A FREE online programme designed to both educate and entertain children during the coronavirus pandemic has been so successful it has gone global.

Created by CGI, the programme has had an “amazing” response from children, parents and educators – and has even been translated into Finnish.

It is also being used in North America, Belgium, Australia and India with many families saying they look forward to the weekly release of new content.

“We are overwhelmed by the feedback and the volume of people that have shown interest,” said CGI’s Philippa Green.  “We are really pleased with it as it has been the right thing at the right time. It’s educational but still fun.”

STEM from Home has been born from the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) camps that CGI has been running for the past year in UK schools and communities to encourage students to think about a STEM career.

When the coronavirus lockdown was announced, it was decided to try and recreate the camps online and, incredibly, the technological wizards at CGI managed to have STEM from Home up and running within two days.

It was trialled internally but went down so well that, after just the first week, staff asked to share it with family, friends and clients.

As the demand was there, CGI decided to make it accessible online for anyone to use, with new content released every week to keep youngsters engaged. 

“It’s presented in a very creative way to keep their interest and we’ve had amazing feedback,” said Green. “We are a business organisation and although we do community outreach this is on a completely different scale. The reach of it has been immense.”

Aimed at children aged between six and 14-years-old, activities are designed to be completed from home with minimal resources necessary for activities that include designing a robot and creating a STEM superhero. 

As well as competitions and programming, children are also challenged to take part in physical activities, including nature trails and designing their own home exercise routine.

The competitions are popular with so many good entries that it can sometimes be difficult to decide on a winner, according to Green. Some of the best are posted online.

“A lot of effort goes in to some of them and I know from my own children that they look at some of the designs and are inspired by seeing what others do,” she said. 

Around 6,000 CGI staff members receive packs for their children each week and there have been around 13,000 page views of the packs on the CGI UK website.

“It’s been shared very widely by our members and clients as well as community groups and schools we have had relationships with,” said Luke Kittow who creates the content. “It’s good to see that schools are finding it useful and are confident that they are giving children content that is going to work with the existing curriculum. 

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“Having said that, hands-on learning engages children more than working from a text book.”

Some parents sit down with children to work through the packs but others who may not be as tech savvy as their youngsters leave them to get on with it. “The children seem to love it,” said Kittow. “They like how it relates to real life topics that they are genuinely interested in.”

It is not necessary to download any software to complete the packs as the activities can be opened in a web browser. “The great thing about the packs is that they are very adaptable and very much open to interpretation,” said Kittow. 

“They can be as complex or simple as you like which is why they can reach such a wide age range. They don’t have to be completed in any order as they are all stand alone packs so if you are interested in a certain topic you can just pick that one up.”
He added: “We’re really pleased with the response. 

“A lot of parents are saying their youngsters are enjoying it so much they don’t realise how much they are learning. It’s been good to see the buzz around the packs and know that people are looking forward to the new content every week. 
“It’s also really nice to see the submissions and know that we will have brilliant young STEM workers in the future.”
Nine packs have been released so far, covering robotics, coding, helping the environment, sport and healthy living, engineering, space, communication,  science and art, with CGI partnering with various organisations for some topics.
CGI plans to keep the packs on the website for some time as it is not yet certain when all the schools in the UK will reopen.

STEM from Home: 
www.cgi-group.co.uk/en-gb/corporate-social-responsibility/stem-from-home

ENGINEERING PROJECT

The fifth pack in this series focuses on engineering and the tasks are to design and build a virtual helicopter, construct a model bridge and go on an engineering hunt.

The first activity is learning how to code a tech toy starting with a pair of sunglasses and moving onto a helicopter. All that is necessary is a computer capable of running Scratch and Scratch 3 software (either online or offline). Participants learn how to animate sprites, how to respond to keyboard input and understand how broadcasts work.

The bonus activity is to design and build a bridge. It can be made out of any materials there may be lying around the house, including recycled cardboard, containers, bottles and any craft materials. Participants are encouraged to make the designs as creative and colourful as possible taking inspiration from existing famous bridges and parts of their designs that can be used or changed.

