This October to December, we ran the first 8-week Tinkering Club as part of our three-year creative digital skills programme - Lambeth Sparks supported by the Walcot Foundation.

This October to December, we are proud to have run the first 8-week Tinkering Club as part of our three-year creative digital skills programme; Lambeth Sparks supported by the Walcot foundation. This is the first time the iOi has delivered a course of this length working with the same group of young people and we have found the opportunity to recruit our cohort of Lambeth children to become “Lambeth Sparks” hugely rewarding. 

This project equips 100 children over three years who are facing financial, social and cultural barriers to education, with important skills for the future, specifically focusing on the creative and digital industries. It is being delivered in three areas of high deprivation in the London borough of Lambeth; Vauxhall, Streatham Hill and Loughborough Junction. The Vauxhall programme has got off to a positive start and we are confident the children will continue to gain valuable skills, to think creatively and independently, leading to improved confidence, wellbeing and ability.

During year one of the programme, we recruited our programme facilitator Paul Clifford, who ran exploratory workshops with Reay Primary School, Walnut Tree Primary School and Orchard Primary School. Each child spent a total of 16 hours learning how to code micro:bits. This year, the programme consisted of after-school “Tinkering Clubs” which ran September to November 2019 in Vauxhall; and will continue from January to February 2020 and March to May 2020 in Streatham Hill and Loughborough Junction.

Activities at the Vauxhall Tinkering Club included programming micro-bits, coding robotics and virtual reality, stop-motion animation and building digital circuits. By the end of 8, two-hour workshops, the sessions were almost wholly led by the children themselves, who were more able to rely on their own creative problem solving rather than asking for support. The programme culminated in the children creating a main project to share, but there were also many mini-makes for the first few weeks, to build up their confidence. At the end of the programme, the Lambeth Sparks were encouraged to showcase the progression of their digital creative skills to their peers and parents/carers in a Show and Tell afternoon.

On 21 November 2019, we held our first Lambeth Sparks show and tell, and it was amazing to see the children’s rapid development over the 8 weeks. 35 children between 7 and 12 years old worked independently on their final chosen projects which could incorporate any of the skills they’d learnt in previous weeks. The finished projects blew away facilitators, iOi staff and parents alike.

Final makes included swords that lit up, giant cars and nightlights, mobile robots and an automaton that made a dragons wings move up and down! Facilitators Jess and Paul gave the children certificates to celebrate their progress and Lambeth Sparks badges, which will give them access to other iOi programmes free-of-charge. The showcase ended with a presentation from Emma Callow, our Imagination Lab Creative Lead, on ways the children could continue to practice tinkering at home, recommendations for further reading and information on creative spaces around London to ensure our Sparks continue to develop their creative and digital skills. 

Thanks to funding from the Postcode Community Trust, we established a tech lending library for use by Lambeth Sparks. Equipment is loaned out to Sparks and their families after signing a trust agreement with iOi ensuring that Sparks can continue to keep creating back at home. During the programme, the development of individual children was monitored and the journeys they made were gratifying to observe. It was fantastic to see children who initially found failure difficult to deal with or those with SEND needs, produce so many original ideas and grow in confidence. It was also exciting to hear them speculate about what they could achieve if able to tinker on their makes over the course of a whole year!

Next year, two more groups of 7-12 year-old children will attend a range of workshops in their local areas; Loughborough Junction and Streatham Hill. In the summer of 2020, we will have a family day for all Lambeth Sparks and their families across the three locations. This will be a chance for everyone to come together to showcase their journeys. At this point, the team will plan Year 3 activity informed by Year 2’s successes and challenges, with the Sparks themselves helping to run future workshops! We are thrilled by what the children have achieved so far, and excited by the opportunities the programme aims to open up for the Lambeth Sparks in the future.