When she got the email that there was a box on its way from Samsung, L’École Phoenix Middle School teacher Kari Mathew had almost forgotten she’d even applied.
That box was their prize of almost $2,000 worth of Samsung technology for becoming a finalist in the company’s Solve for Tomorrow Challenge, where students across the country look at how STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) make a difference in their education and how they could use it to better their community.
It all came about – as these initiatives frequently seem to do – because Mathew actually read all the way to the end of a random email she’d received earlier this year.
“I’d gotten a random email from someone in the district and I read it over and thought it sounded cool,” Mathew says. “I looked over the application, and it didn’t look like it would be too onerous to fill out, so I finished it off and sent it away after I got my co-teacher to proofread it, and honestly just kind of forgot about it.”
Their mission, as finalists in the challenge, was to make a short video addressing the topic with the gear provided by Samsung – which they get to keep no matter what happens with the rest of the contest.
The box that showed up contained a Galaxy S7 phone, a Samsung Gear 360 camera, a Galaxy Tab A 8” tablet and one Samsung virtual reality headset.
Grade 7 student James Smurthwaite is one of the fledgling videographers working on the project. He says it’s been not only fun to play with all the fancy new gear they received from the company, but also good to consider the ways that advancements in technology have been of benefit in education, “and this video we’re working on will hopefully show some of that.”
The topic they chose to explore in their video, Mathew says, was salmon conservation and stream enhancement, since it was one of the core topics of their curriculum this year.
“We’d already done a lot on salmon,” Mathews says. “We raised salmon fry in the classroom, we’d gone down and done some river cleanup, so this just really fit right into that theme.”
One of Smurthwaite’s classmates and fellow team member on the video production, Emma Knight, says one of the ways technology improves their education is simply that it’s much easier to learn from experience than just reading about something in a book – even if that experience is a virtual one.
“When you use electronics and technology and actually see what you’re learning about instead of having it explained to you, it really helps,” she says. “I don’t know how to explain it, but it makes it more real, I guess.”
“Interactive stuff is just way more memorable,” agrees classmate Brenner Whitt.
Once the video is complete, it will be sent to Samsung for judging. If the video is judged to best address and reflect the topic (40 per cent of the final mark), demonstrate that the students were actively engaged in the project (another 40 per cent) and is amongst the highest quality of the submissions (20 per cent) out of the 150 finalists nation-wide, they will win one of the four $20,000 Samsung grand prize packages being awarded – one for each region of the country.
And Mathew says that prize package would be worth even more than its $20,000 price tag.
“We have over 500 students at this school, and we have three computer labs and one partial Mac lab, and it’s just not enough. Especially with this new curriculum, where they’re supposed to be them exploring their own avenues based on topics raised in the curriculum, there’s going to be a lot of self-directed study and research happening, and all of that needs to happen online.”
For more on the contest, visit samsung.com/ca/solvefortomorrow
That’s also where you’ll be able to see Phoenix’s submission – along with those from the rest of the finalists – once the contest ends.