Africa A+ Schools enable educators to see new ways of doing

It’s been a busy year for the Africa A+ Schools network since our very successful week in January of professional development for our member schools at the Early Learning Resource Centre (ELRU) in Lansdowne in early January.

There are now six schools in our Africa A+ network in Cape Town – Rainbow ECD Centre in Masiphumelele; Gerard’s Educare in Strandfontein; Fish Hoek Pre-primary; ABC Pre-primary in Landsdowne; Chameleon Campus in Sybrand Park and iThemba Pre-primary in Capricorn.

Africa A+ is managed by the Cape Craft + Design Institute (CCDI) as one of their Human development projects. The Africa A+ facilitators provide preschool leaders and staff with professional development and ongoing implementation support to create a collaborative arts-based teaching environment that nurtures each child’s ability to learn and be successful.

The implementation support has kicked off in earnest, with the Africa A+ facilitators hard at work enabling principals, educators, and support staff in how to nurture future-based skills in children (critical thinking, problem-solving, curiosity, innovation, imagination, and an entrepreneurial mindset) while making learning and teaching a joyful and meaningful experience for all.

Project director, Anya Morris says: “Each workshop begins by igniting the staff’s creativity through the arts – if we want our teachers to nurture children’s creativity, we first need to make sure that the teachers are in touch with and enjoy their own creativity. The second step is for teachers to make the link between nurturing creativity, integrating the arts into the classroom, and realising curriculum outcomes. At the heart of every workshop is the ideas of multiple learning pathways and that – to quote George Evans – ‘Every child can learn, just not on the same day or in the same way’.”

Storytelling and music have proved to be very popular with the Africa A+ schools. On 25 March ABC Pre-primary had a creative fun-filled Saturday morning using drama and storytelling as a way to realise curriculum outcomes. The activities included the imaginative use of music, movement, dramatic miming, and the making of props and puppets to create and tell stories. On 8 April, the staff at Gerard’s Educare were similarly inspired by exploring storytelling using fantasy, music, movement and visual art

This year we have added demonstration lessons to the implementation support activities. A demo lesson is a hands-on, participative activity done by the A+ facilitators at the school with the educators and children. Demo lessons allow the educators to see the A+ approach in action in the classroom.

Four schools – Fish Hoek pre-primary, Chameleon, Rainbow and iThemba – have enjoyed morning demo lessons which included creative ways to teach morning rings, dramatising stories, visual arts, and making music with rhythm sticks. The follow up reflection sessions in the afternoons enabled the school staff to get together with the facilitators and review and discuss what they had seen. Many new ideas were generated – more ways to involve the children in activities so that they feel part of and pride in their learning, going outside more often for learning activities; and using story as a starting point for maths and language learning.

“The demo lessons provide answers to questions such as how to provide the children with a joyful and meaningful learning experience and how to manage the class during active experiential learning activities,” says Anya.

As we approach the middle of the year, Africa A+ looks forward to nurturing more creativity in our teachers and children. Behind each fun-filled arts-based learning experience lies a serious intention – how can we nurture an imaginative and entrepreneurial mindset in children so that they will thrive in times of unpredictability and change.

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