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BF Student STEAM Ideas: Action! How cinema-loving teenagers help families connect during COVID

Volunteer Writer: Emily Fairchild

The COVID-19 pandemic had profound effects for how we interact with others — both inside and outside the home. But perhaps the most affected group was schoolchildren, who overnight found their school and social life completely changed. 

In 2021, the Breteau Foundation launched its Better World STEAM Challenge to inspire students in Latin America to find innovative solutions to tackle the lasting disruption in education and daily life caused by the pandemic. Students collaborated with classmates to solve problems caused by COVID-19 disruptions using STEAM activities.

STEAM is similar to the better-known principle of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) education — with the addition of the arts. STEAM activities encourage the use of 21st-century skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, digital literacy, communication, collaboration, research and creativity. Developing children’s skills through STEAM activities is hugely important in building tomorrow’s adults, who are resilient and equipped to thrive in the 21st century. 

We gave the teams the choice of two scenarios for our STEAM challenge. The first was: ‘What could we do in this new COVID world to resume some of the activities we did pre-COVID?’. The second was: ‘How can we make learning engaging and fun whilst schools remain closed or disrupted?’

Earlier this year, we brought you details of our winner, 15-year-old Paola Alvaréz of Bolivia, who proposed an app to help people engage with technology and learn 21st-century skills. 

In this blog, the Breteau Foundation is delighted to showcase the work of our Better World STEAM Challenge runners-up, Academy Girls. These students from Ciudad Obregón, Mexico — Yamileth Guadalupe Pérez Martínez, Karla del Rosario Padilla López and Liz Gutiérrez Osornio — tackled the first scenario, to find ways to resume activities that were normal pre-pandemic. 

The young women noticed that during the COVID-19 lockdowns there was a lack of communication within the home, and so they decided to try to improve family dynamics. 

Academy Girls, who are all aged between 13 and 15, drew on their love of film to solve the problem, and proposed a film club in their homes. They hoped the club would help their families to communicate better while stuck at home.

The team did some research about the health benefits of cinema to understand how their plan could improve the mental wellbeing of their families. They came up with some surprising and important results. First, they found that watching films, especially in the context of the pandemic, created a more relaxing atmosphere at home.

Second, they discovered that watching films stimulated family discussions that were different from the normal day-to-day conversations. Each also worked to create a relaxing and accommodating space in their homes, where their families could get together comfortably to watch and discuss the films.

Our panel of judges was impressed by the simplicity of the idea, and how much research the team did to identify the health and wellbeing benefits families could enjoy through watching films together during the pandemic. 

And Academy Girls loved the challenge too. Yamileth said her favourite part was: “The support we have had to be able to explore our creativity.” She added: “It is exciting that they take our opinion into account and to be able to share it with many other girls.”

We’re delighted to announce that the Breteau Foundation STEAM challenge is running again in 2022 – this time for students all over the world. Primary school children will gain crucial STEAM skills while competing in fun challenges to win amazing prizes, such as tablets and licences for the best educational apps. There’s also teaching support and training for schools. To get involved, visit our STEAM Challenge 2022 page.

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