My family and I landed in Bermuda on Saturday night. We had a fascinating exchange with the women sitting in seats A and B in our row. They seemed to be mother and daughter, and they were from Colombia. They spoke not a word of English, not one bit. And yet they were completely fearless in striking up conversations with me and my husband. They asked for help filling out their customs and immigration forms, and we did the best we could, reaching far back into our memories for the Spanish words for “Date” and “Address” and “Business”. And then we had to ask them whether they were carrying items for sale (“objetos… por (para?) vender?”), or “vegetales”, or “mucho dinero”? I forgot the Spanish word for weapons, so we skipped that question and just told them to write “no”.
The two ladies kept asking us question after question, and I did the very best I could to answer even though I was only catching a word or two of every sentence. They asked where we were from, and then where Denver was located, and they said they were going to Bermuda for something related to NuSkin. They asked about the advertisements in the in-flight magazine. They admired my daughter’s very blonde hair “Ella es gringa!” and asked to take a picture with our family. It didn’t matter how uncomfortable I was with my Spanish, they talked and talked. I walked off the airplane exhausted from trying to keep up with it, and a little in admiration of our Colombian friends who were so persistent in trying to get to know us.
My family spent Saturday night and Sunday sightseeing and going to the beach, and then on Monday the first Ascendant Group / Belco STEM Camp began.
I arrived at 7:30 and met up with Anastasia Smith, the camp director hired by Belco. She had everything quite well organized and the camp was equipped with everything the students needed! Each student had a labeled laptop and there were 10 NXT Mindstorms robots, enough for every pair of students to work with one. She also had binders and gift bags for each student. The schedule was a very busy one. Monday we did:
a safety demonstration from the Belco safety department,
a paper tower “icebreaker” activity,
REM Bot Building using the NXT Mindstorms kits (this is the standard educational robot that comes with the kit),
A tour of the Belco power plant,
and then about 45 minutes of web design.
We have hopes that the kids will work through many challenges in the Lego Mindstorms Green City challenge, discuss and understand Bermuda’s energy challenges, and create a web site describing what they learned during the week and proposed solutions to the energy challenges of Bermuda. However, the goals are pretty lofty considering the timetable, so we need to keep in mind that the true goals are to:
* Allow kids to see STEM as an approach for solving the world’s problems
* Have the kids see themselves as engineers
* Steer the students on a path toward STEM hobbies and careers.
Bermuda’s educational system is at an interesting crossroads. Of the students in the STEM camp, more than half are going to private schools. Anastasia says there are more kids on the island that go to private school than public school now. In a thriving educational ecosystem, private schools can prod the public schools to improve and bring the whole system up. However, if the public school system is not healthy, the private schools further drain the public schools and the system becomes divided by class. The island is very much aware of the need to revive its public schools. The STEM camp is a first pass by Belco to bring some new energy into problem-based learning.