Building Resilient Communities through Engaging STEM Learning: The ACES STEMBucket Program

Empowering Youth, Women, and Communities with Sustainable Development Goals – The ACES STEMBucket © programme provides a solution to the challenges faced by communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The loss of tourism and fishing industries, coupled with difficulties in transitioning to online learning, had a negative impact on Sarawak’s rural and coastal communities, including a decrease in youth interest in STEM subjects. The STEMBucket © programme aims to make STEM subjects more accessible and enjoyable by transforming everyday household objects into engaging STEM-based projects. The programme has received positive feedback from participants who appreciate the hands-on and interactive approach to learning science. By incorporating playful, co-creation, and frugal approaches, the STEMBucket © programme supports inclusive learning and helps communities develop the skills and competencies needed for sustainability and resilience. The activities also align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for wellbeing, gender equality, poverty, and quality education.

The target group of the project includes the general public, including youths, students, educators, trainers, researchers, and communities, as well as groups of stakeholders with NGOs, government officers, and industries. The project involved over 3,300 participants, including over 300 youths/students aged 8 to 17 years, over 500 graduates aged 22 to 30 years, over 2,500 attendees and viewers through activities, seminars, and online workshops, over 150 residents and village communities, and 20 community leaders and state administrative officers. The project team consisted of researchers from universities, NGOs, industries, and communities.

The STEMBucket program is aimed at promoting empowerment and agentic practices through inclusive learning. The program utilizes playful, economical (frugal), and reflective methods to achieve its goals.

The main design and delivery of the program is divided into three parts: Concept, Playful and Frugal, and Co-creation.

  1. Concept: The program focuses on imparting knowledge and skills to participants. The knowledge component includes pre- and post-knowledge on the specific topic/content, capability, motivation, efficacy, and theory of change. The skills component focuses on practical hands-on capability skills and empathic values and efficacy. The program also aims to develop abilities such as decision-making, critical thinking, problem-solving, innovation, and reflection.
  2. Playful and Frugal: The program emphasizes experiential learning through play, PBL, fun, curiosity, agency, autonomy, and social interaction. It also promotes creativity, keeping it simple, localizing, being practical, resourceful, collaboration, resilience, and adaptability to sustainability.
  3. Co-creation: The program adopts a co-creation approach through design thinking and PAR, with an open dialogue and collective reflection and participation. The aim is to promote ownership and sustainable solutions and innovation.

The key lessons learned from the program include the importance of raising political awareness, developing flexible training sessions, motivating young people, engaging teachers and facilitators, developing materials with NGOs and industries, extending training programs to the whole community, developing linkages with local training institutions, engaging students, researchers or trainers to deliver community training, and upgrading skillsets for industries.

The policy/practical recommendations for the program include upgrading skillsets for industries, gearing up educational institutions to provide new skills, realigning and retraining transversal skills through play and frugal STEM+ educations, investigating partnerships with universities to encourage community placements, and developing partnerships with labs/centers in the community to deliver HOTS skills curricula using a playful and co-creation approach.

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