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What’s the best way to ignite #innovative, out-of-the-box thinking with someone? Give her a problem that affects her deeply. At our recent Maker Academy with the teachers of Gandhi Bal Mandir High School in Mumbai, the participants had to find viable solutions to transport problems. In a burgeoning, populous city like Mumbai, transport and commuting are a universal challenge. As they are for those living in the large, but poorly connected, tracts of rural India.

The teachers, who began the session by watching a video of an overcrowded, shockingly-inadequate rural transport system, came up with wide-ranging solutions. From a ‘zoned’ Smart City, where residential, commercial and educational hubs were both separated and sourced by a common highway, to buses tagged with indicators that would only allow a fixed number of people to ride, to flyovers that would connect remote villages to medical enclaves. The participants then had to create prototypes of these solutions.

The learnings flowed hard and fast. Many teachers said their biggest takeaway from Maker Academy was the need to create hands-on lessons for their students. “Teaching history, geography and Marathi can be quite boring, but I’m going to try and make it more project-based now,” said one teacher. Another said she would create teaching aids for specific topics to make sure every one of her students (even the ‘backbenchers’) participates. “Students have very short attention spans,” added a teacher. “But with making in the classroom, they can decide what and how they want to learn.” A take-charge classroom is definitely an engaged classroom.