Science is Fun and Awesome (SiFA) is a nonprofit organization that was chartered in 2013 by Dr. Anthony Jay Sunga, Ph.D. Dr. Sunga’s dream was to build a love of learning related to the Science-Technology-Engineering-Arts-Mathematics (STEAM) fields, and launched SiFA as a mechanism to realize his dream and conduct STEAM-related activities for Guam. The mission of SiFA is to inspire STEAM education for the island youth. SiFA approaches STEAM education through hands-on activities and innovative projects.
The SiFA Learning Academy was established to meet the purpose of the Guam Academy Charter School Act of 2009 and to provide Guam’s middle school children with the best learning experience in the region with a strong focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM). The SiFA Learning Academy has been a dream of the SiFA non-profit organization for many years.
HISTORY OF SIFA
The first official project of SiFA was a Science symposium for Tamuning Elementary. At this symposium, 180 third grade students learned concepts in science that helped improved their SAT scores. These students went from being one of the lowest ranked to number 2 in the elementary scores for science that following year. SiFA went through the topics for SAT science and developed a hands-on symposium that would cover the learning objectives assessed in the SAT. SiFA staff and volunteers designed and built modules that students would rotate through during the symposium. Different biomes were built to explain environmental habitats, microscope modules gave students hands-on use of the microscope and taught them the parts and functions, plant and animal cell modules were also built to teach structures and parts, animal development, plant development. Other modules that were designed and develop were geared specifically to be hands-on activities to build on tactile and cognitive thinking (geology: fossils and rocks, astronomy: stars and lunar phases, chemistry, physics and biology). This symposium was designed specifically for the needs of the school and has also been used to provide smaller science symposiums for other elementary/middle schools, including Harvest Christian Academy, San Vicente, and Untalan Middle School.
SiFA also takes college students from GCC and UOG, trains and educates them, then uses them as mentors to inspire elementary through the high school students. This peer collaboration works extremely well because young students can interact with mentors who are closer in age, and the additional mentors during the workshops and trainings translates to more attention and assistance for the young students. College students gain valuable experience in teaching and training, which assists them in their own learning and development in STEAM fields and in critical workplace skills. Outside experts in the field are also involved with SiFA projects as well so that there is a connection with education, learning and the workforce. An example would be during our sustainable garden project, we visited Grow Guam for the students to see how the science of hydroponics is being used as a business. In addition, Department of Fisheries Biologist Brent Tibbits was instrumental in providing a walking tour through the Piti Masso Watershed, and other professionals were sought out to share their expertise in various activities.
SiFA is the official regional partner of FIRST LEGO LEAGUE. Therefore, we are the only organization in this region who is officially supported by FIRST LEGO LEAGUE and we are the only organization that can organize an official championship. Dr. Sunga applied and received this distinguished designation because of the work he has done in the area. SiFA has conducted numerous robotics training programs throughout the island with elementary, middle, and high school students. SiFA hosted the FIRST LEGO LEAGUE Pacific Regional Championships on January 2017, which is an international competition that inspired children in STEAM fields. The success of the SiFA projects is evident in the growing interest from other islands, such as CNMI, Palau, American Samoa and FSM to incorporate SiFA designed programs into their education system.
Since its inception, SiFA has mainly developed and implemented its activities through volunteer efforts and private donations. LSAMP grant helped support some student participation for projects, National PETE grant helped provide material for the sustainable garden project. Some work has been done in collaboration with the Guam Community College to leverage resources. In addition, SiFA received a Payless Community Foundation grant this year to build and teach aquaponic systems at select island’s schools and to teach the use of drones to help protect the environment.
SiFA is excited to extend its outreach and education to apply for a charter school where its mission can be more fully realized. The board of SiFA along with a community of investors, educators, and other interested parties have collaborated in the last couple of years to discuss, collaborate and develop this proposal for a middle school charter with a focus on STEAM activities.
MISSION AND GOALS
The mission of the SiFA Learning Academy is to prepare middle school students through rigorous and relevant STEAM content, and to be successful and productive citizens by developing strong critical thinking skills needed to solve problems for Guam and the world. District wide assessments will follow the requirements of the Guam Department of Education (GDOE).
The goals of the SiFA Learning Academy are to:
- Provide effective, innovating, and challenging teaching and learning environment using STEAM as a platform;
- Maximize student potential and ensure students are well-equipped to meet the challenges of today’s world; and to
- Engage the family and the community in all aspects of the charter school, from teaching and learning to field experiences.