ENCOURAGING TINKERING AND BUILDING SKILLS IN CHILDREN
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A Rwandan classroom is filled with groups of girls and boys working together around sets of desks. They're tinkering with clay and wires and learning how to make simple machines. Outside, groups of fellow students are sawing, hammering, and gluing parts together to make common tools. At the end of the lesson, the whole class comes together, and each group showcases their creations to their fellow students, their faces shining with pride and accomplishment.
Watch children engage in self-directed learning and tinkering in the Plug in Play project:
NO MORE JUST SITTING AT DESKS
Lessons used to be difficult in this classroom, both for the teachers and the students. Learning often involved rote memorization, which students found boring – so much so that some fell asleep in class. It was a monumental task to get students to participate in class.
“My colleague teaches me what I don’t know, [and] vice versa. We exchange ideas.” – Isaac, Grade 6 student
But things have changed thanks to the Plug in Play program, which has turned this classroom into a playful place where students can practice foundational STEM skills like making, tinkering, and coding, exploring the world through their hands and imaginations. The students are motivated by the opportunity to engage in applied learning and problem-solve together. As they do that, they're developing academic and holistic skills that support lifelong learning and success.
“Before, everything was about writing down notes. One would be bored, and sometimes sleepy,” says Isaac, a 13-year-old boy in the Plug in Play program. “But now, when we are given an opportunity to make our own machines, we feel very interested and, in the end, we perform well.”
Since the program, both students and teachers find classes more engaging. Teachers have learned how to use non-traditional teaching methods to reinforce holistic skills like communication and collaboration, as well as how to use making and tinkering to support students' academic development and literacy and numeracy skills. And students love that classes encourage them to think critically and work together to discover solutions.
"I'm excited 100% because this approach helps learners not to fear practicing. When they practice, they can become innovators or mechanics," says teacher Jean de Dieu.
“Before, there was a tendency for both girls and boys to work or play separately. Today, we mingle and play or learn together.” Allen, Grade 6 student
Boys and girls are also collaborating more together thanks to encouragement from their teacher, blurring traditional gender roles. Before, children would gravitate toward working in groups of only girls or only boys. Now, teachers make sure to recognize all students’ abilities and skills, building bridges across genders.
The Plug in Play (PiP) program is made possible thanks to the support of The LEGO Foundation. Active in Rwanda since 2021, PiP aims to improve the quality of education for boys and girls ages 6 to 12 by learning through play with technology.