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Fertilizing Imagination of Children: what happens when they grow up

Many parents are worried that children get highly stressed at young age because of various anxieties triggered by perhaps  parental and/or social expectations. But they still don’t provide enough opportunities to their children to relax by fertilizing their imagination, wander to wonder about nature, social diversity and even more importantly, so many unmet social needs still unmet!

Dr A P J Abdul Kalam Ignite competition organised by National Innovation Foundation ( NIF) to unravel creative and innovative potential of the children. When this potential unfolds in the context of unmet needs of society, nature and even non-human sentient beings like pets/otheranimals, it connects creativity with samvedana (empathy[1]) or what we call in Honey Bee Network,samevdansheel srijansheelta. Let us see some examples of such a concern.

Widely prevalent practice of  throwing away waste soap water in cloth washing  machine may not have bothered most of the manufacturer of such machines worldwide, but it did bother Aushman, Odisha who suggested attachment of filtering and recycling system. One could also use such water perhaps for toilets and wiping floors. Shruti, also from Odisha is also worried about excessive use of water while taking a shower and suggested having monitor attached to the shower for the purpose. Will it not be nice if we all try to save water in  every possible way by even setting targets, say 15 litre or one bucket per bath or even lesser.  Digantika from Burdwan and Khushi from Sabarkantha, both don’t like iron filings while drilling or dust scattering around causing hazard. They have thought of a collector attached to different kind of drill which has been missing from most drills. They even tried to fabricate one.

Helping Blind people board the bus by getting a communication system between bus driver and such challenged people has been suggested by Ankit from Bangalore. If driver knew about such people waiting to board the bus, may be he/she will be more careful to help such people board and descend from the bus.

There were many other ideas suggested by children whether for stapling buttons, when we find them missing from a shirt or kurta (a problem often faced by me) or pant, or helping elderly people who lose their way while walking finding their way back to hof concept. ome.

Ignite award function has become a national celebration of creativity by children from all over the country. One of the limitation has been that we have not been to get as many ideas from rural governments schools as from urban private or public schools.  This is a lacuna that we will have to remove in coming years. Similarly, far fewer ideas are sent by such children who also try to make a proof-of-concept or prototype. May be Atal Tinkering labs set up by Niti Aayog will fill this gap in coming years. Unless we also create a connection between identification of unmet social, environmental, cultural and institutional needs, and the fabrication or maker culture, we will not be able to graduate to next level of innovation ecosystem. Slowly and slowly, such facilities are emerging which may enable children to give concrete form to their ideas. But for those children who don’t have access to such facilities or skills, NIF does invite children interested in making new innovative and socially useful things to spend time at its Fab lab.

The Honey Bee Network has also been organising children creativity workshop in collaboration with SRISTI, GIAN, NIF and UNICEF for last several years. Some of the most redeeming discoveries from these workshops are: little children who we treat as sink of sermons (they have to hear all the time, do this, do that!) are actually a very valuable source of ideas. They can not only identify the unmet social needs but also come out with very creative solutions which have many time escaped us, the elders with far higher exposure and experience. Children can also work collaboratively far more easily than us. Our egos often come in the way of forging creative and constructive teams. Children can identify the weakest link of a chain while we get stuck with a more obvious bottleneck which may or may not be the root cause of the problem.

If the children have so many strengths, then what happens as they grow up? Our education system does not do enough justice to their curiosity about and   concern for disadvantaged people, elderly, safety of workers,  and non-human sentient beings like animals in society, environment under risk and wastage of resources. We have not even introduced lessons based children creativity in the school and college text books to boost their moral. We have not shared stories of how children ideas have triggered enterprises and licensing deals.

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