Welcome aboard the mobile learning space for curious little minds, which is part of the AWS InCommunities STEAM programme. This mini bus known as the “Mobile Think Big Space” is one that hosts STEAM classes for children from underprivileged sections who study in the government schools run by Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC).
The STEAM lab is an innovative space where young minds are given a free reign to experiment, ideate, learn and generally potter about with science tools, electronic gadgets and digital devices. Says young Raina Parveen, a Class 7 student from a government school in Navi Mumbai, “We see videos on projectors, which helps us experiment with innovative ideas and other fun learning activities.” The Think Big Space has fired the imagination of many young minds like her’s, continuing to help children like Raina learn and innovate even during the lockdown period.
Learning during lockdown
Before the lockdown, the Think Big STEAM programme had reached out to 1,665 students from nine schools in Navi Mumbai; while the Mobile Think Big Space offered its learning lab to 1,650 students from three schools in the area. What is commendable, however, is that both the programme and platform continued to reach out to underserved students during the lockdown months from April 2020 to January 2021. This period saw the STEAM programme reaching out to 1,860 students from 10 schools in Navi Mumbai, and the Think Big Space to 620 students from three schools in the region.
While the bus had to be stopped during the pandemic, virtual learning continued so that the children could constantly learn and innovate.
“The Amazon Think Big Space programme has definitely helped our school to engage more and more students through online education during the lockdown....I can see the change in our students, they are interacting more, working on projects and participating in various competitions.””
Says Kalpana Gosavi, Principal of NMMC School no. 46, “The Amazon Think Big Space programme has definitely helped our school to engage more and more students through online education during the lockdown. It has also motivated our teachers to initiate online sessions as they were hesitant before the STEAM lab intervention. In such a short duration, I can see the change in our students, they are interacting more, working on projects and participating in various competitions.”
Little Sumit, a Navi Mumbai government school student says, “We developed a project for switching on the lights in our homes through a mobile device.” Imagine achieving so much during the year of the lockdown. Says Mrs. Sarkate, the mother of young Achal, a Class 8 student of NMMC School no. 22, “Amazon’s programme is really good. Even though schools were closed, my daughter utilised her time by exploring new things on the internet and incorporating her learnings in her science project.”
Children like Achal and Sumit benefitted from the virtual learning opportunities brought to them by the AWS Think Big Space.
Virtual learning opportunities
“Earlier I had no access to any smart device so I was worried about my studies. I used to ask my uncle for his phone, but since he is busy at work all day, I used to get access for a very limited time. After receiving the tablet from Amazon, I attend online sessions regularly,” shares Tejas Gayke, a student of NMMC School no. 22.
During the lockdown, the STEAM programme team got in touch with the local NMMC authority and sought their help in connecting students virtually. Online WhatsApp groups were initiated in the month of April 2020. To engage students and ensure that they connect virtually, a virtual summer camp was initiated. Within a few months, the outreach increased and students were engaged in online STEAM-based activities with materials easily available in their homes. This was supported by AWS by providing data pack recharge to over 1,000 students throughout the period to ensure children stayed connected in virtual learning sessions conducted by team members and school teachers.
“We had support from AWS and Learning Links Foundation for students to learn online. Amazon had also organized an innovative Virtual Science Carnival this year where students shared their projects. I am thankful to AWS for bringing students who don’t have any resources, into the mainstream of online education.””
In November 2020, Amazon donated 436 tablets to ensure that the children did not face a lockdown on learning from the lack of access to technology. Over 500 students are currently benefitting from these tablets. They are not only helping the students to learn, but also their siblings and neighbourhood friends.
“Since I received the tablet, I am able to join online sessions and I complete my homework regularly. I learn many new things while using the tablet. It is also helping my younger sister to join her online school sessions. We are very happy,” shares Ganesh Sajjan, a student of NMMC School no. 53.
According to Ms. Mithila Bhosale, school teacher at NMMC School no. 18, “The Amazon STEAM lab has helped our students to gain practical knowledge so that they prepare beautiful projects on community problems. Before the pandemic, our students used to participate in various events, but when schools were closed, they didn’t have a platform. Virtual Science Carnival has given them that platform, where we have worked closely with Amazon’s STEAM instructors to get maximum participation of our students.”
Amazon’s innovation on wheels is running again
The happy news is that the STEAM lab bus is travelling once more. AWS supports ten STEAM labs in NMMC government schools. These are a hub of electronic devices, 3D printers, Amazon Kindles, Amazon Echo devices and plenty of tools and gadgets for children to tinker with. The AWS STEAM programme encourages young students to learn science, math, electronics, robotics, computer science and AI through digital literacy and tinkering sessions.
The programme is aligned with the Government of India’s vision of promoting and nurturing an Innovative India as well as with AWS InCommunities’ goal of developing a tech workforce for the future.
As of January 2021, the programme had connected over 2,250 students from 10 schools in Navi Mumbai. Shares Mr. Yogesh Kaduskar, Deputy Commissioner, NMMC, “We have been connected with AWS and LLF since 2018. Efforts have been made to give practical STEAM education to our students, apart from learning through textbooks. When our schools were closed due to the pandemic, learning did not stop. We had support from AWS and LLF for students to learn online. Amazon had also organized an innovative Virtual Science Carnival this year where students shared their projects. I am thankful to AWS for bringing students who don’t have any resources, into the mainstream of online education.”