Hands On Technology with the Midlands Meander Education Project
“A few years ago I realised that very little practical technology happens in the classrooms we work in. There are a variety of reasons for this; lack of resources, especially for classes of up to 59 learners, lack of time within the curriculum and often teachers are not trained or confident in the practical application of the theory of technology. I remember drawing a square on a board, depicting an electric circuit, in school and had no idea what it was all about. There was no link between what I was learning and how I could apply this knowledge to ‘real ‘life. I saw the same kind of lessons happening in 2017 which concerned me. Then two things happened in my life that set me on a journey to make technology a practical and fun learning experience. I started to build my own house with no previous carpentry or other building skills (a steep learning curve), and I met a 12 year old boy who had made his own battery operated toy car from scrap. He showed me an electric circuit that was a loop of wire connected to an old battery. This ingenuity inspired me to become innovate and develop fun, easy ways to learn about technology with recycled materials for free .
As a result for the past three years I have done electric circuits with literally thousands of children using discarded, flat batteries, wire I have scrounged from old appliances and small led bulbs. Children do electric circuits from grade 5, annually building in elements like a switch in grade 6, parallel and series circuits in grade 7 and so on. I am still not tired of seeing faces light up as their led bulb lights up. The look of wonderment and pride is a thrill. I have since added a number of exciting activities and structures to my lessons.
Like so many children I learn by doing. I get in a muddle and switch off if its all about words. Learning style studies show that at least 60% of the population need to, at the very least, see the real thing. Thus I am trying to contextualize technology by showing YouTube clips of gears or electricity generators or whatever the topic is, and trying to give children a hands on experience of making models. I use as much scrap material as possible, thereby making practical technology available to under resourced schools in the KZN Midlands. I also work alongside the teacher and the CAPS curriculum.
My dream is that at least a couple of children will be inspired to start making their own things at home and perhaps begin a culture of artisanship.”
Fiona McCrimmon is an Education Facilitator who works for the Midlands Meander Education Project. She focuses on bringing practical technology lessons into rural schools in the KZN Midlands.