Children love toys. They are children’s best companion. All of us know that. But little do we recognize that toys teach them much better than textbooks. This is because children find toys curious and textbooks largely boring!
I can vouch for this from personal experience.
I once taught physics to an under-qualified eighth standard class in a school; they couldn't add two decimal numbers, despite the best efforts of their math teacher. I taught them to experiment an alternate teaching methodology using Arvind Gupta’s toys from trash . After a few demos, I challenged them to build toys from scratch, prepare explanatory charts and present it at an intra-class competition in 15 days. I though that would be challenging but achievable. To my surprise, all of them were ready for the competition in two days! I realized how much difference enthusiasm can make. In this case, a demo of 2 hours has brought out what 8 years of rote learning suppressed! Curiosity, creativity and enthusiasm.
This kind of education should be mainstream! A little research quickly reveals that experts agree! Sir Ken Robinson, in his famous series of TED talks, said "Creativity should be treated with the same status as literacy". But in the current "industrial model" of education, "..children get educated out of it". Dr. Howard Gardner, famous for his theory on Multiple Intelligence, advocates (a) individuation -tailoring education to individual students - and (2) pluralisation - teaching an idea in different ways - to ensure that all children benefit from education.
Clearly, fostering curiosity, creativity and to revolutionize learning itself is the need of the hour. Innovation and Science Promotion Foundation (www.ispf.in) is working towards exactly that! Two people, Mr.Vishal Bhatt and Dr. Procheta Malik, with support from the founders have given up promising careers to design toys from trash, conduct workshops in schools and other public forums. During their workshop they work with children and encourage them to tinker with and explore the toys made out of trash.
I visited their center in The Valley School, Bangalore. They have built over 200 toys (for example, DC motors, electricity generators from wind energy, 3D geometrical models) from items such as batteries, safety pins, cycle tubes, pencils, film-roll boxes and matchsticks. They spend their time in their center tinkering with the toys, coming up with improvements and variants that would help children learn their science without necessarily knowing that they are learning. Their work is inspiring! They owe their own inspiration to the pioneering work by Arvind Gupta, whose staff is primary among their advisers.
In their one year of existence, they have already achieved over 8000 interactions with children, each usually lasting around two hours. Sometimes they work with children for 15-20 hours over one week.
“Thanks to the conditioning around us, all of us come to believe that being scientific is the right of a selected subset of smart children. On the contrary, ISPF believes that humans are born scientific regardless of factors such as gender or family background. It's only a matter of sustaining the inherent interest and confidence to be curious, observant, experimentative and open minded.
Our experience says that toys are extremely engaging. In over 8000 interactions with children aged between 3 and 16 so far, we haven't met a single child was not engaged in the activity.”
Going forward , ISPF aims to create structured modules that can be integrated with the conventional school science and mathematics curriculum. Using these modules they propose to set up what they call "Rancho Llabs", where children will be encouraged to build, play, experiment, fail, learn and more importantly have fun with toys. The content itself is intended to be made available free of cost under the common license, but the real value would be to have the experience in the labs.
To this end, ISPF is open to tie-up with schools - private and public . They are also looking for funding from schools or any other institution. ISPF can be contacted by email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Their facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/scienceallaround) provides updated information on what they are up to.