Workshops in Rural Schools in India, Sept-Oct 2016

Last year, from Sept 21 to Oct 7 I was in India, once again conducting life skills workshops in rural schools in the Himalayas, in Kutch and near Delhi. My focus in these workshops is on fostering a yearning for learning and cultivating independent, critical and creative thinking skills. In these workshops, I focus on emerging trends that are shaping the future in which these kids will grow up, like ICT, Robotics, Internet of Things, Virtual Reality etc and I knit hands-on learning activities around these themes. The ‘yearning to learn’ and ‘learning to think’ part is embedded in the learning activities.

I started conducting these workshops in 2013 and this visit I was thrilled to see that now when children see me in the morning, a wide grin of excited anticipation comes on their face! This time even the tiny tots in 1st and 2nd grade pestered me to conduct a workshop for them! And, participants in the workshops were happy to work during their lunch break and after school hours. All signs that the workshops are successfully imparting the basic life skill of ‘yearning to learn’. Very satisfying!

Younger kids designed balloon-powered cars to get an intuitive understanding of the Laws of Motion and they applied their creativity to make the cars go faster. ‘Pause and Ponder’ sessions were built into each activity where either I was asking questions that forced the students to think (e.g. Will filling more air in the balloon make the car go faster?), experiment and draw an inference, or students came up with questions or ideas that required investigation through experimentation and tinkering.

From balloon-powered cars we moved to propeller-powered cars, to understand different sources of energy, and then to motor-powered cars, where children had to figure out the circuit to drive the car forward, in reverse and make it turn left and right. Once they understood these fundamentals, demonstrating and explaining how robots or autonomous vehicles perform these motions with the help of sensors and computers was easy. In future workshops, we will build sensor-based robotic cars.

Senior students learned about hydraulics and applied their imagination to create simple hydraulic machines with the help of syringes filled with water and connected with a plastic tubing. They also learned about e-textiles and made wristbands with conductive thread and LEDs. In future workshops, we will embed ‘lilypad’ which is a microcontroller that can be used to add sensors and more to e-textiles.

This visit I interacted with over 300 students and 30+ teachers. All in all, it was a fantastic trip and I look forward to the next one!