As we celebrate Education Week in Saskatchewan from October 20 to 26, 2019, it is an opportunity to recognize the outstanding teachers and education professionals who work each and every day to motivate, elevate and inspire Saskatchewan students.
This year's Education Week theme, Working and Learning Together, recognizes the collaborative relationships that strengthen our education system and the important relationships that allow us to better serve the needs of our students.
The Government of Saskatchewan recognizes that innovation and collaboration are essential in order to continue meeting the growing needs of our students today and into the future. Innovative partnerships and creative collaboration have led to some exciting initiatives within Saskatchewan schools in an effort to bring 21st century learning into the classroom.
Earlier this year, Regina Catholic School Division (RCSD) entered its "Tinker Tub Project" into the Follett Challenge, an international competition that seeks the most innovative education initiatives across Australia, Canada and the United States. As part of the competition, the division created a short video to demonstrate what makes this program unique.
The Tinker Tub Project consists of a series of bins that travel between their schools across Regina. Through inquiry-based learning, students use the hands-on materials to explore various themes like coding and robotics, architecture, breaker space and digital storytelling.
The Tinker Tubs provide students with the opportunity to problem solve and explore the use of digital technology, while having fun creating, inventing and sharing with their classmates. Igniting critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity and a maker mindset, the tubs were also designed to help students prepare for expanding careers in technology and an increasingly global workplace.
The Tinker Tub Project was made possible by a dedicated and innovative team that included Sherry Chase, Genna Rodriguez, Jillian Laursen, Kyle Webb, Gordon West and teacher librarians throughout the division who worked with students and teachers to incorporate the Tinker Tubs in their schools.
In April 2019, RCSD was named the Grand-Prize Winner, becoming the first-ever Canadian winner of the Follett Challenge. It is the first time in the award's nine-year history that a school or district outside the United States has won.
For its winning entry, the Regina Catholic School Division earned a prize of $60,000 US in Follett products and services, which will be used to expand the Tinker Tub program and provide even more opportunities for students to discover and explore.
RoboX is another innovative project bringing technology to life in the classroom. The program brings hands-on robotics and coding experiences to teachers and students in northern communities. Developed by Innovation Saskatchewan in partnership with the Saskatoon Industry-Education Council (SIEC) and the Saskatchewan Science Centre, the program’s goal is to increase awareness of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
In 2018, Innovation Saskatchewan began a pilot project with 85 students from Cowessess and Kahkewistahaw First Nation schools. This initial project was aimed at introducing First Nations students to robotics, computer coding and digital literacy. Before these students started the program, 52 per cent were interested in technology and a career in STEM. After the program was implemented, this number increased to 70 per cent.
In 2019, Innovation Saskatchewan began working with SIEC and the Saskatchewan Science Centre on a second pilot program. This time, SIEC trained teachers from 10 communities in northern Saskatchewan to incorporate robotics and coding into the education curriculum. In addition, the Saskatchewan Science Centre’s outreach team held student engagement workshops at schools in the 10 communities.
With the second pilot program complete, Innovation Saskatchewan is now working with SIEC to continue training teachers in northern schools, with a goal of eventually having 300 teachers complete the training. Innovation Saskatchewan is also working with the Saskatchewan Science Centre to continue holding workshops for students. In these workshops, students have the opportunity to build and program robots.