We #Play2Learn with The LEGO Foundation to help children build critical life-skills and shape a better future.
On a dusty field in rural Morogoro in Tanzania, under the white-hot glare of the morning sunshine, a large group of students from the Duthumi Primary School has gathered. They are separated into two large circles as they listen intently to instructions from their teacher about the activity they are about to begin. She explains how the two teams are going to compete in a race called “Animal Farm”, a team challenge in which the children guide a blindfolded team member to “find their animals” by using only their designated animal noise.
The kids are excited and anxious to play. It might not look like it, but these children are about to begin learning critical life-skills like communication, team work, respect for similarities and differences, and empathy for others. And they’re doing it the play-based way!
The game begins. One student from each of the teams is selected as the “farmer” and blindfolded. They must find their own “animals”, either goats or cows, guided only by the sound of their bleats and moos. The winning team is the one that successfully guides their farmer to gather the most animals in the allocated time.
The air reverberates with the frantic bleats and moos of the “animals.” The blindfolded farmers grasp around trying to find their animals amidst loud whoops and cheers. When the time runs out, the teacher helps with the count and “Team Goats” is declared the winner.
Afterwards, the group gathers around the teacher quietly and they have a discussion on the importance of teamwork, cooperation and communications for success. They also explore how it feels for the blindfolded farmers to not have all their senses to communicate, how it feels to be different, and how they can support others who are different or disabled to succeed as well.
Rehema, 12, was the winning farmer and she says being blindfolded was difficult and the most important lesson she learnt was “trusting” her team to help her win.
“When you don’t know something, you have to trust other people more to help you succeed,” says Rehema.
Karim, 8, crouches on the ground and makes his contribution to the session, “it is good to listen carefully,” he says. “When you listen, you can be a winner.”
Because teamwork is at its core, the children talk about how they helped the “farmer” find them by bleating and mooing louder as the “farmer” would get closer to them. Once found, the children say they encouraged the “farmer” to find the remaining “herd” by cheering louder as he or she approached each “animal.”
Currently in Tanzania, 95 per cent of Right To Play trained teachers are using these types of child-centered methodologies to create a supportive and empowering environment for the children in their programs, compared to 21% of teachers not trained in our methodology. And this play-based approach is achieving results. In the past year, across the country, for the children in our programs, self-confidence, communication, self-expression and collaboration have increased significantly and children’s relationships with parents, teachers and peers are stronger because of it.