Balaji is the Co-Founder of Imagin8ors and a parent of two boys, Sid (five and a half) and Ved (three months). Here he kicks off our blog sharing his personal journey with Imagin8ors, and talks about the need for parents to be active custodians of their child’s creative development.
As a parent, I am sure, you would have revelled in the wonder of the “Terrific Threes!” That exciting stage and age in a child’s development when they are propelled by a boundless energy to understand the world around them.
When every moment is a time for exploration. When you are bombarded with those incessant, tough-to-answer questions “Why?” “How?” “What?”
When they have no fear of making mistakes, of stumbling, of falling, of getting hands deep in dirt. When learning is all about play, a sense of wonder, just pure un-adulterated joy!
My journey with Imagin8ors has its origin in the ‘Terrific Threes” that our son Sid and I enjoyed together.
I marvelled at his fluid imagination, at his drive to create, and the zest with which he approached every new twist and turn.
I googled, talked to experts and parents, sought out answers to what I could do to fuel this spark. To understand at a deeper level what he is really learning and to provide the right environment and experiences for him.
As I fell deeper into the rabbit hole, a few things became really clear:
1. Children are born creative geniuses and natural self-directed learners, but our education systems, in-spite of their best intentions, end up stifling creative development. There is a punchy TED talk (“Do Schools Kill Creativity?”) by Sir Ken Robinson, a world renowned education reformer that brings this to life with substance and wit. Our society chases standardised test outcomes over deeper, more meaningful learning. The bulk of teaching emphasises instruction and rote. Children are caught in an arms race of building more impressive resumes to filter through to the top universities. Free, creative, play time is weeded out systematically. There is much to change … and very little time to do it in.
2. The irony is that Imagination and Creativity are potentially the attributes most critical to our childrens’ success in a rapidly-changing, technology amplified world. Content knowledge has become a commodity. What you can do with what you know, already matters more than the knowledge per se. The increasing automation of jobs, puts additional pressure to apply the knowledge in original, novel ways.
3. Parents have a critical role to play in being the custodians of their child’s creativity. Schools are not structured to take charge of developing each child’s creative potential. Parents, the first teachers at an age when the child is at their most creative, are uniquely placed to assume this responsibility. Research shows that regular active engagement with the child like reading together, playing together, supporting their interests, encouraging them to question, etc. actually helps with deeper learning and creative development.
My childhood and their attendant dreams came back to me. I had always wanted to study English Literature, to be a journalist and a writer; but I ended up studying Computer Science and Business. I struggled to stay in touch with my creativity in spite of going to the best colleges and working for Fortune 100 companies. The conviction grew that I did not want this cycle to repeat with Sid, and if it could be helped, with children in general.
A compelling catalyst for me to take the plunge together with Sampath Pudhukottai, a fellow parent of young children and a dear friend from college days, to begin the journey that has today become Imagin8ors.
Along the way, we have been fortunate to get together a team of innovators, educators, technologists, makers, artists who passionately believe in the cause of nurturing the inherent creativity in each child.
Our team is not alone, we have been inspired by countless parents, like yourselves, who echo similar sentiments and are doing all in your power to help children enjoy learning, to stay creative, to find their passions.
We are kicking off this blog to serve as a space for all of us to connect and share knowledge, ideas, anecdotes, and support. We hope that this space can foster a dialogue, one that deserves to be amplified, and followed through to positively impact the most important resource the world has – our next generation; and to prepare them to be successful and happy in a world we cannot even fathom today.
And we hope to do this together with you, exactly like a “Terrific Three” year old would approach it. With optimism, zest, insatiable curiosity, mischief, fearlessness and joy!
Come! Let’s play! 🙂
Children absorb a lot of things and bring out this knowledge in the most remarkable ways.
Here is the story of Nirmay and his amazing learning from nature, telling his mother “Mama See How I Grow!”
As Bharti was watering the plants she noticed her four-year- old son Nirmay crouch down next to the flower pots. “Mom, I am a plant too, water me too”, he cooed. In an indulgent mood Bharti gently sprinkled some water on Nirmay. As the water fell on him, he slowly started straightening up “Mom see I am growing too”.
