It was 12 in the noon when I reached the all-boys Government School in Mukherjee Nagar, Delhi. If you know anything about Delhi heat, you would know it’s brutal and unrelenting. Although I can go at length about Delhi’s summer but that’s not what I want to discuss right now. The point of mentioning heat was to stress upon how certain setup in a school space remains functional throughout the year, even during Summer Vacations (as I fondly remember calling them). During my entire Metro train journey, I was thinking about this alluring place called Creativity Adda, where children come to their ‘school’ on a daily basis, including in the summer break.
As I entered, I saw a big, well-maintained school building, lush garden area and a field, unlike the schools in Kotra, Rajasthan (where I’m currently working). Anyway, as I started walking through the well-paved path, I came across a building separate from the main school building. It was the source of noise in an otherwise peaceful premise.
There is a big hall enclosed by rooms on all sides and two passages leading to a hallway each. I experienced a sudden gush of Pandemonium as distinct sounds from all directions fell on my ear drum at once. In front of my eyes, was a group of high-spirited kids moving on roller skates from one end of the room to another. Some of them sat on the floor as spectators, waiting for their turns as they swayed their heads to and fro with their mouths open. A group of boys had toppled on each other and were having their fair share of laughter as they attempted to pick themselves up. In the midst of this fall and rise, a group of boys sat on up-cycled tires, bolted together in a corner. In another corner, a crowd had gathered cheering for their favorite player as boys competed with each other in a game of carom.
While my eyes were stuck to the striker, I could hear a faint soothing sound of metal rods touching each other. Chimes were being played by someone in the opposite end of the room. As I turned to look around, I saw a door being closed and opened. At first glance, there was a short kid trying his best to hold the handles of a stationary cycle while making an effort to move his legs up and down. On looking the second time, I got a bigger view of the room, as the kid had fallen down while opening the door, leaving himself on the ground. I could see a treadmill, a chest pressing machine, weightlifting objects and more occupying the room. The hallways had children preparing chocolate cake, and a group of over-enthusiastic youngsters thumping the floor with all their might to show their anger for a dance they were preparing. On the side, was a computer room so silent that I could hear my footsteps as I walked inside.
Surrounded by all the movements and sounds of chatter as well as laughter, I heard my name being called out. As I proceeded in that direction, I entered a not-so-organized room and saw two people finishing a piece of wall art. “It was started by kids here but they left in the middle as they didn’t find it interesting enough to complete, and we at Creativity Adda do not believe in forcing kids to do anything.’’, said Mr. Ashish, the manager and coordinator here. He started telling about how this place came into existence and the idea behind setting it up. All of a sudden, I flooded him with questions on design, theme, facilitation (the terms I have encountered over the last 4 months in Education sector) and he was patient enough to answer them one by one.
We were disrupted by a group of kids who entered the room asking Mr. Ashish for a solution to a problem that they had encountered in a group project. Ashish excused himself and reached out to kids, heard them and gave them a range of options as solutions. He asked them to discuss and work on it in the group, a drastically different approach to the usual school setup where teacher provides the ‘correct answer’ immediately.
Inquisitive to find out the way kids approached the problem, I excused myself and entered the adjacent room named ‘Maker’s Space’. It had a unique design. Each corner of the room was occupied with different objects and material. Four kids on one computer were learning how to write a code by themselves. Beside, there was a shelf that displayed all the objects that had been created by the children, and a slab with all the electrical equipment, from soldering iron to batteries and wires. In the middle was a table with discarded material like pieces of wood, nails, and bottles.
One of the boys was struggling with creating holes in a Tyre. He picked up a tool from the tool wall and starting punching holes. His teammate sat beside him observing his actions. After a while, he stood up to look for something from the Tools Wall, and came back with a hammer. He asked his teammate to use it in place of the previous tool. The process of punching holes not only got easier but faster. Both of them worked together suggesting each other ways to do it better, and trying each way before moving to the next one.
It took the boys about 45 minutes to work relentlessly in order to stack the tires on top of each other. In the process, they were kind enough to share their knowledge with me and allowing me to become a part of the learning. While sitting with them, I silently wished for places like Creativity Adda in my school, where my younger brother studies now. It was amazing to see children working together in groups and learning as well as sharing with peers. They try out different things on their own, take their own decisions and switch from one activity to another on the basis of their interest. It’s a congregation with different mediums under one single roof.
I wonder why such spaces have a place outside our school premises. What if such a place existed in my time; and what changes would it have brought to me? I’d have loved to spend my vacations in such a setup, even in the unrelenting heat.