Brewing design thinking

TSHERING EDEN writes about a government school in Sikkim which has introduced ‘design thinking’

556brewNot very far from Sikkim’s capital Gangtok is Lingding Junior High School, a government school where an initiative towards introducing “design thinking” among the students is brewing. The Konnect Project aims to facilitate critical thinking in the younger generation, encouraging them to challenge, inquire and analyse prevailing knowledge and perceptions. The project that began in April this year is an initiative of BREW, a community organization located at Sichey here.

BREW that stands for “Bakery, Retail, Events, Workshop”, began two years ago as a concept café and a place for people to explore and experiment. Since then, it has hosted photo exhibitions, workshops for children in crafts, bakery, carpentry, art, etc along with other events.

Spearheaded by Tenzing Nyentsey, who is also the Managing Director of Echostream, a mutli-disciplinary design studio based in Gangtok, BREW is now moving towards becoming a non-profit organization starting with the Konnect project.

“We had been hosting a lot of workshops for children here and then we realized there are children in schools who cannot really afford to come here and be a part of such workshops. So we thought it would be great if we could go to such schools,” says Tenzing about the project.

The workshops held at BREW are paid for and there are plans to later direct these funds towards the Konnect project. As of now, there is no outside funding and the project is sustained by the BREW team.

In its pilot phase at the moment, the Konnect project has a team of around 5-6 members visiting Lingding JHS every Saturday and interacting with the 185 students at the school.

“At present, we are conducting empathy exercises during our visits to explore the students’ level of thinking and understanding. And maybe in a few weeks’ time, we will start conducting proper workshops for the children there,” informs Tenzing.

The team made its first visit to the school on 19 April.

The BREW team hopes to develop critical thinking abilities amongst the children where they learn by doing. “As kids we were fed information and never really encouraged to question or challenge what we were told. This initiative hopes to teach children not what but how to think”, explains Tenzing.

He adds that the team is also looking at garnering funds from big corporate houses where they could adopt a school. Corporate houses like Airtel have adopted schools in other parts of India where they support a school in terms of infrastructure development so BREW is also hoping to liaison with private companies to adopt schools in Sikkim as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility activities, informs Tenzing.

Apart from the interaction sessions every Saturday, the Konnect project also aims to build a library for students of Lingding JHS. BREW has collaborated with Rachna Books for this initiative where people can donate old books or buy books from Rachna Books for the school library. For now, BREW has adopted Lingding JHS where it will also be aiding infrastructural development of the school by building toilets, setting up proper water supply, barricading of the school ground, and so on. There are a host of other plans with the long term aim being the incorporation of design thinking in school curriculum.