iThra Youth Initiative
Activity: Innovative and hands-on education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) for secondary school students
Name of the Organization: King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture
Headquarter: Saudi Arabia
Geographical reach: Saudi Arabia
Number of beneficiaries: 15,000 students
Project Representative: Dr. Khalid S. Al-Yahya
About the Project
Focused on creative STEM education and character-building skills, iThra Youth Initiative is a major youth development project, complementing initiatives that promote transition towards a knowledge-based society.
The programs conducted under this initiative in 2013 are:
- iDiscover: a series of innovative, rigorous, transformational science and math camps that are conducted in different cities across Saudi Arabia, delivering half a million learning hours and accompanied by soft skills programs.
- iSpark Mobile: dynamic workshops that target public schools in urban and rural areas to inspire 9th and 10th graders to follow four STEM programs on a weekly basis.
- iWander: international scientific expedition for the top students in iDiscover camps with intensive English training.
- iBroadcast: a portal hosting the scientific content of the programs online, to track Saudi youth development and to enrich online Arabic content.
- iRead: a festival of reading to nominate the reader of the year through a competition associated with sessions and panel discussions.
- Other events (RoboOlymbics, Exploratorium Tinkering Studio, Saudi 2050 Exhibit).
Saudi Arabia has a very high population of young people. Unfortunately, there is often a lack of emotional connection between Saudi youth and the arts, STEM and media fields. Despite the crucial role of these fields in building global citizens and future leaders, projects that embrace these issues are rare in the region.
iThra Youth Initiative has established a student-centered learning model in contrast to the traditional teacher-centered educational system.
The project’s solution consists of a creatively tailored set of programs that secures the delivery of world-class content to a wide array of teachers and young people from various age groups.
The program focuses on creativity, youth and teacher enrichment, STEM camps, inspiring hands-on learning, character building, academic and career path selection, and lifelong learning.
In terms of impact, the students' feedback survey results show a radical increase in interest in science, engineering and robotics. Also, the surveying process shows that students' ability to communicate, explore and utilize scientific and engineering concepts has increased greatly. Students responded to a question about classifying the value of teamwork on the programs by saying that they found it very valuable.
For the coming years, iThra Youth Initiative is set to inspire and enrich two million Saudi youth through its innovative and high quality programs.
The project aims to:
- Expand the programs to reach new cities and rural areas, the eventual objective being to reach all of the kingdom
- Introduce new cutting-edge tools in the mobile labs to be utilized in the programs
- Introduce new track offerings and content
- Partner with reputable international institutions to diversify and expand relationships and the quality of programs delivered to the target audience, in addition to strengthening partnerships with current partners
The plan is to expand geographically kingdom-wide while improving the quality of programs and partners. For example:
- iSpark mobile will expand next year to cover more areas, reaching a total of 50,000 students. iDiscover currently has 20 camps. This will increase next year to 50 camps and will be conducted in new cities throughout the kingdom.
- New technology will be provided in partnership with California Science Center for iSpark 2013 and the University of California, Berkeley.
- A strategic plan is being developed between King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture and the University of California, Berkeley to provide part of the content and training for gifted students program, iSpark Mobile, and iDiscover.