Updated: Jun 8, 2020
Team Prayogshala went on a journey down south to explore the wonders of a makerspace and understand how it can be customized to schools in India. On a mission to test the model of a Prayogshala, we reached Infant Jesus Matriculation Higher Secondary School located on the outskirts of Chennai in a small distinct town called Kalpakkam. It was a new set up and completely different set of kids with whom we were going to conduct a week-long workshop on maker culture, creative and design thinking. We visited the school to interact with their teachers and get an understanding of the school environment, the level of skill development and the interests of the students to design the workshop accordingly. On our interaction with multiple stakeholders, we were able to gauge and envision how to be able to set up a prayogshala at Infant Jesus MHSS. We began with exploring a physical space within the school which would act as the Prayogshala. The next few steps involved scheduling a time, setting class norms, obtaining requisite resources and planning the four-day long venture! The plan was to start with some ice-breaking activities to get acquainted with them and understand them better. Further, we planned some basic structure building activities focussed on teamwork and creative thinking. Day 1 As we arrived at the school, we were greeted by the eager and enthusiastic kids from the 7th grade. As the first section arrived, we took them to the playground to break the ice and played a game where one had to say their name and do a cool action!
Post that, the plan was to divide the class into mixed teams of 5-6 kids. These teams were made keeping in mind our focus on critical thinking through team building. The kids were a little apprehensive to be broken into different groups but settled in eventually. Post that we made our way to the physics lab which was going to be our prayogshala for the week. This is when we set some class norms to build a culture within that space such as cleaning the workstations post the workshops, using resources efficiently and more.
All teams were given a chart paper and the choice to choose 2 resources out of sketch pens, markers, and crayons. If a team needed different resources they had to return something to get the same. Each team had to select one person to be in charge of collecting resources. We established these norms to ensure that the kids respect the resources being provided and use them effectively. The teams had an hour to work together to paint anything that they wanted to and come up with a team name. The only rules were that all members must contribute and come up with something creative. We observed that the teams brainstormed and drew rough ideas on notebooks. It was fun to see the enthusiasm and creative juices flowing. The activity helped them get acquainted with us and to the idea of working together. Post, the painting session the teams had to do a 2-minute presentation. The first day of ‘Prayogshala Week’ was extremely successful as we saw them all geared up to venture into the creation phase! We had also set up a team chart that acted as reinforcement as teams were given stars on the basis of their involvement, creativity, and innovation. Day 2 We began day 2 by setting up the resources for a simple structure building workshop. The only resources needed are toothpicks, ice cream sticks, and clay. The teams arrived at their stations ready to begin the second day!
We reiterated the norms and gave out instructions. The only rules were to try and make something creative that has a stable structure and won’t fall using clay as an adhesive. The trick was to have a strong foundation. The teams had to work together to draw a prototype of the structure they wanted to build and take resources accordingly. The activity was aimed at helping the kids in brainstorming, collaborating and thinking creatively to come up with a stable model. The major challenge that they faced was that the clay was not an effective adhesive and the sticks kept falling apart. But it was interesting to see how the kids found a way around it and made houses, buildings and one was as long as 12 inches! Post the session we discussed learnings and challenges faced which is a good way to measure the impact of the workshop. The prayogshala was finally coming to life with every interaction, with every workshop, and with every learning. Day 3 We were now entering the second half of the process of building a prayogshala, a space to make, create and have fun! The third workshop was designed to be delivered by an instructor. The aim was to now really get them to apply concepts they’ve been learning and get into making a working model. The teams arrived at the Prayogshala, by now the kids were very cognisant of all the ‘class norms’.
This was the most exciting day in the Prayogweek as we were building a robotic arm made of just cardboard, straws, thread and glue. All teams had the basic resources which are an intrinsic part of the Prayogshala, that being scissors, glue sticks, glue guns, and cutter. It was a step by step process, where the teams followed the instructor and worked together to build the robotic arm. The kids were super enthusiastic, responsive and energetic throughout the process. Once the arm was built they tried using it to pick up things. Post the session, we talked a bit more about the science behind the process and how technology is taking over the world. The Prayogshala isn’t only supposed to give space to make but should also allow the child to explore concepts and ideas around these innovations. Day 4 We entered the final day of the Prayoshala week with lots of gratitude, learning and excitement and as did the kids. This day was going to be crucial in our understanding of the maker- culture. We had decided that after 3 days of learning the basics and understanding the structure of the Prayoshala, kids should now have the space to make anything that they feel like. The only concern was it should be creative, innovative and made through team collaboration. We set up the main table with all the resources, ranging from cardboard, clay, thread, markers to scissors, glue, ice cream sticks and more. The teams could take whatever they wished to and start the making!
We saw the Prayogshala come to life, in front of our eyes. A designated space with easily available resources, the will to create and a motivational push is all that’s needed indeed. The children made things that we could not have possibly imagined, from houseboats, rockets to working fountains and even a small game. It was wonderful to see how children just need a designated space and a push. Creativity and innovation are all within them, we just need to help bring it to the surface. The team was overwhelmed with the collaboration, the excitement and the innovation in that room. Post the session, all teams presented their models to all students, their teachers, and the principal. We were happy to see how the teachers, who were a bit apprehensive on our arrival, were extremely happy with what we were able to achieve with the children on the last day. The children, as a token of gratitude, gave a note of thanks to us through speeches and beautifully made cards. Our experience as a team was enriching and essential to understanding the working of a Prayogshala and how it is to be customized with respect to the school, learning dynamics, skills to be inculcated and more.