Free play in Bekoji
Abbi has just returned from a teacher training team trip to Bekoji, here she tells us what she got up to:
Going out for my second time on a teacher training trip to Bekoji, I was torn as to what I would do in my training sessions. Originally I was going to build on the English teaching from my last trip but then I changed my mind while sitting in a preschool class of 40 young children who were expected to sit and listen to their teacher all day.
As an Early Childhood student at Stranmillis, free play is encouraged as the best way for young children to learn and in UK nurseries and preschools there are endless resources for free play.
Of course in Ethiopia this is not the case so I had to be a bit creative when I arrived in Bekoji. With the help of my team and some of the kids from the home we went around the school collecting sticks, stones, dirt and leaves. Huge basins were filled with soapy water and bottles to make a water tray and a sand box was made in a huge basin and filled with dirt because we couldn’t find sand. We then added the sticks and painted stones so the children could build little houses in it.
I had a training session with the Preschool and Kindergarten teachers, setting up the room with all the resources brought out from Northern Ireland such a books, building blocks and a few Noah’s Ark sets, as well as the natural play resources we created.
The teachers were very receptive as we worked through each activity, talking and discussing what skills children could learn from each. They agreed that ‘free play’ would be very useful as a learning tool in their classes.
The next day I set up the activities for the Preschool and Kindergarten class. I explained to the children that they could choose to play with whatever they liked, inside or outside. At first this concept was lost on them, they have never been given independence and a choice in their learning so it took a while to get all the children up and encourage them to take part in the variety of games and play resources.
The children really enjoyed it, especially the play in the water and the dirt trays. The teacher was so impressed how well the children responded and we extended the session so they could play for longer. It was amazing to see, children who had never made a jig-saw or build a tower of blocks being able to do it for the first time and being so proud of their achievement.
I am so thankful for this opportunity I had to spend time with the children and teachers in Bekoji. I hope Bethany School continues to include these ‘free play’ sessions in their weekly lessons using the resources left for them and I hope to return back to bring a bigger variety for them to incorporate into their Early Years teaching. Read more about our school in Bekoji here.