“There’s nothing better than preparing the upcoming generation for tomorrow’s world.” You probably heard that a dozen times, haven’t you? But ever wondered what exactly is required to achieve that mission statement? What tools should be taught or developed to ensure that children grow up with the right skillset and mindset that can help them contribute to Bahrain’s growing economy?

This is why we decided to pay a visit to Clever Play – a creative learning hub in Bahrain designed to nurture the natural curiosity and entrepreneurial spirit among children and encourage a free-spirited paradigm for learning that promotes a culture of exploration. During our visit, the co-founder Latifa, shared with us some interesting insights on the hub and how they’re trying to introduce a new way of teaching science and math to Bahrainis at a young age through STEAM education. The seemingly grown-up subjects of technology and engineering are integrated into a curriculum that reflects real-world engagement. Lastly, the Arts in the form of creative design thinking is injected to make STEM come alive. You can check out our tour of Clever play here!

Launched in March 2018 by Latifa Al-Khalifa, alongside her sisters, Clever Play focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM), with the aim of providing children with supportive and nurturing environments to hone skills that will holistically prepare them for life and work in the century of innovation. “STEAM make up the essential and comprehensive training ground for the future as we forge ahead into the highly technologized STEAM economy,” Latifa explains.

Latifa further describes their hub saying: “It is in free, explorative play that children’s natural curiosity thrives and it is from that place of enjoyment that concepts make sense.” Catering to children aged 3 to 14 years old Clever Play provides hands-on, interactive and collaborative learning methods where children take an active role as the drivers while teachers serve as learning guides. In addition, the hub is impassioned about promoting a maker culture in Bahrain which prompted them to create a devoted space to hold the very first Maker Space for kids in Bahrain.

According to Latifa, many STEAM jobs go unfilled because of a lack of talent and adequate skills, and that gap is only going to widen if we do not tackle the problem today.  Clever Play believes that advanced skills-training in STEAM needs to be addressed as early as in the formative years, “a time when learning attitudes are in development,” as Latifa says.

When asked about the challenges they faced, Latifa states that convincing parents about the importance of skill-building activities and creative learning was the hardest. “We needed to open parents’ minds to the idea that quantified output, and measuring performance only in terms of grades and standardized evaluation methods is missing a core aspect of learning. Part of our mission is to educate parents and teachers on the essential components of individual learning where each child can move to the beat of their own drum.”

Latifa adds, “We continually strive to demonstrate that our solution has value. To this end, we were met with significant outcomes. In addition to in-house programs and field trips, our collaboration with schools, government and highly reputable corporate institutions namely Gulf Petrochemical Industries, Co. (GPIC-Bahrain) for summer camp; Kuwait Financial House for Financial Literacy Workshop for Kids; and our Play Space collaborative mission with the National Space Science Agency (NSSA-Bahrain) during the 2018 Bahrain International Air Show rocketed our reach to over 5,000 children – all within our first year of operation.”

Their strides did not go unnoticed as they were voted Start-Up of the Year Finalist in the prestigious GESS Awards (Global Educational Services and Solutions) held in Dubai in February this year.

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It was a significant validation that gave meaning to the earlier struggles in launching an educational start-up. Steering Clever Play’s initial steps, Latifa shares about the relief that came from receiving support from Tamkeen’s Business Development Program which provided them with 50% of their ICT, marketing and branding needs. “The financing and promotional support from Tamkeen allowed us to adequately structure and manage our resources to address essential elements of our business start-up,” she elaborates. They’re also planning on launching a new stand-alone, first of its kind in the country – an entrepreneurship program that’s 100% Bahraini and highlights the “A” in STEAM covering the scope of entrepreneurship and design thinking. They are keen on seeking Tamkeen’s support to export both programs regionally and beyond.

Last but not least, we’re super excited to announce that Clever play is developing an in-house STEAM curriculum for ages 3-14 and they’re looking to franchise Clever Play by early 2019. We wish them all the best!

Got you hooked? Why don’t you check our tour of Clever Play to know all about their activities. You can also check out their website here and follow them on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to be up to date with their upcoming activities and service engagements.

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