Stories my dear friend Bharti shares about Nirmay always make me smile. But after the initial laugh, I am quite intrigued by the boy’s ability to apply his knowledge to his endearing antics. This is the concept of growth demonstrated in the simplest and most effective way.
Has your child ever demonstrated a science concept or principle like this? Do share…
Rachna Singh, a Singapore based mother of two daughters who are like chalk and cheese. A collector, a writer, a gardener,a mother and a terrific friend; she is indeed a force of nature. Picking up each new thing in life with such enthusiasm and energy she is a constant source of inspiration to everyone around her.
MAAAA….. I am bored.
Oh dear Lord!!!….she is bored. AGAIN!!!
And thus began the holidays for my five-year-old Eesha. A sack full of untapped energy, who needed to be positively and constructively challenged every waking hour. Ignoring her, I went about tending to my plants lovingly.
“Can I do that please?” Eesha asked and I indulged her. This set the Sumerian wheel of gardening on the roll. In went the whole jug of water in a single plant and water spilled all over the place. It was time for her first lesson – “water conservation”. How to use water, a scarce natural resource, without wasting it.
When Eesha accidentally plucked out few healthy saplings along with the weeds, I told her about deforestation and imbalances in our ecological system. She absorbed all this new information not deterred by the big words thrown at her.
An organic fertilizer made of egg shells, vegetable and fruit peels was our next project .She learnt about being cost effective and recycling. I did make a passing reference to soil pollution and how our fertilizer was more eco-friendly. She was struck by the term “eco-friendly”. “Ma, I think I‘ll call my next doll eco-friendly. Now that made me smile.
In some mason jars we put layers of coloured pebbles and compost mixed soil and planted cacti plants with tiny red and yellow flowers. Forever the artist Eesha wrapped a dainty little green ribbon around the bottle. And our lovely glass garden terrarium was born.
As I was snipping away some mint leaves, for my tea, I was tempted to start an herb garden and I shared this with Eesha. Jubilant at the idea we painted and decorated the cans. We personalised it with ladyfinger imprint patterns. Basil, sage, thyme, rosemary, alfalfa sprouts, cherry tomatoes and oriental capsicum all found a little can of their own. In the process, Eesha learnt the names and spellings of different herbs and understood the difference between herbs, fruits and vegetables. I also helped her understand the nutritional benefits of eating different coloured fresh produce.
But would she have the patience to wait? I was in for an unexpected surprise. For the next two months, Eesha meticulously and lovingly looked after her plants. Few times, I also caught her spray bottle in hand talking sweet nothings to her baby plants.
In August, my baby’s birthday month our herb garden was in full bloom, and what a sight. In a moment of pure genius Eesha suggested a gardening themed birthday party. I sure was impressed. Off we went to the market to collect our supplies.
At her birthday party each kid was handed a clean empty can to decorate and plant herbs of their choice. Once they were done it was time to make their own vegetable pizzas. Oh the excitement of trimming fresh herbs and scattering it over their pizzas. We further topped it with colourful cherry tomatoes and capsicums. Everything from the kitchen garden. The kids polished off the pizzas in minutes.
Amazed I mused, an activity meant to keep my kid busy in her holidays had reaped such rewards. I saw a more patient, knowledgeable, responsible and happy kid running around in the house.
That night, she hugged me and said that this was her best birthday ever, I couldn’t help beaming and hugging her back. I knew she really meant it.
Have you done something recently with your child which has reaped unexpected rewards? Do tell.
Last week Nia and I found ourselves at Playeum. After weeks of hearing about the Hideaways- Creating With Nature” exhibit we finally had a chance to experience it first-hand. As we walked past the pink elephant figurine, we were greeted with peals of laughter from some very happy tots. We saw a few Playeum facilitators handling a big group of school children. “Ok children, I want you all to move four bums back!!!” Well that kind of sums it up – Playeum speaks a kid’s language.
Getting just as excited as the young visitors we moved from section to section with our guide Vanessa. For each section the artist had a specific intention or thought in mind yet the whole exhibit flowed from one onto another. We moved around freely touching, experiencing, learning and getting to be one with nature. We saw many things that puzzled, intrigued and wowed us. Armed with questions and compliments we had a sit down with Jeremy Chu the Creative Director of the Hideaway exhibit.
