Play Africa pays tribute to 3M’s two-year partnership supporting the ‘I am a Scientist’ programme that promotes equitable access to science, using hands-on playful learning education.
Play Africa’s ‘I am a Scientist’ programme bridges digital and geographic divides and inequalities in South Africa, and this is achieved through three different touch points for children and educators:
- I am a Scientist travelling exhibit (a modular 340m2 temporary travelling exhibition that provides a unique, interactive learning experience);
- Meet a STEM Role Model (a virtual programme to introduce children to local STEM professionals); and
- Science at Home activity booklets (to promote hands-on science education at home)
The pilot programme, launched in September 2020 during COVID-19, saw the production of a modular 340m2 temporary travelling exhibition designed with input from 27 participating children and scientists. The final design included 12 exciting exhibition areas that were built to represent three South African geographies including urban Johannesburg, Kruger National Park and Northern Cape.
During the pilot, a total of 46 partner primary schools and community groups as well as 38 scientists from diverse backgrounds, working across South Africa, helped to bring the excitement of STEM to South African children of different backgrounds, ages and abilities.
In the second year, more than 14348 children in South Africa, from 11 schools and partner organisations again discovered first-hand the wonder of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) through the travelling exhibition at three locations in Gauteng – Doornfontein (Johannesburg Polytech Institute in March), Jewel City (March/April) and Brixton (Brixton Recreation Centre, March).
With the primary aim to ensure access to equitable science and STEM outcomes, Play Africa:
- used seven languages (English, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Setswana, Tshivenda and
Afrikaans) to bridge divides and promote science education;
- engaged and partnered with six South African universities that helped facilitate participation by faculty scientists in the virtual programme;
- enabled 120 children to participate in the ‘Draw A Scientist’ research project undertaken in partnership with the University of Stellenbosch under the guidance of researcher Dr Marina Joubert;
- had 19 virtual Meet a STEM Role Model and the Women in STEM video series which saw diverse scientists and STEM role models share their career pathways and encourage children to see themselves as emerging scientists; and
- distributed 492 Science at Home booklets to schools and partners that participated in the programme.
To date the ‘I Am A Scientist’ programme has reached well over 15 000 children from low-resources schools and communities, facilitating them to imagine and discover the wonder of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), in the world all around them.
Play Africa’s ‘I am a Scientist’ programme, implemented in South Africa, was made possible through an educational grant from 3M, a science, technology and manufacturing company based in St. Paul, MN, USA.
“3M partners with schools, universities and other community organisations around the globe to ensure students and teachers have the tools, resources and knowledge they need to succeed in STEM,” says Laszlo Svinger, Vice President & Managing Director, 3M Middle East & Africa. “In 2021, we set a new STEM goal to empower underrepresented individuals globally by creating five million unique STEM and Skilled Trades learning experiences by the end of 2025. This is another step for us in helping to improve every life — making science approachable and accessible.”
“The 3M partnership enables us to bridge the opportunity gap and promote equitable science outcomes in South Africa; inspiring a new generation of scientists, innovators and inventors in elementary-age children”, says Play Africa Managing Director, Rongedzayi Fambasayi. “We celebrate and honour the role and support of 3M in this life-transforming programme and travelling exhibit.”
The response from educators has been uniformly positive:
“Learners were so enthusiastic about the activities they were involved in. We’re so privileged to attend the I’m a Scientist programme,” said Thokozile Manyate, a Grade 2 Educator, Soweto.
“It’s an absolutely stunning initiative! I was blown away at how much the children loved it,” added Jean Clarke, a Grade 4 Educator, Parkview.
“Children have learnt different career paths that they can pursue in their lives,” said Boitumelo Makopanele, a Grade 3 Educator in Soweto. “The children’s energy level was breath-taking, they were excited to learn and experiment with everything. It shows that this programme is very productive because it enhances learning in every aspect. The I am a Scientist program is a fundamental learning experience and should be implemented in every school as it builds up good knowledge and vocabulary, not only for the learners but the educators as well. Play Africa is improving the way of learning through different aspects and has empowered us as the Igugu Primary team to do the same in classes.”
Play Africa’s programmes are centred on the best interests of every child, offering life-changing learning opportunities in low resourced communities to ensure that we leave no child behind.
“Getting kids excited about science and technology is the first step in building a pipeline of science and engineering talent,” comments Naresh Sanjith, Country Leader South Africa & Sub-Saharan Africa. “We believe everyone deserves access to impactful and possibly life-changing STEM experiences and our partnership with Play Africa is helping bridge equity gaps and provide more resources to help our students achieve their career goals right in their own communities.”
Get involved and support Play Africa’s existing and new programmes by contacting us on: firstname.lastname@example.org