Bev Da Costa & Karen Kaimowitz
In South Africa, the Early Childhood Development (ECD) sector is largely informal and unregulated. Only a small minority of ECD classes are accommodated in formal purpose-built classrooms.
Most classes and even entire centres occupy informal, sometimes makeshift, spaces such as garages and temporary shelters in backyards. Space is limited, often very confined and groups ranging from 10 to 35 are seen cramped in these classrooms, whilst storage space is generally in short supply or lacking altogether.
Due to the large number of children in any one class, there is sometimes little to no space for play and learning with manipulatives, which should be a key tool for teaching and learning at this stage of development.
Introducing LEGO Bricks and Playbox
ORT SA CAPE focuses on training and supporting teachers in disadvantaged areas. Our vision is a future where all teachers receive quality training and all children have access to quality education.
One of our core projects is training teachers to use LEGO resources – 6 Bricks and Playbox.
We are privileged to have a relationship with the LEGO Foundation, which enables us to distribute LEGO DUPLO resources to underprivileged schools and train the teachers in play-based learning.
During training workshops, our teachers engage with new knowledge through activities for adults as well as young children. Such repeated exposure to new content and methods promotes learning, as well as retention of what is learned.
In many cases, the Six Bricks and Play Box are the only teaching resources available.
Developing core learning skills through play
Despite these limitations, teachers find ways to create attractive, orderly learning spaces and many positive changes have been observed during the rollout and implementation of this project.
Children develop core learning skills through play. Six Bricks and Playbox activities bring back the element of playful learning into the classroom.
As children grow and develop at different rates, Six Bricks and Playbox activities can be adapted to any child’s level, thereby making the activities suitably challenging for all. The activities incorporate different teaching styles to cater for the visual, auditory and tactile learner.
The most notable is often the improvement in the learner’s working memory. The impact is seen in the ability of learners to listen more accurately to instructions, earlier completion of tasks and accelerated conceptualisation.
Teachers like the fact that they do not have to find a formal place in the curriculum to do the activities. They soon see how easy it is to use their own initiative and creativity and come up with some of their own ideas.
Teachers have also noted that after working with these resources the children seem to be more inventive, curious and creative.
Besides concentrating on delivering training in literacy, numeracy and perceptual skills we also offer technology skills development through Robotics and coding.
ORT SA CAPE prides itself on excellent, needs-based training and after-training support visits.
We look forward to training more teachers and supplying this valuable educational resource into many more classrooms during 2019 – helping us to empower people and strengthen communities.