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The Motheo Project (The beginning of something great)

Working with school children to design and upcycle plastic waste into innovative and useful shin guards for sports.

Photo of Boitumelo Mazibuko
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

This project aims to collaborate with children from a local, government primary school - Jeppe Prep School (at a later stage it will include a variety of schools) in making products that speak to their immediate need. The making process will help build a culture of environmental awareness and innovation from small ideas. This project will address the different socio-economic backgrounds that school children come from in South Africa. Not all children come from well-to-do families. Thus school fees, stationary and uniforms are expenses that many parents are likely to struggle paying. Additional costs for extra murals are often an impossibility; for example sports gear. This makes it difficult for children to pursue different skills and activities that could lead them to a holistic life of success beyond academics. It hinders many learners from participating, being creative and coming up with innovative ideas if they feel incapable to participate. We propose to use Precious Plastics methodologies and machines to upcycle plastic waste into shin guards with learners for learners. The final product will be more durable, stronger and more protective. Learners will be encouraged to take creative control by collecting the desired colours of bottle caps to design/make their shin guards with. The Coloured Cube has invested in a compressor and shredder machine to use in this project to make the final products. Taking a problem and creating an innovative solution must be celebrated and supported. In this case the innovation came from a 10 year old learner who was initially ridiculed for the idea. Soon the rest of her class copied her. This is true innovation. Like Jeppe Prep, there are many schools within Gauteng and South Africa where children cannot afford the additional sports gear needed to take part – we propose that this concept begin and be resolved at Jeppe Prep, then move to a range of other schools.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

School children from Jeppe Primary School, ages 5-13 years. Thereafter many more learners from a variety of schools in Johannesburg and South Africa. Benefits include: learning new skills and attaining knowledge related to the importance of recycling plastic waste; entrepreneurial training towards building confidence in their capabilities and social cohesion through integration and working together to make. Secondary beneficiaries include the surrounding communities made up of parents, siblings, families and friends. They will benefit from exposure to alternative arts practices focusing on sustainability which will promote environmental awareness. The Coloured Cube will benefit from: enhancement of existing entrepreneurial and recycling/upcycling projects; developing a reputation within and beyond the Arts for being a creative business making a social impact within our communities; and promoting environmental sustainability, social cohesion and access to education.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

This project alines with promoting: entrepreneurship, social cohesion, designing innovative solutions and learning new skills, to create environmental awareness. Highlighting innovation and problem solving from the ground up is key to the unique angle of this project. We did not create the solution nor notice the problem – a 10 year old girl did and through her creative thinking offered a solution to other students. If we can highlight this within our society – we will have a generation of innovators contributing to a brighter future. Second to this is using another problem to solve this problem. Instead of punishing learners for littering - we are offering another solution: ‘Look at its value, look at how this problem can help you. Your ideas matter! Your problems can be solved!'

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Prototype: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

The Coloured Cube is on a mission – to change the way society perceives art and creative thinking; to show its value in problem solving in areas completely unrelated to this industry and to offer unique solutions and real engagement with people.

Expertise in sector

  • 3-5 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered social enterprise.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

A 10 year old girl from Jeppe Preparatory School came up with an innovative solution for a problem she was facing with hockey. She, along with many other students, did not have shin pads. This is a problem when playing matches as shin pads are compulsory gear to wear. It protects players from high impact balls. Her solution was to take found cardboard boxes and cut them into the shape of a shin pad: using her high socks she held up the shin pads. Soon other kids were copying her.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

This project aims to bridge planet and prosperity. We have mentioned that South African school children come from different socio-economic backgrounds. The Motheo Project aims to show the youth that they are the innovators and problem solvers our society needs. Through the workshops and implementation we will work with learners to engage with others in their school and perhaps other schools to teach the culture of solutions not problems! This idea/project will try and refocus the concept of success; rather than money being perceived as success, innovation and working together will be seen as success. This means finding the raw or existing materials, that we have already have, that is seen to have no value, to create something that will provide solutions. This informs the children that they can contribute positively by collecting these recyclable materials and creating products that helps them succeed. The future of our world is ideas, collaborations and connectivity.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

We’ll be working with various members of the Makers Valley Collective (MVC) and Jeppe Preparatory School. The MVC is based in the Makers Precinct where our business is located. The Maker's Precinct is a place that promotes the value and importance of learning to do and to make. MVC comprises of a group of organisations, businesses and individuals that are coming together to create a network for sharing skills, creating social cohesion, promoting entrepreneurship and beneficial coexistence in the community. The MVC will be our support network with connections to all the makers and innovators in the surrounding areas. Jeppe Prep learners will be invited to share their innovation, designs and knowledge with other students and the public. Through this process we intend to involve teachers and other schools in sharing skills and knowledge beyond the scope of this project.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Development of the Makers Precinct with the formation of the Makers Valley Collective.This area is full of innovators, designers and makers that are solving problems within our societies.There is a monthly market for makers from the area to sell their products and share their methods of making. There will be opportunities for the children to meet the makers in the area and to be exposed to a range of creative practices. There are many more schools in the area for the project to expand its reach.

Geographic Focus

This project will start in Gauteng (South Africa) and spread thereafter.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

One academic year starting in January/February and ending in November. There will be one month of preparation and planning with Jeppe Prep. Thereafter we will assign one month of making per a grade. There are seven grades in total so we will have one month for debriefing and report writing at the end of the project. There is one month leeway for school holidays.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

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Join the conversation:

Photo of Chloe Varelidi

I love this project Boitumelo Mazibuko and how simple it is yet beautiful and with kids at the center of it. I would love to know more about the technique you use, is there an online documentation of the process you use? Are there any considerations in the types of plastics and any chemicals released while heating them with an iron? especially if children are doing so? Great idea again, I truly love the approach.

Photo of Boitumelo Mazibuko

Hi Choe
Apologies for the late response. We will upload a set of videos to show the techniques we will be using. I'm glad you like the idea.
The types of plastics that we will use are HDPE2, LDPE4 and/or PP5. Unfortunately, there may be some fumes from the compression machine and ironing the plastics, however we have a well ventilated workshop and we'll definitely use safety masks for everyone involved.
We will have to use fans to vent out the fumes.

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