of her workshops and witnessing how the children enjoy the activities, I intend to make this a regular thing (once every 2 - 3 months) for Dumpling and her friends. If you like to join our private workshop, please drop me a line at beanienus(at) :)

Discovering Without Borders

If you have enjoyed this post, please follow me on my Facebook Page where I share my parenting thoughts (both on the kiddo and my furkid), food photos (be prepared for tons of them!), outdoor fun, useful reviews, early shout outs for giveaways and interact with you, my readers! You can also follow me on Pinterest and Instagram 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Be warned: All content in this blog is copyright protected. Registered & Protected