Innovate to Succeed
September 5 2016

Sessions in our Basic Life Skills course in Gweru this past month began by building on previously touched ideas of understanding what is meant by: innovation, thinking creatively, having new ideas, developing them, and, explaining these new ideas to others.

The lesson began with an explanation to students that solving problems in new ways is vital to getting the most out of the resources available to you, and that this is a skill they can try to use in all aspects of their lives.  A wordsearch was then handed out, in which students had to match words into pairs of similar meanings e.g. challenge/risk; concept/idea; develop/improve.

The next lesson focused on the flags of different countries, and the meanings of the colours and symbols on them.  The students’ own national flag, the flag of Zimbabwe, was used as an example to explain the meaning of the different colours.  In this case, green is for the land, red signifies freedom and the blood spilt during the liberation struggle, black represents the people of Zimbabwe, whilst yellow signifies the country’s mineral resources.  The Zimbabwe Bird is the National Emblem of Zimbabwe, the white triangle stands for peace and the "way forward", and the Red Star stands for internationalism.

Students were then tasked with creating their own flags and placing a meaning to the different components of that flag.  Having created their flag, they were then asked to explain its meaning to the rest of the class.  Most flags were about family and friends and included a red flag with the symbol of a heart representing love for family.  A flag with rainbow colours, two stick figures holding hands and a soccer ball represented friendship. The aim of the activity was to help students gain confidence in communicating their ideas.

The next part of the lesson on innovation focussed on thinking of new ways to solve problems, whilst being mindful of the available resources.  Items that could be recycled were handed out to students e.g. bottles, toilet paper tubes and old clothing.  They then had 10 minutes to make a list of as many possible ways they could use the items.  Half way through this brainstorming session, students were shown pictures of upcycled materials for further inspiration.  A definition of upcycling (converting waste material into something usable) was given to the students, and they were given the remaining five minutes to generate further ideas.

Some of the ideas the students developed were: using plastic bags to make soccer balls, using tissue paper tubes to make pencil holders, and using an old pair of jeans to make a bag, a sweater to make a pillowcase, and old clothes to make a rag doll.

Once the ideas from the brainstorming session were shared with the group, the students were tasked with planning one of their ideas in detail i.e. what other materials they might need.  After which they had to present their ideas to their peers.  Presentation is a vital part of innovative thinking, as students need to learn to communicate their ideas to others.

Some of the final plans for the finished products were: to complete the stationery holders out of tissue tubes they would need cardboard for the bottom of the tube, different pieces of wool for decoration, scissors and glue.  To make a pillow case out of an old sweater, they would need measuring tape, scissors, needle and thread.

Finally, students were asked how well they felt they had used the innovation skill.  They stated that overall they felt they used the skill well, as they were challenged to be creative, to think ‘outside the box’ and to be aware of their resources.  They were particularly excited about the concept of upcycling and how so many different items could be made from one single material instead of it being thrown away.  Staff also stated that this was a lesson for them too.


About the Drop-In Centre

The Centre exists with the aim of rehabilitating street children into mainstream society and education, and reunifying them with their families.  To compliment this programme, ALERT introduced a Basic Life Skills course to help positively mould the character of these young adults.

About Kids Club

Kids Club is our opportunity to implement our Basic Life Skills Course.  The aim of the course is to assist children and adolescents to gain essential skills needed to operate effectively in society in an active and constructive way.  Topics in the course include; self-esteem, coping with stress, effective communication, decision making, problem solving and non-violent conflict resolution.  The course has been developed by David Brackstone of John Taylor High School, UK using a programme in use at that school and adapted for use in our schools in Africa.

About ALERT Education Centres (AEC)

Basic Life Skills courses are one aspect of the work of our ALERT Education Centres.  The AEC operations at Livingstone (Zambia), Victoria Falls and Antelope Park (Zimbabwe) are all aimed at supporting the formal education system by offering extra-curricular activities to enhance student learning, and assisting with access to education for vulnerable students.  Current programs include the provision of classes in conservation education, basic life skills, and English literacy.  In addition, we provide funding to pay the fees of vulnerable students to take part in education from pre-school to university level, and fully funded internship and facilitated research placements for university level students.  Future programmes will incorporate classes in numeracy, health & nutrition, physical education and business studies/entrepreneurship, as well as a variety of vocational training.  The AEC is operated in association with Coventry University (UK), Midlands State University (Zimbabwe) and Copperbelt University (Zambia), and with the assistance of David Brackstone of John Taylor High School (UK).   The first AEC, at Antelope Park, was opened in 2012 by the then Zimbabwe Minister of Education, Mr. David Coltart.

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