Monday, March 25, 2019

Forward-thinking education

ANA MARTINEZ QUIJANO has a mission: to teach kids 21st century learning skills that would prepare them for a future full of technologies that go beyond the current state of mind. As the director of Compass Education, a non-profit organization that aims to get children excited about science, technology, engineering, art and math, she is well on her way.

Ana graduated with a degree in occupational therapy and took up a Master’s in Education. She moved to the United States to work as an occupational therapist and teacher in different school districts from Texas to California. Because she was in charge of foreseeing a lot of schools, her favorite schools were the arts and sciences academies.

“It’s different. It’s a lot of fun, and the people like you the way you are and you can build and create. You can see a big difference in the children. They are excited to go to school because they are learning about their passions,” she said.

As Ana perused on this kind of education, she dreamed of having schools in Cebu that are non-traditional and have a sub-specialty. “Not all our kids belong in the traditional system. The learning is very broad. And sometimes when you try to be everything, you end up not having a focus,” she said.

Compass Education started in 2015 when it taught several summer programs in different schools in Cebu. It opened its Tinkering Lab, which is what it calls its location, just this year.

In the Tinkering Lab, one would see little children learning about programming, coding, building robots, learning about the laws of the physical world, and so forth. Children are learning so much, all while having lots of fun.

“As teachers, we want to make thinking visible,” Ana said. “There is a need for our children to become problem solvers because in their future, there would be a lot of problem solving. If you teach children different ways to solve a problem, then you’re giving them tools for the future. There are so many ways to solve a problem. Even if they are ways that are not accessible, you want them to think of those.”

One of the things that pushed Ana in opening Compass Education was what she learned during a summer program in education at Harvard University. The discussion during the program revolved around the future of education. “There is a moving trend for science, technology, engineering, art and math (Steam) as a forefront for the future in terms of sustainability, environment and all of that. The children today want something aesthetic and functional. So that is the whole gap of that kind of industry—to find a way to get children engaged into the world of Steam to prepare them for the future,” she said.

At Compass Education, children are taught to use different kinds of information and building something out of it. “Content is really cheap and easy to find.

You can practically google anything. So we need now to develop skills. What to do with the information we have is very important,” she said.

Ana also finds art a significant aspect in a child’s education. “The K to 12 program is Stem (science, technology, engineering, math) but we include art because art is so important. It is a subject that’s not given much importance but is very much important. Art feeds into math and science so beautifully and unleashes your creativity. If kids don’t have art, you’re depriving them from expressing themselves. Art makes you think, create and build things.”

Compass Education has Steam programs for children from three years old to high school level. But its most popular program is robotics. They use Lego robotics because it’s the most established. “I like Lego because if our children could plan it and perceive it, they can build it because Lego has enough parts,” she said.

Creative thinking, real world connections, critical thinking, innovation—these are just some of the 21st century learning skills that Ana wants the kids to have innately. But ultimately, she just wants the children to apply one thing: learn to think and think to learn.

Compass Education is located at Unit 7, Plaza Nouvelle, E. Benedicto St., Cebu City. (Contributed Fotos)
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