“It’s Magic!”: Imagination, Creativity and a Whole lot of Learning

By O. Aishwarya

By O. Aishwarya

Anubhav is a 2-day experiential learning program conducted by Vision Empower (VE), a Bangalore-based nonprofit that aims the growing needs of STEM education for children with visual impairment. VE is incubated at IIIT Bangalore.
In the 2019 edition of Anubhav, seven 6th graders from a school for children with visual impairments, a residential special school in Bangalore, joined the Vision Empower team for 2 days of fun, creativity and experiential learning. The sessions conducted include art, craft, reading, science, math, introduction to assistive technology, mindfulness, quiz, etc. The program was designed based on information gathered from the VE school interventions.

Over the 2 days, the children were given an opportunity to gain exposure to topics not typically taught in schools for the visually impaired, such as art, coloring and painting. Recognizing the need to introduce tactile pictures to children in a systematic and informed manner, a session was organized on converting 3 dimensional objects into 2 dimensional drawings. The children were given common objects such as cars, vegetables and fruits with their corresponding tactile drawings, and taught, for instance, why the 2 dimensional representations of the same or the drawing of a car on paper has only 2 wheels and 2 windows, not 4. The children’s imagination and creativity knew no bounds. “I want a pink roof, yellow walls and a red door,” one of the children mentioned to a facilitator as she colored her house. The children also enjoyed the session on origami and made colorful birds.
Through a story reading session, children were introduced to colors in the form of a story with crayons as the main characters. There was also a session on storytelling, where the children completed a pre-given prompt with their own imaginative endings full of magic, miracles and fun.

Another popular activity was the Math treasure hunt. The clues and puzzles that lead the way to the treasure were mathematical in nature, and included basic concepts taught in school. The children found the perimeter of everyday objects, arranged a certain number of paper cups to form a triangle, measured the angles of a triangle, etc.

Science concepts taught through experiential learning included magnets, density, friction, etc. The children drove cars through paths made of different textures to experience friction, tested out what floats and what sinks to be introduced to the concept of density, and acted out a skit to learn about the water cycle. A hilarious moment occurred when one of the students, on being asked why an apple floats while a pin sinks, replied, “You’ve done magic in the water!”

Children really enjoyed being introduced to the different assistive technology available. Some of the interesting new technologies introduced to them included TakeNote, a Perkins-style keyboard for easy note taking from Enability, Hexis, a Braille book reader from VE, Subodha, an online accessible learning management platform from VE, Torino, an accessible physical programming environment for children who are visually impaired from Microsoft Research, the TAG (Tactile Audio Gallery) device from VE. These devices and Tactograph, a device that helps in producing low-cost tactile graphics was displayed to representatives of other civic society organizations such as Matruchhaya, Rotary for Disabilities, Cisco Foundation and Wipro Foundation, to name a few.

The children were enthusiastic participants, and liked to learn by doing. The value of the workshop was not just that it was fun, but that it made learning fun and interesting. The learning from the programme will be used to create the curriculum and methods to be introduced to the children with visual impairment in the academic year 2020-2021.

In the 'Stories' section, we attempt to document our experiences while volunteering, special people we have encountered in this journey. If you have volunteered with Vision Empower and have an interesting experience or story to share, do write to us.