As part of National Coding Week, Everton first team stars James Garner, Jarrad Branthwaite and Joao Virigina headed to Everton in the Community’s Digital Skills Lab to discover how the charity is equipping people in Merseyside with sought-after digital skills and inspiring an interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths (STEAM) subjects.
The players met with Year 5 pupils from Arnot Saint Mary Church of England Primary School – who are participants in the charity’s innovative educational E-STEAM initiative – which aims to ensure no child in Merseyside is left behind as it combats an ever-increasing skills gap between young people and jobs within digital/STEAM industries.
During their visit, they worked in small groups with the children and engaged in a series of coding activities to encourage teamwork and problem-solving. This included coding Sphero robots to score free kicks using a tablet, building and coding a LEGO Everton matchday coach to travel to Goodison upon instruction and completing a series of challenges to move KUBO and Ozobot robots around a coding mat.
The Toffees trio also spent time chatting with the youngsters about their experiences on the E-STEAM programme to date and witnessed first-hand the positive impact that the Skills Lab is having on the lives of children within the Liverpool City Region as it helps to bring learning to life and make it fun.
On the experience, Birkenhead-born midfielder James Garner said:
“It was a nice insight into how kids nowadays are learning, we didn’t quite learn like that. With the way the world is moving, for them to be learning what they are here will definitely put them in good stead going into the future. You could see how happy the kids were when they completed the tasks – ours was to build a bus from scratch out of LEGO and code it to travel and when we finished, they were so excited. The iPads and all the different technology that they get to use here is a massive bonus for them and they’re fortunate to be able to access the facility.”
Blues defender, Jarrad Branthwaite added:
“It’s so interesting for the kids, especially at such a young age, the facility is just going to benefit their learning and keep them engaged with different subjects. We enjoyed coming in and interacting with them and we’ve learnt something new today as well. It shows just what the club is, The People’s Club and that it’s here to help everyone. The Lab is top draw and the kids are so happy to be here, learning different skills which will benefit them in the future.
Mick King, Sport Education and Development Manager at www.evertoninthecommunity.org commented:
“We’re extremely passionate about providing STEM-learning opportunities to all across Merseyside. Whilst we work with a number of schools, our wider vision is to tackle the ever-increasing skills gap in the Liverpool City Region by giving people access to a facility where they can gain new skills and the confidence to go onto pursue STEAM-based opportunities that they previously might not have considered, or thought was possible.
“It was great to see the players get stuck in with the pupils and learn something new on their visit. It’s always an honour to welcome players to our sessions and it was the perfect opportunity for James, Jarrad and Joao to see our work in action. Thanks also go to our First Steam Squad who helped bring the vision of the Lab to life and industry experts CreativeHUT who support and encourage us in our delivery.”
Everton in the Community launched its E-STEAM initiative in local schools in 2021 to engage young people from disadvantaged areas, transforming the way they learn about technology, whilst aspiring them into careers in STEAM. Working with employers and partner organisations, the aim is to inspire participants through fun, practical and aspirational learning using technology, engaging resources and imaginative delivery.
The opening of the Digital Skills Lab in November 2022 was a huge step for the E-STEAM programme – providing a state-of-the-art space for children to progress their skills and go onto engage with more technically advanced activities. The lab is the region’s first community-based facility of its kind and was made possible thanks to a group of philanthropists known as the First Steam Squad.
And whilst the Digital Skills Lab is primarily focused on providing STEM-learning opportunities to children in Merseyside, it’s accessible to people of all ages and has been used by many of the charity’s programmes – including participants from its ‘Stay and Play’ toddler sessions, ‘Girls on Side’ which is a women’s only mental wellbeing initiative and ‘Pass on the Memories’ – the programme that supports people living with Dementia. Adult learners and members of the community also have full access to the Lab to gain new skills and confidence to help increase their employability prospects and explore new career opportunities.
Everton in the Community’s delivery at the Lab demonstrates how STEAM can be brought creatively into a classroom environment and focuses on a hands-on approach to involve young people in their own learning process whilst developing 21st-century skills to help prepare them for the future. The Lab opened following research undertaken by Liverpool City Region Combined Authority in October 2022, which found that the Liverpool 4 ward was one of the few areas within the city region that had no community facility to ‘get online’. Also, the Digital Exclusion Risk Index (DERI) cites that the areas surrounding Kirkdale are twice at risk of being ‘digitally excluded’ compared to other areas of the city.