The setting felt so apt, as we sat under the trees discussing the various themes of nature, while Jeremy and Nia untied the knots from the drawstrings used by the kids to tie rattan. Jeremy shared that the location of Playeum played a big role in the “Creating With Nature” theme. Playeum in Gillman Barracks is surrounded by Hort Park, Southern Ridges and Labrador Park. Thus the inspiration, to develop some interesting and engaging narratives with children, around nature. The idea was to encourage them to cultivate a bond with the eco-system and get a better understanding of how their actions were impacting nature.
Interestingly, Playeum has a Children Consultancy Board that has a big role in decisions regarding the exhibits. Who better than kids to tell us what kids love and enjoy!!! After many sessions of brainstorming a call was made to a group of extremely talented artists, and the hideaway exhibit slowly took shape.
The exhibit demonstrates conceptual layering. There is a constant sensation of hidden truths and you are the explorer seeking the answers. This is a sensory journey with the constant message of recycling. For example the clay city built as a part of “Make Believe Hideaway” shall be the backdrop of a future stop motion animation workshop planned at Playeum.
The behaviour of insects to stack and weave has always intrigued us and the same can be explored in “Welcome To My World”. Like a moth that uses leaves and petals children can add to the structure and create a giant insect habitat. Beautiful flowers donated every week by Floral Magic are used by children to build nests and decorate the structures.
“Knock Knock! Who Lives There” gives the children an opportunity to look at insect specimens through microscopic lenses. There is also a live feed of insects’ habitats set up on Playeum grounds playing on multiple screens. The entire set up is non-instructional where children are encouraged to translate the process into line drawings. Not just this children can drop small messages, questions or letters to the insects of their choice. As a part of the exhibit the artist does reply to the letters and queries put forth by the children. Making it as interactive as it can be.
Jeremy shared a beautiful story about a child who had visited the exhibit. She wrote a letter and instead of just posting it she created a diorama out of it. She merged the pictures of the insects, sound instruments she created and the letter to give it all her own voice. It was a cross pollination inspired by the exhibit, just the kind they were looking for.
As we bade goodbye to Jeremy and Vanessa and stepped out of this enchanted world, there was only one thing I knew for sure. I was going to return pretty soon!!!
It’s the first Saturday of the month and Team Imagin8ors welcomes you to their monthly Open House. A space to spark imagination for children (ages 3-10) and parents, to tinker with technology, and indulge in some free unstructured play. Meet like-minded parents, make new friends, and swap views on the fascinating learning needs for today’s children! The experience is absolutely free only registration required.
This month, we have three exciting experiences for you to explore:
Using USB Microscopes capable of 200x magnification, your child enters a whole new world of micro objects, such as plants and animal cells! After taking the pictures your child will learn how to prepare slides. The snapshots of microscopic objects and life forms, will be then incorporated into Scratch™ animation. Their fantastic interpretations of the MicroWorld will fuel their imagination. So come to have a closer look at the micro-organisms and use coding to spin out some great stories!!
Never heard of PlayDough conducting electricity before? Come to the Imagin8ors Open House and you can see it happen! Join us, use our recipes to create your own conductive Playdough, in your favourite colour! Light it up with LED lights, and get as far as you imagination takes you!
Do you like playing Arcade Games? It sure will be fun to have one of our own. Why don’t you create one with us? Design the rules, build it with our wide array of fun and colourful materials, and play!
This is a community event and we would like to spread the joy of learning, a maker mind-set, and an appreciation for technology to as many people as possible! Join us in this cause and invite your friend to join too. It will be fun!
When: Saturday, June 4, 2016
1030am – 1230pm
Where: The Meeting Point @ JTC Launchpad,
73 Ayer Rajah Crescent
Near One-North mrt
Sia Mitra blogger, painter, needlework artist, mother – a woman with fingers in many pies. Living a busy life juggling numerous interests and responsibilities, but her daughter always comes first. Doing many projects together is how this mother-daughter duo bond and have fun together. Hear this Delhi based powerhouse speak about one such holiday project.
