In Zambia there is a lot of waste produced, and limited opportunities for recycling. At Kaniki Bible University College where I live, we have recently started a basic recycling scheme separating food waste and collecting plastic bottles. Since people here have to pay to have rubbish collected, many people burn it which is certainly not healthy judging by how many plastic bags (or 'plastics' as they are known here) are used. Last week I came across some great ideas as to how we could re-use our rubbish in a much more useful way.
|Re-using paint tins|
I had the privilege of attending a ‘Waste2Toys’ workshop led by two ladies from a South African charity called Singakwenza (meaning ‘We can do it!’ in Zulu), which was hosted by our friends at Beyond Ourselves Zambia. Our Pre-School teacher from Kapumpe attended with me and we had a great day with teachers and head teachers from other schools. We were presented with lots of simple but inspiring ideas about how to recycle waste and use it to make school resources.
|The Singakwenza team with recycled display resources|
|Teachers from a variety of schools in Ndola|
I am hoping that we are going to embrace these ideas at Kapumpe, which could bring multiple benefits for the school. Perhaps most obviously it will help to save us money. It could also help us to encourage parental engagement, as children who are sponsored through Arise don’t pay to attend our school but it is still good for their families to contribute in some way. Everyone can collect plastic bags, cardboard boxes and bottles at home to bring in for recycling. Furthermore, if the children see that they can make their own toys with recycled materials then it might provoke them to also do this at home, leading to more opportunities for play and learning. If resources get broken, it will mean they can more easily be replaced so it will also help towards making the school more sustainable.
Very importantly the workshop also taught theory behind early childhood development and clearly explained the reasons for learning through play. It was suggested that teaching a child is a bit like building a house – in the early years the parents and educators build the foundations, primary school teachers build the walls of the house and secondary school teachers put on the roof. If the foundations aren’t good, then it will fall down!
|Building the foundation for a good education|
Those of us who are passionate about primary education understand the importance of the early years and believe that play is a foundation for learning. Fred Rogers, who was a pioneer in television for early years education, said:
Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning.
But for children, play is serious learning.
But for children, play is serious learning.
Children learn to communicate through play, developing their vocabulary and language skills. It encourages them to work in groups which involves sharing, negotiating and resolving conflicts. Play gives children opportunities to solve problems and to learn about numbers and symbols which develops early mathematical and scientific concepts. It also allows children to be active and even to deal with fears whilst acting out situations in role play. In summary, it is during play that children really learn how to learn.
|Developing language through play|
The workshop that we attended presented us with some practical ideas for making resources that could facilitate play like this. It also taught us about specific skill development. For example, we started off using plastic bags to make balls. These could be used for throwing and catching to develop a whole host of skills. Gross motor skills (control of large muscles) hand/eye co-ordination, 1 to 1 number correspondence (counting the actual number of objects/events), proprioception (knowing where to move your body to/the space it takes up) and laterality (using both sides of the body), for starters.
|Number skittle bowling|
We tried out some activities which would enable children to develop the fine motor skills (movement of small muscles) that they need to strengthen, before holding a pencil with the correct grip. Bottle tops and rolled up paper balls created little games of flick football. We used polystyrene trays and matches to develop a pincer grip to pick up small items. We used straws and onion bags for threading activities. All of these activities enable children to develop bilateral co-ordination (using both sides of the body at the same time).
The most challenging piece of equipment to make was a skipping rope – this was made from 72 plastic bags! It involved folding and cutting, tying the bags and plaiting them.
|Making skipping ropes|
|My attempt at a skipping rope!|
It is interesting that the Zambian curriculum encourages learning through play but it is still extremely rare to see it in Zambian schools. I don’t think this is because teachers are reluctant or unwilling, but rather they have not received appropriate training so are unaware, or they have huge class sizes, minimal space and little or no equipment/resources to make it happen. It seems a shame that teachers and schools here are not empowered to practice what the government preach.
Despite this, one of the key messages from the course was that it is the teacher interaction with the children that is important, rather than the resources themselves.
|Our Pre-School teacher with her class|
Since the course I have seen our Pre-School teacher trying out some of the activities. She is also going to lead some staff meetings on it to share her knowledge with the other teachers at Kapumpe. I have been delighted to see how keen our Zambian staff are to learn. I expected that people might be more stuck in their ways, but that is not the case. They simply need to be given the opportunity to hear information explained. I hope that the education our team are providing at Kapumpe will empower the children here to keep on learning throughout their lives and empower others along the way. It’s funny how even rubbish can be used to help in this!
|Paint pot drums (which we might soon regret!)|