Sanya Wallace, Senior Manager, Strategic Planning and Marketing, JN Money, stands with former Deputy Head Girl, Portmore Missionary Preparatory & Kindergarten School, Renae Escoe during a handover of a donation to the institution to assist with their STEM programme, recently.
Mrs. Etta Walker, Principal, Portmore Missionary Preparatory & Kindergarten School, wants her school to become a science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) powerhouse.
The 47-year-old St Catherine-based institution has been taking steps to ensure that all of its students, from Kindergarten to Grade Six, gain additional competence in STEM, by launching a Robotics Department. The objective was to further engage students with new approaches to learning. This is in addition to the school’s Arts Programme, which has become renowned for its dancing and music.
“Since we launched The Robotics Department, two years ago, we have seen the benefits of the initiative. Many of our students, who were sometimes not enthusiastic about learning the traditional subjects, now look forward to our Robotics Class, because it gives them the opportunity to build something and actively participate in learning,” Mrs. Walker explained.
“We started the Robotics Programme two years ago, because we also wanted to prepare our children for the future, and find creative ways to keep them interested in learning. The Robotics Department currently serves students in Grades 4-6, but we want to extend it to the entire school because we have seen the positive results of the project,” she added.
Robotics Teacher, Mr. Cavaugh Edwards, added that the Department was established in 2018 when the school was exploring ways to engage students to use more technology.
“We were trying to find ways to engage our students more, rather than have them sit around a computer doing just IT-related activities.” The school made contact with Mr. Wayne Thompson, a Lecturer at The Mico University, who teaches Computational Thinking and Programming and who facilitated the training of several of the Prep School’s teachers.
Mr. Edwards added that he, along with the Vice Principal, Mrs. Shana Barnett-McCallum, and two other teachers, went through this training using Vex Robotics, from a company which specializes in robotics; and the company assisted them to develop a curriculum.
“We purchased five robotics kits and were introduced to the robotics software, which allowed us to control the robots. We then worked on using it to engage the students in the classroom.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we enjoyed success as the students were motivated to use their mechanical skills, mathematics abilities and computational thinking to program the robots.” He added that one of the Vex Robotics Kits, allowed the students to build a robot and program it to go through a maze.
Observing the success of the programme, Mrs. Walker and her team decided to expand the initiative to all students. However, such a project requires additional funds. To raise funds, the top students were invited to seek sponsorship as part of the effort to develop their leadership abilities.
“At Portmore Missionary Prep School, we believe that our head students must be rounded and leave a legacy behind. We also believe that they should be leaders, who are active within the school community,” Mrs. Walker revealed. The students were given the charge to identify an initiative that would benefit the school and to find ways to deliver on their commitment.
Mrs. Walker said former Deputy Head Girl, Renae Escoe was successful in getting sponsorship from JN Money, the National Housing Trust, a few other companies, family and friends. These funds she used to purchase several robotics kits, STEM toys, activity books and a smart TV for the school.
“I am grateful to JN Money for their donation because this will now enable us to introduce the programme to all the students, as we become an institution that focuses on STEAM learning. The television received will be placed in our STEM lab to benefit the students. We are already known for our arts programme, and this will ensure we have an excellent STEAM curriculum,” she affirmed.
Miss Sanya Wallace, Senior Manager, Strategic Planning and Marketing, JN Money said, “We were more than pleased to partner with the Portmore Missionary Prep School and support such a worthwhile initiative, because it ensures that our children are well-positioned for the future, where STEM learning will be pivotal in job creation and efficient functionality. This is the first time for JN Money, as it pertains to our involvement in a STEM initiative such as this one; and we are proud to be contributing positively to the development of our children, through education.”
Former Portmore Missionary Prep Head Girl, London Sands, who successfully led a fundraising event that allowed her to make a financial contribution to the school. She said “I am happy that I was able to raise funds for the development of the school, which will help to improve the learning for the students. I am happy that I accomplished my goal,” she affirmed.
Renae who wants to become an athlete and an engineer was also proud that through her initiative and with the help of JN Money and others, more students would benefit from Robotics.