“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” – Albert Einstein
When I was about 4 or 5, my primary pastime would be making up imaginary scenarios as I fiddled around with my toys. Owing to the fact that most kids in the neighbourhood were quite older than I was, I’d be left to my own devices to dream up adventures for my action figures and race cars. Today, some 18 years down the line, while working as a content writer for MakersBox I wonder how much the experiences of my formative years might’ve influenced the choice for my current vocation. A young mind is after all impressionable and delicate, experiences from childhood have a big hand in shaping the outlook of the adult that kid goes on to become, albeit in many soft and unspoken ways.
With the aim of gently nudging kids towards the field of making while combining art and science together as opposed to them being disparate fields, we conducted a workshop at the British Council Library, aptly titled-“My first Robot“. School going kids from grades 1st to 4th participated to understand, learn and build their very first bot, using a hobby servo motor, a small plastic fan, a Styrofoam cup, some clay along with arts & crafts supplies that’d be used for decorating the bot. Our motivation for going forth with this particular workshop was simply this:
‘Kids should learn to build things in a way that not only gives them joy and serves as a learning experience but most importantly teaches them that while being creative there is no right or wrong way, there’s just the way you like it done!’
Classroom teaching is mostly structured in nature and though that offers a lot of advantages, many a times the rigidity of the lesson being taught hinders the creativity and critical thinking of young students, who may get caught up in the whole the correct way and wrong way net of things. There is massive difference between going to school and getting an education; young school boys and girls should be above all educated and more than anything else be taught to think for their own selves instead of just following instructions. As we explained how differential weight causes movement and asked the kids to put some clay onto the fan blades attached to the servo, we explained that the amount they used was their own prerogative; all they had to take care of was what sort of motion did they want the bot to have and add or remove clay accordingly. The kids were delighted, there was no correct amount of clay. There was no right kind of motion. It was all up to them how they went about their design. They were ecstatic. They had tasted something new, something sweet.
Freedom of expression is after all sweeter than ice-cream!
When it came to decorating and giving legs to their bot, what we saw was each kid expressed them-self uniquely. Some gave their bots legs of sketch pens so it may draw on paper. Some used ice-cream sticks and concentrated more on sparkles and glitters. Quite a few made hands and face on the Styrofoam cup body of their bot. Each bot had it’s own individual personality in a way. That, in my opinion reflected the true success of the workshop. The kids had been given a free reign and they had galloped their way to finish line, each child at their own comfortable pace, each kid having their own style of making.As Anton Chekhov rightly puts it in his short story, Home:
“…children, like savages, have their own artistic standpoints and requirements peculiar to them, beyond the grasp of grown-up people.”
It was not very pleasant for us to explain to the kids that there was no right or wrong way in response to their questions regarding the correctness of the step they had performed. Honestly, broke my heart seeing how many a times a kid would take some time in understanding that this was no classroom and there was no test, that learning could be a fun activity without bothering with marking schemes. It was delightful to see them slowly forego classroom habits and becoming more and more adept at doing things in any fashion that pleased them.
Over the two hour workshop held on a weekend afternoon, school kids learnt lessons in non-classroom style-how motion happens, how a bot can be made to move, how things can be drawn by a moving bot and above all, how to think for oneself and build stuff without just following the instructors.
I have hopes that the interest we attempted to ignite in the young minds will stay burning in them, helping them become not only makers, inventors and folks who do electronics and mechanics, but also guide them to become active thinking adults, who necessarily don’t always follow the crowd and understand that different is beyond good or bad, right or wrong.
I leave you with a video of one of the kids, who attended this workshop – his imagination about the name of the Robot to what it can do, simply amazed me