The recently concluded Queen’s College Summer Maths Institute (QCSMI) was undoubtedly a unique experience for 30 teenagers from several high schools around Georgetown.
The (QCSMI) is an initiative of the Queen’s College Alumni Association of New York (QCAANY) of which Ms. Karen Wharton is President. QCSMI is the brain child of Dr. Terrence Blackman- Chairman of the Department of Science, Health and Mathematics at Medgar Evers College.
It aimed to design, develop and sustainably implement and development appropriate and culturally resonant middle school (Grade 7 through Grade Nine). Its learning environment engages students in cognitively rich Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
Participants ranged from age 13 to 15. They came from Queens College, Bishops High School, Saints Stanislaus College, Tutorial High School and a few other schools.
Programme Manager Shindy Johnson, a former student of Queens College, noted that by the end of the first week math sceptics had fallen in love and gained confidence, and math lovers had renewed their passion. She said that the students inspired her mostly by their willingness to step out of their social and intellectual comfort zones.
Johnson added, “The QCSMI participants embraced this opportunity with a palpable sense of wonder, awe and gratitude. As a volunteer and Guyanese I was imbued with feelings of optimism for what the students represent as stewards of Guyana’s future.”
During the two weeks summer institute which was held from July 17 to July 28, participants benefited from a blended Information Technology and Mathematics curriculum.
The children’s engagement with Mathematics was enhanced through field trips to local organizations and industries; which play a pivotal role in the economy, and rely on a STEM educated workforce. Students received further stimuli and enrichment through presentations by Guyanese professionals who shared with students, their pathways to STEM careers.
These presentations surprised students and opened their eyes to careers which they had never considered – or even knew existed! Speakers helped students to see that there are multiple pathways to making a valuable contribution to this country.
Guest speakers at the Institute made direct connections between their careers and the material studied during the institute; in regular classroom math, and in the pure sciences.
Modeling the flexibility encouraged in the budding mathematicians, Institute instructor PhD. Candidate Cleveland Waddell, took real world problems presented by guest speakers and challenged students to develop computer algorithms to solve those problems using an algebra software programme called “Maplesoft.” Students were thrilled with their introduction to Maplesoft and the blended IT/Mathematics curriculum.
“Once again, the lessons through the day were exceptionally satisfactory, with engaging lectures and fascinating topics. The use of Maple software throughout the day was extremely helpful, as it provided a hands-on experience which allowed me to understand the topics better. It also advanced my knowledge of coding. After having the software installed on my computer, I was able to experiment with it and fully appreciate its true capabilities,” said Thomas Singh one of the participants.
According to Johnson, “The camp had invaluable collateral benefits for the students, and the freshly minted Queen’s College alumni who volunteered as camp counsellors.
Counsellors were always on hand during the math lessons to provide critical instructional support.”
She recalled that morning activities included board games that fostered positive interactions between students; while impromptu soccer and basketball games took over lunch time.
Johnson stated that students also wrote about their experiences at the camp.
“The QCSMI team created an environment in which students felt good about themselves and their peers. Students stepped out of their social and intellectual comfort zones into new landscapes of learning and growth.”
Meanwhile, another student expressed, “Since I came to the camp, I’ve gained confidence for some reason. Normally, volunteering to speak in front of kids my age is a difficult task. Thanks to this camp, I’ve gained some amount of confidence in myself.”
Johnson recounted that on the first day of the institute she discovered that Maria Shakoor would love to be a journalist when she grows older. As a result, Johnson said she asked Shakoor if she would like at act as the camp blogger for the duration of the camp, and she readily agreed.
“Armed with an iPad donated to Queen’s College earlier in the year by the Little Red Schoolhouse and Elisabeth Irwin High School – a progressive K-12 school which my children have attended in New York City – Maria proceeded to write in her own unique voice.”
Shakoor’s blog can be found at www.qcsmi.wordpress.com.
Students who signed up for this free institute ranged from self professed math lovers to teens who confessed to fearing and even loathing math. By the end of the first week, Maths lovers had discovered even greater “beauty in the mathematics” and those who quaked at the thought of math were beginning to commit – with confidence – to improving their math grades.
This year’s institute was made possible through the generous support of Mid-Atlantic Oil and Gas, JHI Associates, Banks DIH, Fly Jamaica Airways, Maple Soft, Ontario, Canada and Dr. Edris Kamal Dookie.
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