The activity for this pack involves incorporating a hunt for as many types of engineering as can be found in the daily exercise routine. A checklist is supplied naming examples of engineering such as roads, bridges and buildings, along with a “types of engineering fact sheet” to help. Each type of engineering should be recorded, along with how many times it is spotted it and any bonus types of engineering that are not on the list.

Children are reminded to adhere to social distancing practices while completing the activity.

Just click www.cgi-group.co.uk/sites/default/files/2020-04/cgi-stem-from-home-pack-5-engineering.pdf

SPACE PROJECT

Pack six is about space and points out that more than 5000 spacecraft have been launched into space since 1957, including spacecraft with humans on board, space probes and satellites.

Activities involved in this pack include researching key aspects about outer space and creating a virtual world using Scratch, conducting a space research project and building a model satellite.

The first activity is learning how to create an adventure game world with multiple levels to explore. All that is needed is a computer capable of running Scratch and Scratch 3 software (either online or offline). Participants learn how to use conditional selection to react to key presses, how to use variables to store a game’s state, how to use conditional selection based on the value of a variable and how to use lists to store data.

The bonus activity is to research outer space and learn all about the solar system. All that is required is a computer capable of accessing the template and access to the internet. In the activity students learn about the planets, stars and moons, what a satellite is, how they are used and the different type of spacecraft that have been used since 1957.

This pack also includes the chance to build and design a satellite. Models can be made out of any materials lying around the house, including recycled cardboard, containers, bottles and any craft materials and need to have the following features: a body, a power source, scientific instruments, a communication device and an orientation finder.

Click www.cgi-group.co.uk/sites/default/files/2020-04/cgi-stem-from-home-pack-6-space.pdf

COMMUNICATION PROJECT

Pack seven is about communication and is aimed at helping participants communicate online in a safe and responsible manner.

For the online activity in this pack CGI UK has partnered with Thinkuknow, the education programme that protects children both online and offline. Thinkuknow has produced a variety of home activity packs including topics such as staying safe online, video chatting, advice for young people and the evolution of technology. The activities are aimed at children age 4-14 and each last around 15 minutes. 

This pack also teaches about the history of Morse Code, how it is used and how participants can write their own. All that is needed is a computer capable of accessing the internet and Microsoft Word.

There is also a STEM “Who Am I” game which teaches children about the world of STEM and all its job possibilities. Players have to guess the STEM job role by asking up to 20 questions that can only have yes or no answers. Effective communication is key in this game to ensure players can guess the STEM job within the 20 questions.

The bonus activity is to create a web page which can translate normal English text into pirate speak using jQuery and regular expressions. All that is required is a computer connected to the internet. Students learn how to use jQuery to cause live updates on a web page, how to write regular expressions to match patterns and words and how to create a web page to input and output results.

Click www.cgi-group.co.uk/sites/default/files/2020-05/cgi-stem-from-home-pack-7-communication.pdf

SCIENCE PROJECT

The eighth pack is about science and includes creating a memory game in which participants have to memorise and repeat a random sequence of colours. All that is needed is a computer capable of running Scratch and Scratch 3 software (either online or offline). In this activity students learn how to add sound to their Scratch project, how to create and use lists to store data and how to create and use custom blocks for repeating code.

The activity is coin cleaning and participants learn why coins change colour as they age and how to restore them to the former colour, making them much shinier.

There is also a big science crossword aimed at teaching children all about the fascinating world of science. From biology to baking, the crossword teaches children some key science terms and their meaning, using books or the internet to help them.

The bonus activity is to be a flower generator and create hundreds of flowers of different sizes, shapes, and colours. Students learn how to export the flower pictures and use them as wallpapers on their phone or computer, or as backdrops in other Scratch projects. All that is required is a computer capable of running Scratch and Scratch 3 software (either online or offline). In the activity children learn how to stamp a sprite, how to make their own Scratch blocks, how to use block inputs and how to create random numbers.

Click www.cgi-group.co.uk/sites/default/files/2020-05/cgi-stem-from-home-pack-8-science.pdf

  • This article was brought to you as part of our STEM campaign in association with CGI