Aime, 11, feels a tug of excitement as he approaches his school in Rubavu, Rwanda. His teachers and classmates are assembled in the schoolyard, cheering his name in time with the jubilant pulse of drums. Aime grins, glancing down at the bronze medal gleaming around his neck. The school is celebrating Aime’s third place win in a national competition for Scratch, a visual coding platform. It’s a big deal for the young programmer. Aime won for his school project – a digital animation about the effects of climate change in his community. Inspiration for his project came after heavy rains and flooding tore through Rubavu in May 2023. Aime never imagined he'd learn to code at school, let alone place in a competition. He used to spend his days in class memorizing theories, feeling restless and bored. But the chance to solve puzzles and get creative on a computer sparked Aime’s curiosity and motivation to play his part for a more sustainable tomorrow.

[EMBED VIDEO] RTP WITH AIME RUBAVU final 5.mp4

[CAPTION] The Plug in Play project gave Aime the opportunity to learn vital STEM skills like coding – and have fun while doing it.

THE CODE FOR QUALITY EDUCATION

Aime’s is one of 312 schools in Rwanda participating in the Plug in Play project. Funded by the LEGO Foundation, the project aims to improve the quality of education for children ages six to 12 by giving them the chance to learn through play with technology.

Aime’s teacher, Josee, was trained by Right To Play to transform her classroom into a space for hands-on learning and play, full of imagination and exploration.

While tinkering with wires and clay, experimenting with robotics, and coding computer games and stories with Scratch, Aime and his classmates stay engaged as they develop STEM skills that will equip them for the future of work in Rwanda. They’re mastering future-proof holistic skills too, like how to lead, be willing to fail, and collaborate to brainstorm solutions. Girls boost their technical skills and confidence as they make and create alongside boys.

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When children create and share games and animations made with Scratch, they learn to think creatively, reason, and work collaboratively – critical skills for lifelong learning and success.

Aime loves creating virtual worlds with Scratch. So, when Josee announced that the Ministry of Education was organizing a national Scratch competition, he was keen to enter.

Participants would use the platform to present sustainable solutions to challenges facing their communities. For Aime, the most pressing challenge was one his community is still healing from.

FLOODS CAUSE DESTRUCTION AND DETERMINATION

Torrential rain caused the nearby Sebeya River to burst its banks. Rivers of mud engulfed fields and houses.

“Many people died, and the crops died too, and even animals,” says Aime, his earnest expression darkening. “Some of my friends lost their homes and their parents, too. They became orphaned. I was very sad about that.”

Aime is part of an environmental club at school, where he learned that global warming was behind the powerful storms.

For his entry in the competition, Aime decided to create an animation showing how climate change contributed to the Sebeya River floods. Snapping together colourful blocks of code, he also brought flood mitigation solutions to life. One idea he illustrated was to plant trees along the river to soak up moisture and hold soil.

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In May 2023, more than 20,000 Rwandans were impacted by severe flooding and landslides caused by heavy rain.

PLACING THIRD IN RWANDA

Aime was selected to represent his school and submit his project in the competition. He went up against 24 children from schools across Rubavu district, with their change-inspired entries on health care, education, and gender. Aime took first place in his district and advanced to the finals along with 30 other students from across the country.

“All of them had the best projects,” says Aime of his peers.

“I had to compete as well as I could.”

Stomach in knots, Aime walked a panel of judges through his animation and waited to see how he scored for coding skills, creativity, and presentation.

“When they gave us the marks, I saw myself in third place,” says Aime. “I was very happy.”

He wasn’t the only one. “It was very wonderful for our school and for our district,” praises Josee.

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At a surprise school assembly, Aime’s classmates and teachers recognize the young activist’s coding project that won third place in a nation-wide contest.

BUILDING SKILLS TO TACKLE TOMORROW’S CHALLENGES

For Aime, the real prize was getting to raise awareness about the ways his community can boost resilience to future flooding. He feels anxious about climate change and potential disasters ahead. The climate crisis is one Aime and his peers didn’t create but will be forced to address alongside future generations of children.

Aime wants to become a programmer so he can create applications and websites for social good. And he wants other children to get this same chance to learn new skills, harness creativity, and discover their own solutions to real-world problems the way they do best – with play.

“Children should know that they are capable of doing anything.”
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When Aime and his classmates play their way through STEM skills, they also become creative thinkers, innovators, and collaborators – skills that will help them tackle tomorrow’s challenges.

The Plug in Play (PiP) program is made possible thanks to the support of the LEGO Foundation. Active in Rwanda since 2021, PiP aims to improve the quality of education for children aged six to 12 by learning through play with technology.

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