Connecting education through go-karting
Forty-four students from various public schools in New Providence were exposed to an innovative educational initiative that has enabled them to develop skills in the area of mechanical design, proposal creation and other skills relevant to the demands of a progressing labor market and for national development. The students participated in two pilot camps held over the summer at Doris Johnson Senior High School known as EduKarting.
The program is designed to teach students how to win, firstly in the classroom and secondly, on the track. He admitted that for the students the order is reversed until they are actually involved and experience all of the benefits they derive from the program.
“Students learnt practical skills when they had to take apart the carts and reassemble them,” said David McLaughlin, the organizer of Speed Week 2012 and managing director of Karting Bahamas.
“The social skills came into play when they had to interact with each other for the first time and respect each other’s strengths. The teamwork evolved when they were divided into groups to work to develop a marketing proposal to solicit fictional funding from sponsors and public relations campaigns to promote their teams,” he said.
Science, math and language were also integrated into the program.
The students were divided into two camps — 15 in the first camp held July 19–26 and 14 in the second camp, July 29–August 2.
“We actually had real business professionals from Nassau Motor Company, Aquapure and Bahamia Rental come in and listen to the students’ proposals and ask them questions related to the money they were trying to obtained. Based on the students’ presentations, the sponsors gave them money to acquire things they requested such as tires, uniforms or extra crew. The sponsors also bought a stake in the students’ business with their sponsorship,” said McLaughlin.
McLaughlin has invested over $12,000 in equipment and airfares for facilitators, Henry Beaudette and Craig Camilleri from the United Kingdom for the camps.
McLaughlin is assisted in the venture by Victoria Sarne, director of Karting Bahamas. Additional funding was provided by INSPIRE headed by project manager, Dr. Karen St. Cyr.
On the camp’s closing day, Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Jerome Fitzgerald visited Doris Johnson High School to see first-hand the enthusiasm the program generated among the students.
He witnessed the student teams identified as Bahama Blazers, Team Swift and Tropic Thunder race against the clock to see who would achieve the best time. And listened to the students discuss their experience and what they learned about the importance of safety through the program.
Minister Fitzgerald acknowledged that the program was much more than he expected and said he was looking forward to a proposal to see how it could be integrated into the public school system.
“When you hear about karting, you think about racing around the track but it is much more than that — it uses unique techniques that engage young people and teach them in manner which they can learn things that are usually difficult to them,” said the education minister. He further said that he was impressed to know that the students incurred penalties if they arrived late for camp and as a result they all arrived on time each day. And that he was glad they learnt the importance of punctuality which he said is a major problem in the country with students arriving late to school.
“It is good to know that these young men’s character was enhanced during this time,” said Fitzgerald.
He even “suited up” in a racing jumpsuit and drove several laps around the track.
Dr. St. Cyr concurred with the minister that the program has tremendous benefits for education in The Bahamas, primarily because it is student-centered learning. She too appreciated the fact that it incorporated science, mathematics, English and other subjects that students have difficulty with in school.
Maya Curry, one of two female students in the camp, who will be entering twelfth grade at Doris Johnson High School in September said the program has opened a “whole new world” for her, and describes it as one of the most amazing things she has been a part of. Although her first encounter with go-carts occurred several years ago in Montreal, Canada, she said the program gave her the opportunity to deal with one with an engine.
“The best things that I have gained from this program are safety and confidence. Usually I stay to myself, but karting made me get involved with others,” she said.
Maya further said that having to put together a marketing plan to ask sponsors for money also developed her confidence as she is normally a shy person.
Valerie Lightbourne, an automotive instructor at Doris Johnson Senior High, said she was delighted that some of her students had the opportunity to participate in the program as she was able to witness their improved confidence during the period.
C. C. Sweeting Senior High School, automotive instructor, Nelson Bowe, said the program holds much promise and that it will enable teachers to teach subjects with which students have challenges.
McLaughlin said that at present, the ministry has informed him that they will not be able to include the program into the curriculum for the new school year. However, the ministry is receptive to establishing after-school EduKarting Clubs. Doris Johnson High School will be the site for the schools in the east and A. F. Adderley Junior High School for those in the west. Two of the carts were donated to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology for the after-school programs.