Rummaging through some old documents, one manic Sunday, I stumbled upon some old maps. They were detailed, familiar and drawn with exclusively me in mind, by my husband. Gazing at the yellowing paper, I wistfully recalled, how they used to be my sole guide before the smart phone. Peeping over my shoulder my seven–year-old daughter was intrigued, “What is that?”
“It is a map, dear. “ As Darling Daughter ogled it, a fabulous idea germinated in my mind.
“Would you like to make some maps?” My query was met with an enthusiastic affirmative.
Cartography, the art of charting maps, initiated by the Greeks and Arabs, has been around for centuries and now it was time for the mother-daughter duo to get busy too. But first a quick lesson before we ventured into unchartered territories.
“Listen,” I explained “A map is a pictorial representation of an area, with certain predefined symbols used to show the various objects. For example a box with a red cross depicts a hospital. Most of the symbols used in the map are defined and are called legend. Another important aspect of a map is the direction.”
Next morning to understand directions better we stepped out in the garden.
“Now which side is the sun?” I queried.
Darling Daughter dutifully pointed towards the East.
“Let us stand facing the sun. The direction you are facing now is East. Your back is towards the West. Your left hand depicts North and the Right depicts South.”
This is the simplest way to get the hang of directions. Of course you can use an instrument called the compass to know the directions. The needle of the compass always points towards the North. In a map, it is customary to depict the orientation with the help of a North arrow.
Armed with this knowledge we set off for a short stroll from Darling Daughter’s school (My School) to a nearby school (ABC School).
As we walked, I asked her to make a note of the major landmarks we passed. After a leisurely stroll, we sat down on a park bench and drew a picture of the route, marking the landmarks. I encouraged her to draw as many items as she could. At this juncture we were not making maps to scale.
After she finished, the following picture emerged.
This was still a drawing and not a map. To achieve that we had to replace objects with symbols. I introduced her to some of the standard symbols used for map making. She designed the rest of the symbols herself. After some hectic designing these are the symbols we settled on.
Now we inserted the symbols in our original picture. The general paths remaining the same. Now it looked more like a representative map :-
We both grinned ear to ear as we marched back clutching the map like a trophy. Definitely a fun fruitful morning. Sadly before I could bask for two minutes in the glory of it all, I was bombarded with questions about distances and shortest route. Well what can I say, parenting and learning go hand in hand, so the lessons continue.
Have you ever gotten your child to create a map? What was your experience like? Do share…
The Tech-Artists Holiday Camp is designed for our young artists to imagine, create, and bring their ideas to life with technology! They will be adding a technical twist to their creations made from a range of arts and craft materials. Children will be placed in groups with similar aged buddies to guarantee optimal learning and collaboration with their peers. There are 4 workshops for this Tech Artists Camp. ElectriCity (June 7), Colors Osmosis (June 8), Build Your Own Instrument (June 9), and Puppet Theatre (June 10) .
After a very exciting Tech-Artists Camp last December one of the parents shared ,” What I like the most about this programme is the exposure to the concept/environment for the child to express his creativity.”
How about exploring some artistic creativity with your child these holidays? You can choose to either sign up for individual workshops or the complete Tech Artists Holiday Camp. See you there!
Camp Dates: 7th June 2016-10th June 2016
Time: : 9:30 am – 12:30 pm
Venue: The Meeting Point @ JTC Launchpad
73 Ayer Rajah Crescent,
Daya from team Imagin8ors just had a mind-blowing experience with his daughters at the Future World, ArtScience Museum. The exhibit has 15 interactive all immersive experiences designed to spark your child’s imagination. After our chat I am all geared to step into this digital interactive space with my son. How about you?
MOSH Sentosa, is a brilliant amalgam of technology and creativity where kids can experience imagination come to life in an innovative manner. MOSH! has five technological experiences divided into– Air: Paper Plane Adventure; Space: Fireworks Party; Sea: Doodle Aquarium; Land: Hide-and-Seek Table; and Fantasy: World of Wonder. A perfect place to unleash your creative juices and let technology take it forward. So how about giving the usual stuff on the island a miss and trying out some digital media edutainment?