Challenge Island: Taking teaching beyond the textbook

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A former 5th-grade teacher and Richmond native is using a unique STEAM based program that teaches children to think on a higher level and setting them up for a brighter future.

Ashley Fisher opened up her Challenge Island franchise in Henrico County, about six months ago, making it the third location serving the Richmond area.

“I was a teacher and I loved being able to use hands-on programs with the kids, children’s engineering where they are just really getting into it and getting involved and talking with one another,” Fisher said. “You know, that’s not something that is always easy to do in a classroom when you’ve got so many other responsibilities and when I came across this opportunity, it just seemed so perfect. I wanted to get involved and it just all ended up being a perfect fit.”

8News took a trip down to Good Shepard Episcopal School as Ashely Fisher and Amy Broocke, owner and director of the Midlothian location, was hosting their emoji-themed summer camp. The students were split up into groups called ‘tribes’ and were given the task to build a clubhouse out of the provided supplies.

“They learn how to think out of the box, to think critically, which is so important today because who knows what the world’s going to be like tomorrow,” Broocke said. “They go to school and the teachers talk about how engaged they are. They see that they’re confident because when they make their products, they have a challenge and they work together in their tribe to fulfill that challenge. Then they see that it might break and it might fail and they figure it out and they make it even better.”

Fisher said during the school year, their lessons incorporate the classroom curriculum and provide the students with the tools necessary to help them succeed in school and in their future.

“We’re a STEM program at our core, but that’s just the beginning, we like to call it STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math), so we’re just different than any other STEM programs in that we really focus on creating an atmosphere for the kids,” Fisher said. “When they walk in, it’s literally a party atmosphere.”

Fisher also says they try to embrace that theme for whatever they’re doing, so the children can really feel like they’re getting involved.

“They’re kind of entering into an oasis where they can explore and try new things and it’s very important for us because we find it so important to raise children who can collaborate, problem solve, work together, not just take instructions, but be able to be the center of their learning and take responsibility for their learning,” she said.

To learn more about Challenge Island, CLICK HERE.

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