Louise Barry, Senior Education Officer (SEO), with responsibility for high school sciences at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology was at the North Eleuthera High School on Friday, April 28th, 2017, facilitating an Eleuthera District Science Extravaganza event.

Five junior high teams from Preston Albury High School, Samuel Guy Pinder All Age School, Harbour Island All Age School, Central Eleuthera High School and the hosts, North Eleuthera High School took part in the Extravaganza, which consisted of two main segments. Beginning at 11:30am, action got underway, with teams asked to build a model, literally “out-of-the-box”. Given the scenario of having been castaway on a deserted island, each team was provided with a box of waste items made of plastic, foam and other materials (mock debris on the island), and were asked to create a 3D model of either, 1) a raft to escape from the island, 2) a shelter to aid survival on the island, 3) or a bridge to cross a creek possibly leading to food sources – within a limited time period. Some specifications teams were given for the model, was that it had to be roughly about 50 cm in size. Students had to first decide on what they would build, come up with a plan, then decide what they would need out of their box – and go for it!

Students participating in the Pilot Science Extravaganza being hosted at North Eleuthera High School
Students participating in the Pilot Science Extravaganza being hosted at North Eleuthera High School

SEO Barry described how the build out linked to current trends in science education, saying, “This activity taps into their creativity, and it comes from what is now a growing trend in science ‘STEM’ education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). So they have the math in terms of the proportions, they have the technology in terms of their innovation, the engineering is the building part of it, and the science behind it is the basis of it all. This is a STEM project, and I was interested in seeing how they would do having not watched or been a part of it before.”

All five teams were asked to make a short presentation about what they had built and why, and also fielded questions from SEO Barry about the science behind their unique creations – like why they had chosen a particular material for their shelter, and how it related to insulation, or the shape and proportion of a sail on their raft, and the impact it had on the ability to harness the wind and control balance and speed of their vessel. Medals were given to all the teams who participated in the ‘Build-out-of-the-box’ round.

The second segment of the Science Extravaganza was a science quiz competition, along the lines of the popular ‘Jeopardy’ quiz show. Questions came directly from the General Science curriculum targeting five categories, including; Living Things, Matter, Energy and Forces, Ecology, and the Human Body. Seventeen questions were prepared in each category, and each team were given the opportunity to answer three questions from each category, leaving two questions per category as potential tie-breakers. Direct correct answers yielded 10 points, while referral answers were 5 points each.

Science teachers from the various high schools who accompanied their teams of students thought the Extravaganza was a great event, with a positive impact on their students. Some commented, saying, “It’s good in a number of ways. The students get to interact with each other, and get to see where they are with their knowledge of science compared with their peers. It’s like a motivation for all of us, so it’s pretty good!… It will get them more excited about science, and get their feet wet for the BJC’s!”

During the quiz, the Harbour Island All Age team, with three male students, got an early advantage over the other teams, getting a number of their direct questions correct and picking up additional referrals. Other teams made up some ground as the quiz moved along, but Harbour Island All Age prevailed at the end with 125 points in total. North Eleuthera High followed in second with 90 points, and Samuel Guy Pinder stood in third with 75 points to round out the top three finishing teams in the quiz.

Science Extravaganza’s like this one have been held in New Providence since 2003, according to SEO Barry. This year, because of the interest of teachers in Eleuthera, the event was piloted on the island, with junior high teams, at the North Eleuthera High School, piggybacking on their junior and senior high inter-house science and mathematics competitions being held on the same day.

Science teacher and Head of the Natural Science department at the North Eleuthera High School, Marcita Sawyer, shared that the inspiration for the day’s multiple science and mathematics activities sprang from an expectation to launch new initiatives in each department during the year – and this one resulted from the desire to see what was happening in math and science at the school and to determine how well the students were learning, “It seems they are doing quite well,” she stated.