Featuring Dr Jo-Anne Sewlal – Zoologist & STEM Programme Facilitator
Zoologist study the behavior of animals and the impact the environment has on them. “You have to have a genuine passion for animals and research” says Dr. Jo-Anne Sewlal of the profession,“I have always been interested in animals from a very early age”.
Dr. Sewlal has been a zoologist for the past 16 years. Her research focuses on arachnology (the study of spiders and other arachnids) branching into the area of apiculture. Dr. Sewlal is considered the expert in arachnids in the Eastern Caribbean. Her work in arachnology are among the first bodies of research that exist for spider fauna in the Eastern Caribbean. Growing up she didn’t have typical pets of dogs or cats due to her allergies. Her family had an interest in animals and from a very young age she was given ‘strange’ pets. She was introduced to turtles and crabs by her father, insects by her grandfather and spiders by her grandmother.
Zoology was a natural career choice, allowing her to do research in a field that is her passion. As a researcher, much of the work zoologists do involves extensive traveling, fieldwork, and long hours of lab analysis. “I get to travel to different parts of the world, especially forested areas that many persons would not get to visit” says Dr. Sewlal.
Trinidad and Tobago offers a unique opportunity for zoologist as it considered ‘continental islands’ as an island broken away from continental land mass of South America. It has become even more important for professions that study and recognize the importance of the local ecosystem and the bio-diversity it contains since the increase in housing and agricultural development in Trinidad and Tobago will destroy some of the natural habitat for these species. She hopes that the career opportunities for zoologists can be seen beyond teaching and applied to fields such as forensics, pharmaceuticals and biological illustrators.
Currently Dr. Jo Anne Sewlal is working on the following books:
The National Consultation for STEM Education in Trinidad and Tobago
STEM represents the building blocks for technology and innovation. In 2013, Shell Trinidad and Tobago introduced a comprehensive STEM-based programme to consolidate critical thinking, problem solving and innovation within the education system. The objective of the Trinidad and Tobago STEM Programme is to create a new generation of confident, knowledgeable and innovative students who are better equipped to manage social challenges and contribute to economic diversification, innovation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Recognizing that this transformation in the education system and the economic fabric of Trinidad and Tobago can only be developed and sustained through a collaborative approach with stakeholders in the public and private sector, Shell Trinidad and Tobago in partnership with the Ministry of Education hosted the inaugural National Consultation for STEM Education in Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday 16th May 2018 at the HYATT Regency.
The objective of the consultation was to create a platform for stakeholders in STEM education and careers to collectively discuss a way forward for STEM in Trinidad and Tobago. “Stakeholders, with the Ministry of Education as the coordinating body, must synergize, network, collaborate and cooperate in the implementation of STREAM (and its variation of STEM) education projects in schools” stated the Honourable Anthony Garcia, Minister of Education who delivered the feature address.
Representatives from the Office of the Prime Minister, the ministries of National Security, Education and Sport & Youth Affairs as well as tertiary education institutions, energy and energy related companies, advocacy groups and civil society, STEM teachers, students and parents, other STEM groups and facilitators in the Shell Trinidad and Tobago STEM Programme participated in the STEM Education National Consultation.
The consultation workshop provided an opportunity for key stakeholders in STEM education to contribute to the expansion of STEM in the education system. Participants discussed ‘Vision 2030 and Education’ and the development of a universal, seamless (pre-primary to tertiary level) STEM Education.
A STEM Education policy document will subsequently be developed based on the collective recommendations and support from stakeholders participating in the National Consultation. This policy framework document will be utilised by the Ministry of Education as the background document that will guide the development of a STEM education policy. This will support the realisation of one of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago’s pillars from its framework for sustainable development: ‘ to attain sustainable integral development and a more diversified, knowledge-intensive economy, built on the native genius of our people’.
East Mucurapo student- Che Cox: from apathetic to ambitious
Three years ago Che Cox became one of the first group of students at East Mucurapo Secondary School to join the Technical Training component of the STEM Programme. Targeting form 4 students pursuing technical subjects in the Port-of-Spain and Environs Education District, this component of the STEM Programme provides students pursuing technical subjects hands-on learning experiences in related STEM subjects.
Che came from a family of Mechanical Engineers so for him, choosing mechanical/technical subjects at the form 4 level was an easy choice. But beyond what seemed like a pre-determined career path, Che didn’t speak much about plans for the future. “He had no plan and didn’t want to go back to school after form 5” says his mother, Marsha Cox.
So when the STEM Programme was first introduced at the school to parents and students, Che was uninterested in joining the programme. “He argued for two days” remembers his mother “but Mommies win”. So Che started the STEM Programme in 2015 with some of his classmates because “he had no other choice”.
Now after three years in the STEM Programme Marsha Cox has been happy to see changes in her son Che and is looking forward to seeing the adult he will become in a few years. Che now speaks of the future and exploring what the next steps could be. Before the STEM Programme, he was “too much of a laid back teenager and it worried me” says Ms. Cox.
The STEM Programme creates an enjoyable learning environment, cultivating not just technical skills but also critical-thinking, creative-thinking and life skills.The Programme is committed to developing the next generation of innovators, passionate about the future and STEM.
Whereas previously Che would spend most of his free time playing games, now he is more focused on his school work and studying at home after school. He has become more imaginative and interested in not just engineering but the vast world of STEM. Che’s communication has improved as he is more responsive and outspoken with sharing his point of view.
Che is even a motivation to his younger brother who he encourages to study with him, showing and even ‘showing off’ a little the new things he will try to do at home. His mantra now to his siblings: “The only way you can do something, is if you try”