The impact of Play Africa’s STEM Seeds programme and resources continue to be experienced by ECD educators and children across South Africa.
STEM Seeds is a programme developed by South Africa’s award winning Children’s Museum to support ECD educators with the skills to teach science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and climate change awareness through play in their classrooms.
The long term objective of the programme is to empower educators to feel confident teaching STEM in their classrooms, and in so doing, build a firm foundation for STEM education in learners.
“Educators often think of STEM as difficult. Some think it requires specific knowledge of areas such as geometry, botany or palaeontology. Specific content knowledge can be helpful, but it is not necessary to start teaching STEM at an early age” says Rachel Fowkes, STEM Seeds project manager at Play Africa. “For educators of young children it is more constructive to think of STEM as a way of thinking and doing, if you do this you’ll start to see it everywhere”.
The STEM Seeds programme has been rolled out through a variety of components including a free STEM Seeds curriculum, Online and Hybrid training and in-person workshops.
Since the launch of the programme on International Day of Women and Girls in Science in February this year, it has reached a significant number of ECD educators. The free STEM Seeds curriculum has been downloaded by educators from 14 countries, while the online training drew close to 160 attendees and additional resources such as the Women in STEM Series (a series of 17 short interviews with women in a variety of STEM fields) has had more than 900 views.
Positive feedback was received from a number of ECD educators participating in the programme, some comments included “It opens the children up to different ways of thinking and broadens the job opportunities that may be available in the future that aren’t available today” and “I’ve gained so much confidence to teach STEAM in my classroom because I know how to express it and what is needed from the children and the outcomes of the activities”
An important element of Play Africa’s STEM Seeds activities is the partnership with early childhood development centres. For instance, partnering with Earlybird Educare which is a network of five early childhood development centres around the greater Gauteng region, we conducted a training with 27 educators consisting of multiple interactive activities, beginning with a review of maths and science skills.
Our pre- and post training surveys confirm that STEM Seeds achieve dual goals, namely to empower South African educators to promote STEM and climate change awareness in their lessons, and to build their confidence to initiate STEM activities in the classroom using everyday, low-cost materials.
Throughout the training, recycled materials are used as a means to integrate climate change awareness into the activities and to highlight the ways teachers are already teaching STEM skills in their classrooms. ‘I learnt that you can use anything from the recycling materials, you don’t need fancy equipment or resources to teach children about STEAM,” said one educator (STEAM referring to the inclusion of art in the Earlybird curriculum).
FOSST Discovery, another of Play Africa’s regional partners, based at Fort Hare in the Eastern Cape, conducted STEM Seed training in the period April to June. In this instance, recordings were made of the training to provide to individual early childhood centres and schools resulting in smaller sessions but with a much broader reach to educators in their own environment.
“Our STEM seeds curriculum is an amazing tool that builds strong foundational learning for early learners, with incredible long-term benefits for every child, and their families and communities” noted Rongedzayi Fambasayi, Play Africa’s Managing Director. “We deliberately incorporated climate change awareness in the curriculum to foster climate mitigation from an early age and steer intergenerational conversation around the climate crisis”.
STEM Seeds is a project of Play Africa, Southern Africa’s pioneering children’s museum and educational makerspace that is based at the iconic Constitution Hill. The programme was created with the support of the US Embassy of South Africa.