Bengaluru: In a country where schooling means rote learning and children are made to cram their textbooks, get into the rat race for grades and ranks, aspects like creativity and thinking out of the box take a back seat.
In such a scenario ArtSparks Foundation, an NGO, tries to makes use of art as a tool for learning and engaging children as well as teachers in a creative process. Besides developing learning and life skills among children, it also helps them develop problem solving abilities, to innovate, ideate and think flexibly.
It was set up in 2014 by Nisha Nair, who had spend two decades in US and worked towards improving the quality of education. Having spent her childhood in Bengaluru she was determined to usher a change in the education system here.
“When I was in school I saw that teaching was textbook driven, with no deeper engagement with the content. It was very surface learning for the purpose of taking a test. But if you ask me, it had no impact. As a learner I was very disengaged and had no interest in delving any deeper,” she recalled.
As for her new venture she said, “It has been an exciting year-and-a-half of work. And, it’s been wonderful to see the interest that our work has been garnering in the space of education, as well as the early stage support the organisation has been receiving,” she said.
Nisha runs this unique educational nonprofit that supports the creative, cognitive, social, and emotional growth and development of children through the medium of art. “It’s always heartwarming to hear about people contributing to the betterment of society,” she said.
Her work involves adopting an open and inventive interpretation of any problem and problem solving which also helps the children to be more confident about themselves. Her tools of changing the education system is research based. A woman with a background in art education and educational development, Nisha did her homework when deciding to come back to the city to help teachers and also marginalised school children.
“What’s most important for ArtSparks Foundation is continued awareness building of the work that we’re doing in the space of educational innovations - how alternatives are being used to address the issue of quality of learning, as well teaching practices,” she said.
Apart from developing learning skills and life skills among children, it also provides problem solving ability, innovation, exploring and experimenting, and brainstorming and ideating, communication and collaboration and also flexible thinking.
Her foundation's 'Model School Initiative' involve working with a core groups of schools, where direct intervention is happening both with the teachers as well as students. “What comes out is best practices of what is possible through an art space program. It is still a relatively new space in Indian context. But, historically, we have seen the art as a skill that only the talented few engage with or it is a hobby class that you do when you have the spare time. Artistic learning is critically important, they are just like Maths and Science learning," she explained.
“It is not about making an artist in one person, but it is about developing skills and the necessaries no matter what it is you might go and do,” she said.
Nisha also believes that to change the system teachers need to also be trained to think differently. “Teachers are an essential conduit for learning. ArtSparks' professional development workshops enable teachers to explore the creative process, reflect on their teaching practice, and re-envision how their students learn using the lens of art,” she said.
As for funding Nisha said, “While, as an early stage nonprofit, continued funding from CSR partners, foundations, individuals is certainly important (as the organisation plans to move forward and grow) at this stage.”