Robotics, textiles, and LEGO: UJ’s Makerspace Studio sparks creativity and critical thinking in young learners

‘’Education reimagined’’

This is how the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Letlhokwa Mpedi described the newly launched Makerspace/Tinkering Studio at the Funda UJabule School in Soweto.

The space, launched on Friday 14 April 2023 is led by the Department of Childhood Education in the Faculty of Education and aims to enrich children’s learning at the school through incorporating tinkering/ making in teaching to support deeper learning. It is also being used to prepare pre-service teachers on how to incorporate making/ tinkering as a pedagogy in their teaching.

Equipping Learners with Skills for the Rapidly Changing World

A Tinkering Studio is a learning laboratory, supporting learners of all ages to explore playful ideas with maths, science, art, and technology, and to think with their hands by actively constructing and exploring with tools and materials.

Children ‘learn by making’, encouraging their thinking and recognition skills, through the use of robotics, textiles and LEGO among others.

UJ’s Makerspace Studio

The makerspace is a previously unused space that was renovated to create this project. Pre-service teachers will be using the space to train on how they can use ‘making’ as a way of teaching learners.

The space will facilitate learners from Grade R through to Grade 7 to enhance their thinking and learning as well as equipping them with skills to solve problems critically and creatively. The Makerspace aims to make sure learners can function in an information and digital world while living in a rapidly changing world.

The Makerspace has Robotics kits, LEGO bricks, easels and textiles to help make learning concepts fun, interactive and informative for the learners. The Department’s fourth year students will work with learners and guide them.

“Education 4.0 is necessary for the success of the 4IR. It starts here with these young fine minds,” said Prof Mpedi, adding that it was important to plant the seeds of education from a young age in a fun and easy way.

South Africa’s First Makerspace/Tinkering Studio: Serving the Funda UJabule School and Beyond.

“The Makerspace/ Tinkering Studio at the Soweto Campus is the first of its kind in South Africa. It will serve the children of the Funda UJabule School and the student teachers of the Faculty of Education who will be trained in the facility. The makerspace is ideally suited to enable deep learning, which is important in a fast-changing world. The space allows for combining hands-on and minds-on learning while also having fun,” said Project lead  Professor Sarah Gravett, Teacher Education and Development, Childhood Education.

“It will also in the future serve our partner schools. It is a training site for our student teachers, we want them to take it to schools and use ‘making’ as a pedagogy in teaching.”

Learners will develop a range of skills including flexibility, adaptability, artistic and social skills.

She added: “The children will learn while exploring and experimenting and creating things that are important to them. The children are involved cognitively, emotionally and physically. This is a combination that is important for education.”

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