Abu Dhabi, UAE: Learning to programme a robot helped Salem Al Hajeri to decide that he wants to pursue science as a career.
Salem, a 16 year-old Grade 9 pupil with hearing problems, took part in a workshop yesterday aimed at motivating pupils to learn the sciences. He said he was now considering going to a specialised technical institute after graduating.
Dozens of students with hearing problems or speech impediments and their teachers at Abu Dhabi Rehabilitation and Care Centre for People with Special Needs attended workshops through Lema?, a Science School Outreach Programme.
The programme, from the Abu Dhabi Technology Development Committee, which began last year, aims to take an informal approach to science and instil scientific curiosity in young people.
The programme has reached more than 50,000 students in public and private schools in Abu Dhabi, said Neama Al Marshoodi, manager of content for science and technology promotion at the committee.
The workshops, covering astronomy, robotics and anatomy, give students “an opportunity to think about science and technology as a lifestyle”, Ms Al Marshoodi said.
“They love the programme because they see science and technology from different sides,” she said.
“We believe that informal education gives them a way to relate to education.”
One of the workshops, called Body Builders, is an interactive performance designed to help the pupils remember names for anatomy through humour, said Ahmed Abuali, 23, a Palestinian who is one of the workshop’s “science communicators”.
Yesterday was no different, he said.
“I loved it, it’s the usual,” Mr Abuali said. “They love the show and they’re motivated to study science.”
The show involves a doctor who provides the information, and a goofy patient whose responses to the doctor help the kids to remember the lesson, he said.
Through the skits the pupils learnt about the musculoskeletal, digestive, circulatory and reproductive systems, at times moving their joints and learning the location of their pulse. Sawsan Jaweed, an Arabic teacher at the centre, translated the skit into sign language for the pupils.
Mr Abuali said he had previously worked with children with disabilities in other centres. A Grade 4 student who was visually impaired once told him afterwards that she wanted to become a doctor, he said.
The Lema? programme, which means “Why?” in Arabic, is part of increased efforts to involve students with special needs in Abu Dhabi’s e-learning initiatives, said Ahmed Al Hammadi, programme manager for the e-learning special project at Abu Dhabi Education Council.
Adec hopes to involve special-needs centres more in its e-learning initiatives, Mr Al Hammadi said.
“This special-needs group will be engaged more soon,” he said.
The programme complements classroom learning to help them have more understanding, engagement and collaboration, he said.
Hands-on workshops that focus on practical aspects of the curriculum are ideal for students at the centre, said Mariam Saif Al Qubaisi, head of the special-needs sector at the Zayed Higher Organisation for Humanitarian Care and Special Needs, of which the centre is part.
“It’s excellent for our students,” she said. “It will let them know how they can implement what they learn.”
The technology and development committee expanded the programme this year to students in grades 6 and 7, in addition to grades 3 to 5, covered last year.
The workshops included the Lego Mindstorm Nxt Challenge for robot programming, the Body Builders show, and the Secret of Space planetarium show.
Lema? continues until November in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain schools. Interested schools can contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.lema.ae for more information. The programme was created to assist the emirate’s goal of becoming a knowledge-based economy by 2030, according to the committee.
© The National