Design for Change: Empowering Kids to Shape the World
Adults often feel the need to educate children with the material of their own choosing. While we encourage classroom creativity in in the forms of painting and writing stories, we rarely push kids to apply their insight and vision to the workings of the world at large. Luckily, Design for Change is working to turn traditional teaching approaches on their heads. As their website says, “Design for Change equips children with the tools to be aware of the world around them, believe that they play a role in shaping that world, and take action toward a more desirable, sustainable future.”
Design for Change works tirelessly to empower young generations, encouraging them to embrace an “I can” philosophy. The nonprofit says it shares “a simple four-step design process of Feel-Imagine-Do-Share, which develops the values of empathy, ethics, engagement, and elevation.” It’s a fun way to make creativity both practical and educational while enabling children to take a closer look at their communities.
The organization’s founder, Kiran Bir Sethi, explains that “Design for Change was born out of the conviction that children are not helpless, the optimism that change is possible, and the belief that they can drive it.” Design for Change started in India in 2009 but has quickly become a global institution. Children from any country in the world can upload and share their stories and projects, allowing them to learn about other cultures and find some common ground with their international peers.
One group’s clever project outlined a solution for improving a school bathroom without a roof. Five children from Tamil Nadu got together and decided to fix the problem by making their own roof out of plastic bottles. Thanks to their efforts, the bathroom is now waterproof and far more comfortable to use. Plus, the kids found a creative way to use discarded plastic! Talk about a win-win.
The WOW Project in Singapore took on another issue close to students’ hearts. It all started when a group of children realized that their school’s garbage chutes were emitting a terrible stench. They studied the problem and realized that food scraps were being mixed in with the recyclables. After brainstorming and doing a bit of research, they decided to start an aerobic compost system to more efficiently dispose of food waste and eliminate the unpleasant odor. To make their project even more sustainable, the kids launched a school-wide recycling and reuse program.
Thanks to their composting efforts, the kids were able to start a school garden and sell its produce to their community. Soon after, they expanded their reach by getting their parents and families involved and teaching kindergarten students how to recycle. Eventually, the Singapore Environment Council spread information about the WOW Project to 200 neighboring schools. Since then, the project has been shared all over social media and covered by several news outlets. Tetra Paks Singapore, the manufacturer of the plastic the kids were recycling at their school, even “asked if it could publish the compost-making information as an environment message in the notebooks that are made from recycled Tetra Paks.”
These are just a couple examples of how Design for Change is turning children into problem-solving superheroes and creating a better world.