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Tinkering is one of the latest terms that are being used in the field of global education. With the advent of Atal Tinkering Labs, the Indian education system is all poised to join the revolution that is aimed at converting young minds into thinkers and innovators. But what actually is Tinkering and how can it help in the development of students? Let us know:

What is Tinkering?

The word has a long history. Around 700 years ago there used to be wandering tinsmiths who repaired various household items that needed just a bit of small repair here and there. It was given the name tinkering that generally means a little bit of repair or preening in an unfocused way. Now how is it connected to the education industry of today’s world? For that, we need to enter into a child’s brain. It is whimsical, curious, inquisitive and, well, naughty! But the biggest thing to consider here is that it is not focused. A child, who is enjoying learning alphabets now with rapt attention, might see a butterfly flying around in the classroom and will start running behind it. Before you know the child’s attention towards learning alphabets is already broken and now he is all after the beautiful butterfly. Why blame the only butterfly? There are many other things that can affect child’s attention quite instantly, right from tintinnabulation of a bell to his best friend beckoning him.

What is Tinkering Lab in the context of education?

In the context of education, the tinkering lab refers to space where the youngsters can experiment with, learn, develop and conceptualize different scientific ideas. It is a lot similar to DIY method where the students are encouraged to apply the knowledge that they have gained in the classroom. It not only helps the students to learn the real life application and importance of the theories they have learned from their books but will also develop a natural affinity towards STEM. In fact, science is something to be “felt and experienced” rather than reading and learning. The Newton did not “learn” about gravity in books but “experienced” the apple falling upon his head that leads him to discover the law of gravity. In the same way, the Archimedes law was discovered when the mathematician was taking a bath and observed that sitting inside a bathtub resulted in the displacement of water, something that eventually led to Archimedes law. So, if the students are offered the ideal ambiance and tools for practically experiencing the theories they learned in the classroom, they would also be encouraged to dig deeper and innovate something new. In fact, if we take a look at most of the scientific or engineering innovations, we would find that an innovation happens when a few different theories are offered a blended together in a meaningful, focused way. It is what exactly happens in a Tinkering Lab where the students can not only practically experiment with the knowledge they have gained in the classroom but can also try to reshape the theories and see the altered results.

The Tinkering Labs not only have a proper set of equipment to facilitate experimentation but also a perfect peaceful ambiance and the company of peers with the same interests that further speeds up the learning process and invites more attention. Besides there are guides and lab assistants to ensure the safety of the students, avoid mishandling of tools and equipment and more importantly to answer the “hows, whats and whys” of students. Besides, they also offer a well-formulated initial phase of experimentation or tinkering that would then lead the students to learn, conceptualize and innovate on their own. Tinkering has already revolutionized the education structure of many developed nations with positive effects and now India is all poised to take the advantage of Tinkering labs.

What is Atal Tinkering Laboratories (ATLs)?

In fact, the Atal Tinkering Laboratories (ATLs) is one of the schemes proposed under the flagship of Atal Innovation Mission (AIM). The other schemes under AIM are:

• Establishment of Tinkering Laboratories in eligible school

• Establishment of New Incubation Centers

• Improving present incubation center to meet the high standards of quality

Atal Innovation Mission’s objective is to establish 500 ATLs in eligible schools. A onetime financial of Rs. 10, 00,000 (1 million) will be provided by AIM towards the establishment of the ATLs in various Indian schools for classes VI-XII. Apart from that the schools will also be eligible for an aid of additional Rs.10,00,000 (1 million) towards operational costs of the ATLs making the entire financial support to amount 2 millions for each school that is selected. The main idea behind setting up of ATLs is encouraging the young students to understand STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) concepts in a practical and creative way using the specific tools and equipment. The approach is aimed at eliminating the limitations caused by monotonous classroom learning and using only textbooks as a reference without any exposure to a practical approach. The students would work with the specific tools and equipment to explore the practical relevance of STEM theories and concepts. In order to further encourage the children to exhibit their acquired talent, the timely competitions will also be held where students can exhibit their skills and talent in the form of various relevant projects.

As opposed to the textbook-module of learning that could limit the interest of many students because of its monotonous character, the ATL will offer a perfect ambiance for the students to practice their acquired knowledge and work with relevant tools that are specifically designed to exhibit the foster creativity. The ATL’s will encourage the young minds to actually combine the creativity and logic by offering them do-it-yourself kits that would contain the equipment related to robotics, electronics, science, 3D printers, sensors etc.

Any Government, private trusts or local body managed schools would be eligible to apply for ATLs. However, 25% of ATLs would be reserved for Government Managed schools

Why do we need Atal Tinkering labs in schools?

STEM is a group of subjects that could get quite monotonous if taught in a cubicle classroom with the help of textbooks. These subjects, because of their very structure, are complex and may also appear convoluted.

• The theories, principles, properties, theorems and various tenets presented by STEM may seem convoluted for many students. So, the generally take an easy way and simply mug up these things during examination time.

• No wonder many of the high-grade students are unable to remember even the basic STEM texts and reference they read in lower grades

• Because of the above 3 points, the foundation of STEM is quite weak in many students and over a period of time they are detached from the subject (s) due to limited loyalty

• One of the major challenges posed by traditional classroom learning (through textbooks) is that even the students that are able to join the relevant fields of engineering, science or mathematics are limited to professional requirements of the job rather than developing an innovative approach

• The lack of innovative approach in STEM subjects limits the candidates from taking full advantage of their potential

• While working with relevant tools and helpful ambiance, the students are able to learn the complex aspects of STEM subjects in a more direct and human way

• Engaging multiple senses for practically experiencing the concepts of STEM subjects help the students to retain the different aspects of the topics

• Do-It-yourself ambiance helps the students to develop a natural inclination towards “innovating” rather than sticking to the limitations of learned words

• The very structure of Tinkering labs allows the students to perfectly blend the left (logical) and right (creative)) brain. It helps the students to develop a natural “liking” towards their subjects.

Atal Tinkering Labs In a nutshell

Total Financial Help by the Government: Rs.20 Lacs (Rs. 10 Lacs for establishment and an equal amount towards maintenance of the same for next five years)

Who is Eligible: Schools (VI-XII) managed by Government. Local bodies or private trusts

Infrastructure: Ideally designed laboratories with relevant equipment and tools related to robotics, mathematics, science and 3D computers.

Objective: To foster interest towards STEM subjects by allowing the students to directly experience the concepts of science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

Benefits: The students would develop a more dedicated approach towards STEM subjects and would also be inclined towards innovation as the model fosters a DIY (Do It Yourself) approach under able supervision. The students would learn the real life relevance of STEM subjects and would also learn to associate various concepts and principles that would further broaden their horizons.

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