Programme encourages creative thinking in schools

Children are taught about protecting the environment by watering plants.

About 65 percent of children entering primary school today will end up working in jobs that don’t exist yet, according to the Future of Jobs report published by the World Economic Forum earlier this year, and some schools are using an unorthodox approach to help prepare their pupils for this.

The Cape Craft and Design Institute (CCDI), in partnership with Oklahoma A+ Schools, USA, has introduced an initiative called the Africa A+ Schools support network, which uses art as a classroom teaching tool to encourage creative thinking and give pupils the edge in a future work environment with many unknowns.

The first three schools in Cape Town to introduce the Africa A+ method are ABC Pre-Primary in Lansdowne, iThemba School Capricorn, and Chameleon Campus in Sybrand Park.

In these schools, children learn about language through drama and play-acting, develop their imagination through movement and storytelling, learn science through drama and visual arts, and are taught about patterning and mathematics through singing and creative movement.

The support method, supported by Standard Bank and the Department of Economic Development and Tourism (DEDAT), was introduced to the schools in January, and staff get ongoing training.

Erica Elk, CCDI’s executive director, says there’s a need to create a generation of creative thinkers to produce future leaders and entrepreneurs.

“We have inherited a country with issues – unemployment, poverty, social inequality and injustice. The generation coming through our schooling system is not adequately prepared to deal with these complex issues. We have to nurture the next generations differently and create a new stream of individuals who are more creative, with greater capacity for innovation, critical thinking and problem-solving to become our future leaders and pioneers.”

Faadiela Rykilef, ABC’s prin-cipal, said the A+ method had had a great effect on the pupils’ learning.

“The A+ method allows us to use art as in the classroom to make learning more exciting. The normal activities now include music and drama, such as when we do storytelling; we no longer just tell the story, we bring it to life by adding movement and music. When they play with the dough, we play music in the background and they feel excited and dance while making shapes with the dough,” said Ms Ryklief.

“The method is especially helpful for the children who are more creative and can’t sit still. There is a variety of materials to choose from, and each child is grasping the concept,” she said.

Once a month, the three schools get together to share ideas about how the method has helped the pupils and teachers.

“When we look ahead to our children’s future, we actually don’t know what’s in store for them. We can, however, teach them key skills that will help them thrive in times of unpredictability and change,” said Anya Morris, ABC’s project director.

The A+ method has been introduced at pre-school level because the first six years are the most sensitive and critical in human development, according to the Oklahoma A+ Schools, USA.

Chameleon Campus, in Sybrand Park, is also using the A+ method. The school caters for special needs children who, according to principal Delia Cupido, benefit a lot from the method’s practical element.

“The A+ method has made us aware of the different arts and how to integrate maths and literacy, especially when we do our music ring – the clapping for maths and singing for language. It has created a space of practical activity and a general excitement for learning among the school. It creates out-of-the box thinking and results in less behavioural problems among pupils because they are always busy, and by lunch time they are so tired,” said Ms Cupido.

During a session with her pupils’ parents, she explained what the A+ method involves and why their children are always saving the toilet rolls or newspaper for recycling.

“It showed parents why recycling is so important and has made the pupils aware of the environment,” she said.

Head of department, Sheila Jullies, said the method allowed for better role-playing, storytelling, and music-ring activities.

“The method has increased the pupils’ self-esteem tremendously and taught them effective learning skills. This will create future entrepreneurs by giving them the skills and confidence they need. It has also created a closer relationship among the communities when families liaise with each other when collecting materials for school projects like bottle tops and other recyclable materials,” said Ms Jullies.

Staff had also developed a closer working relationship as they depended on each other’s creative skills, she said.