Right after completing school Payas Agarwal, whose curiosity had led him to solve many complex problems, decided to design an ecosystem where students’ curiosity would drive learning. That led to the formation of Delhi-based edtech firm Tinway, which is an acronym for “teaching in a new way”. Pre-pandemic, Tinway organised workshops in schools to spread awareness about learning anxiety and the importance of playing as a learning tool.
As the pandemic approached, Agarwal came up with Nembo — a box of 16 different games based on mathematical concepts such as numbers, geometry, algebra, statistics and mensuration. Along with his team, he also conceptualised free game design workshops to help young students unleash their creativity and come up with original games.
Once a participant registers for the workshop, he or she gets a mail with a list of materials required, which includes stationery items plus a PDF of the template to be used to make things such as dice and counters. Says Agarwal, “In our workshop, children learn about the elements that go into making games and then harness them to create their own. We help them design their games while also assisting in the process with brainstorming, designing, game mechanics and so on.”
In the 21st century, creativity is considered an important skill, especially for students. Since the pandemic changed life, many students have decided to use this enforced period of inactivity to enhance their creativity. In the last few months, plenty of fun workshops — most of them conceptualised and hosted by young people — have been happening virtually.
Swati Mishra’s zine-making online workshop is quite popular amongst the young. A zine is a handmade magazine or mini comic. Mishra teaches how to make an eight-page zine from a single sheet of A4 paper. She encourages participants to use materials easily available — paper, cardboard, scissors, colours, sketch pens, glue and pictures cut out from old magazines — to make a zine. Students learn how to build a narrative, story-boarding, wordplay, storytelling using images and minimum words and also to share their zines online.
In her “Fun with 3D shapes” workshop, she teaches how to create 3D shapes from scratch. Says Mishra, “Before the pandemic, we were holding various workshops related to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics). During the pandemic, we came up with “Saturday Art” and “Make it Sunday” series of online workshops that combine art, science and maths.” The aim is to provide an interesting learning experience and the workshops are customised according to age.
Mishra’s work focusses on community outreach and engagement as well as developing alternative methods of learning. She co-founded The Makers Collaborative (TMC) in 2018, where she has been designing learning and outreach experiences and developing educational material for cultural organisations, museums, NGOs, schools and individuals with special needs. In the last few months, Mishra and the TMC team have also started a #solvepuzzlesstayhome on social media, a-maths-puzzle-a-day series.
When Navnee Kasat was growing up, she learnt about sustainability — how people reuse, reduce and recycle to do their bit to save nature. Today, she is an eco-print artist. Eco-printing is a natural process in which plants are enclosed in textiles or paper, bundled in layers and steamed or immersed in hot water to extract pigments to produce a print made with plant dyes.
Before the pandemic, Kasat would conduct many workshops in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Calcutta. During the lockdown, she started online workshops to teach people about eco-printing as well as how to print clothes at home without causing any harm to nature. In her “Natural colour making with kitchen waste” workshop, she teaches how to create natural water colours using kitchen ingredients such as spinach leaves, pomegranate skin, onion skin, coffee, tea, beetroot and so on. “I want young students to learn this technique. Eco-printing and natural dyeing are definitely the future of the fashion industry,” says Kasat, who also offers a “Printing with flowers” workshop.
“People still don’t know how leaves and flowers can be used to print. This technique was practised by our ancestors. Now we have stopped because of digital printing and fast fashion,” she says.
The Kolkata Centre for Creativity in east Calcutta has also been keeping students busy with unique virtual workshops. There is one designed around Tagore’s dance-drama Tasher Desh, in which children explore music, stories and colours.
Then there are workshops on cartoon and caricature drawing in 2D and 3D, which teach everything from line drawing to making cartoons using paper and clay.
The pandemic has changed the world. Now, good marks or a degree will not be the only criteria for higher education or a job; it is important for students to constantly empower themselves with diverse knowledge. And learning and creativity are just a click away.