The Centre for Creative Learning @ IIT Gandhinagar: where students explore the Arts to understand Science
“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” — Confucius, Chinese philosopher and politician of the Spring and Autumn period
The quote explains it all. The best possible way for us to imbibe any concept is when we do, make and explore things- pull them apart and put them back together… Although the current education system of India has been modified with time to provide a competitive and fast-paced environment, it seldom provides space for the philosophy of learning-by-doing. There is a dire need to introduce a type of learning which is joyous and experiential, leading to detailed conceptual cognizance with the intention to create scientific temper and nurture inherent creativity in students and teachers alike.
The Center for Creative Learning (CCL) at IIT Gandhinagar in India focuses on providing hands-on creative pedagogy with the goal of bringing back that gleam in the eyes of thousands of people which usually gets lost because of the theory and ratta-fication (mindless memorization of facts and figures) oriented education system! Started in April 2017 with a team of five people, the objective of CCL is to immerse oneself in order to understand a concept- to tinker and play around rather than memorize without comprehension.
“Although Science and Mathematics are crucial for survival, people of almost all the age-groups get bored to death while studying them because of the way these courses are designed. It becomes extremely important to make the curriculum engaging and inspiring so that understanding such subjects becomes fun and fruitful”, said Prof. Manish Jain, Principal Coordinator of this Centre.
Working in this direction, CCL designs, develops and documents activities, toys, models, exhibits, projects and short courses that are exciting, promote critical thinking, logical reasoning, problem solving, in-depth exploration of concepts and effectively explaining the science behind them. The Centre also documents these initiatives as short films, creates illustrated books with explanations for students, teacher’s guides and activity booklets so that every child can have access to interesting education throughout the country.
In words of Neeraj Kumar and Gaurav Kumar, team members of CCL, “The present course-curriculum structure of India is like khichdi (an Indian dish of boiled lentils and rice). While it may have all the nutrients, it has absolutely no flavor! And so, we, at CCL, work towards making this bland recipe lip-smacking by introducing some spicy and yummy side dishes (chutney, achaar and paapad). We truly believe that such hands-on learning is what will peak people’s interests, leading them to acquire in-depth knowledge about any concept.”
Every year, the Centre organizes regular workshops and sessions at IIT Gandhinagar as well as throughout India involving students and teachers from numerous schools, colleges and universities. In a small span of two years, it has managed to create about 500+ unique student-centric toys, models and activities, conducted 70+ hands-on learning workshops for over 10,000+ teachers and engineering college professors, and interacted with 50,000+ students from all across the country.
With a self-generated yet true motto of ‘a toy everyday keeps the boredom away’, CCL has conceived and developed education-oriented-toys ranging from things as simple as flute-from-a-straw and the cheapest and smallest DC motor all the way to 1000 year calendars, 3-bottle fountain, 3-D clock, bird whistle, charkha generator, dancing ghost cubes, south-pointing-chariot, levitating pen stand, mechanical frog, spider walking robot, sine curve drawing car, ride forward-reverse pedal cycle, and many more.
“Some people discover the world of geometric forms through the study of mathematics and others through artistic endeavors.”- Stacy Speyer, Artist in Residence at Planet. Taking these very words forward, CCL has developed a two-day short course on Polyhedra and Geodesics where students get to know about stellations, truncations and chamfering. After exploring the structure and topology, they are familiarized with design, laser-cutting and assembly to form their very own math-inspired lamps and balls. Eco-friendly MDF wood sheets are utilized to make these no-glue, no-tape, quick-assemble-models. This course enables the students to get comfortable in the fields of consumer product design and 3-D visualization. Another course, Cards and Combinatorics, takes the students to a roller-coaster ride from delightful self-working magic tricks, to serious mathematics concepts and then back again to the stunning world of magic. Inspired by a similar course taught at the Stanford University by former professional magician Persi Diaconis, this two-day course explains about many little-known theorems of advanced mathematics in the form of tricks like Hummer shuffles, Royal Hummer, de Bruijn Sequences, Universal Cycles, Mandelbrot Set and many more.
A workshop organized by this Centre at IIT Kanpur last year left the students completely dumbstruck. One of the participants said, “We thought it is going to be the same as every other workshop complete with presentations and lectures- boring! But we all were really shocked when we found it was quite the opposite. We have been constantly developing new toys and models and never imagined that learning could ever be so much fun.”
The CCL has collaborations with organizations like Indian Institute of Technologies (IITs), National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), Kendriya Vidyalaya (KV) Sangathan, Gujarat Council of Educational Research and Training (GCERT), Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), Science for Monks & Nuns, Tribal Department of Madhya Pradesh (M.P.), Directorate of Employment & Training (DET) Gujarat, etc. to spread the word that India needs to make her classes engaging, provide experiential learning, foster creativity with sole focus on concepts.
17th January 2019 saw the first prize being given to CCL’s paper titled Making and Maker-Spaces: the Secret Sauce of Future-Proof Learning. It was co-authored by Prof. Manish Jain, Prof. Neeldhara Misra (Computer Science and Engineering), Gaurav Kumar, Neeraj Kumar and Pankaj Godara and emphasized on the idea of hands-on education as the most important ingredient for innovation which is required to be started from very early years. The paper presented several examples of future-proof and timeless approaches to teaching which are simple and inexpensive. The award was presented by Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister of India Shri Prakash Javadekar during the Vibrant Gujarat Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) International Summit.
Furthermore, CCL has been given the responsibility to improve India’s performance in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test taken by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in the year 2021. The Centre has begun preparations for Indian students to perform better in this test which examines the viewpoint and comprehension of students in mathematics, science and language.
The Centre for Creative Learning also plays an integral part during the 5-week Foundation Programme, the first of its kind in India, organized at IIT Gandhinagar every year which introduces first year students to a variety of issues and activities of national and international significance, ethics, sports and physical exercises, community service, sketching, artwork and many more with the sole objective to promote learning-by-doing:
“Learning is an active process. We learn by doing… only the knowledge that is used sticks in your mind” — Dale Carnegie, famous American writer and lecturer