Developing Talents Through Creative Play

The program encourages learning through play using LEGO innovation in the form of teacher training and learning resources for primary schools.
2009South Africa

CEI Plus Status

Program Results Status
Monitoring and Evaluation Reporting

Location Data


In underperforming schools, socio-economic conditions and poor quality of teaching are having a direct impact on the literacy and numeracy levels of primary school students. Hands on Tech has a two-prong approach, providing LEGO resources and teacher training to grade R through grade 7 classrooms.

There is strong evidence to suggest that learning through play opens possibilities for holistic child development that includes both cognitive and emotional skills. Creative play is seen as the entry point for influencing performance in mathematics, languages, and life skills.

In 2009, the project was established in Atteridgeville, one of South Africa’s oldest "townships," located west of Pretoria. Twenty-five primary schools were identified, in a phased approach, for the yearlong intervention. The Department of Education assisted in selecting the first five schools and helped communicate goals to other stakeholders.

The LEGO kits include building blocks and workbooks, which are designed to scaffold learning and aligned to the national curriculum. In the Foundation Phase (grades R-3) math, languages, and life skills learning foundations are established through manipulating the age- and stage-appropriate blocks. In the Intermediate Phase (grades 4-6) LEGOs are used to enhance students’ learning of math, science, and technology. In the Senior Phase (grade 7) robotics are introduced to encourage an interest in future technology and engineering.

Students are able to explore, experiment, create, problem-solve, take risks, develop leadership skills, and take ownership for their learning. Groupwork created opportunities for language use in a multi-lingual environment. In addition, this promoted emotional and social skills, such as sharing and teamwork.

Teachers receive initial training, classroom visits, and coaching support. Teacher confidence and motivation were enhanced through exploring new pedagogy, knowledge, and classroom management approaches. It was a paradigm shift for some teachers; for example, if the child is seen as an empty vessel, the teacher-centered ‘chalk and talk’ method of instruction becomes dominant. The student's capacities are overlooked. Through the training, teachers learn to remain accessible, sensitively attune to the children and their need for support, thereby allowing the students to grow in their own learning.

Results showed improvement in learning outcomes, as well as teacher satisfaction and motivation. Interestingly, unintended positive outcomes for students included an increase in attendance rates and improved communication skills.  

The Lego kits are designed to scaffold learning. Learning through play enhances creativity and builds confidence. Lego is easy to assemble and dismantle, allowing students to fix, rebuild, change, and adapt their problem solving.Training was designed to adapt to the needs of the teachers, as a significant proportion of the teachers had poor pedagogical skills and a lack of basic content knowledge. This challenge was compounded by overcrowded classrooms.

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