There is a famous Chinese proverb that says “If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people”.
There are many ways in which one can make an impact in the world, but there is no greater impact to be made than by spreading education, and empowering people who will empower and teach people who, in turn, will empower and teach others.
The 6BRICKS initiative is not new to the North-West University (NWU). This tool was introduced in 2019 and has since been included in the curriculum of all first-year students in the Faculty of Education. During the professional orientation programme (POP) that is part of the first-year programme and WILWORKS, a support initiative was provided for students who are required to perform work-integrated learning/teaching practice (WIL) placements in schools. These early 6BRICKS initiatives were implemented under the guidance of Prof Carisma Nel and Dr Elma Marais. After this foundation had been laid, the initiative was further developed in 2020 and incorporated as a therapeutic tool in the BEd Honours Educational Psychology programme. This extension was done under the auspices of the Educational Psychology subject group in the Faculty of Education, under the professional supervision of the educational psychologists Dr Lynn Preston, Dr Wanda van der Merwe and Mr Jaco van der Merwe.
As this initiative evolves, further innovative additions will strengthen the six-brick concept. From 2022, every first-year student will receive a set of 6BRICKS as part of the WIL programme. This will ensure that by the time the NWU students are trained as professional educators, they will already possess some knowledge of the internationally known 6BRICKS initiative. These NWU students will also have the basic foundation to apply this knowledge if they decide to continue their academic careers and move into the honours-degree programme.
The launching of the incorporation of 6BRICKS into the BEd Honours programme took place on 24 August at Stilfontein Laerskool. This was actually the official launch, which involved the North West Department of Basic Education (DBE) Foundation Phase subject coordinators. The event was celebrated at the popular Purple Carrot Chef School of Culinary Arts in Potchefstroom on 1 September 2021.
During the North West DBE training session, Prof Lloyd Conley, executive dean at the Faculty of Education at the NWU, welcomed everyone and added that the NWU was proud to host the event, and that the one thing that had not changed over the years was the Lego blocks and the way we use them. He further reminisced that what always stood out for him during his childhood school days was when the teacher would make them play in class, as through playing they learned various things. Prof Conley ended by wisely saying: “If we need to improve the lives of people in our country, we first need to educate them.”
Dr Elize Küng, Deputy Dean: Community Engagement and Stakeholder Relations and senior lecturer in the School of Professional Studies in Education, also addressed the trainees, reminding everyone of the privilege of being able to work with the DBE, with everyone sharing the same passion for educating children in South Africa.
The training encouraged participants to experience the fun of playing again. All facilitators and subject specialists interacted with one another and were required to do many practical exercises such as puzzle building, juggling blocks, movement exercises – all with the six simple Lego blocks. The training demonstrated how a child builds concentration while being actively engaged, promoting inclusive classrooms. Various elements of sensory stimulation were also being added and brain development encouraged. It was a day of fun, learning and exciting possibilities. The training was provided by Dr Elma Marais and Mr Jaco van der Merwe, both certified 6BRICKS trainers, supported by Dr Lynn Preston and Dr Wanda van der Merwe, who are both HPCSA-registered educational psychologists at the NWU.
Dr Elma Marais, Mr Jaco van der Merwe, Dr Lynn Preston, Ms Elmaré Mong and Dr Wanda van der Merwe
The second launch was actually the official launch, which involved the North West DBE Foundation Phase subject coordinators.
Dr Elize Küng and Prof Lloyd Conley