Project #1594

Design-Driven Stories Teach Kids Skills

by Going to School Fund
The Bicycle Project
The Bicycle Project

One of our favorite stories is about a little girl who rides her bicycle to school and then stops. She stops because she grows older and instead of using a bicycle, she waits for the bus. The bus is often late, or does not come at all. It's full of people. Then she tries to take the local jeep. Same problem. And not many girls or women go anywhere really.


What girls and women are up against when it comes to going to school or going to work in India, is a challenge.


It's a challenge because there's not very much reliable public transport in rural India. Cities have metros, trains, buses, even taxis driven by women. Villages and smaller towns have lose transportation networks.


We love bicycles. We always have.


We love them because they are green, they don't pollute.


We love them even more because the Government of Bihar gives girls a stipend to buy a bicycle to go to high school, to be able to get to their Grade 9 school that is further away than the local primary school.


The stipend in many ways is an exceptional gift. The only problem is that it's not enough for a new bicycle, and second-hand bicycles are often clunky. Because of pot holes in roads, bicycle tyres often get punctures. And the only mechanic to fix them, is probably a man.


We delivered a story about riding a bicycle to school and women learning how to drive from a mobile driving school for girls, to 100,000 girls in Grade 9. The story came with a design-innovation puncture repair kit so girls could learn how to fix a puncture. And every story came with a skills challenge, a simple question that asked girls, how would you re-design your bicycle if you could?


This is what girls sent to us. And we're thrilled.


How would you re-design your bicycle to be all it can be? That’s the design-thinking challenge we set 100,000 girls in rural India. This is how they answered.


Design with a purpose. Design to solve the small and large problems you face on the way to school. You’re given a bicycle in Grade 9 Bihar, or rather a stipend from school, to buy a second-hand bicycle. While once-loved-things are always what they love and many of the bicycles go the distance, some, many get punctures along the way. There are holes in the road. The mechanics are all men. Oops.


Farah is curious, she’s 10, and she leads the story that introduced the challenge: why do so many girls cycle to school and when they are older, they stop moving about? Why do they decide to not wait longer for a missed bus. Why does the jeep never turn up when it’s supposed to. Why is everything powered by things that make smoke. The bicycle, thinks Farah, is quite marvelous. If only, it could do this, this and this.


Solar lights for night-time rides, reflectors, lower bars, places for water bottles, a puncture kit that wraps around you with fluorescent pink/orange, or the middle bar, a bell to let people know you’re coming and bling, just for fun. A license plate and a chain so your bicycle does not go missing.


Yes, there are so many ways we’d re-design our bicycles. Thanks for asking.

The Bicycle Project
The Bicycle Project
The Bicycle Project
The Bicycle Project
The Bicycle Project
The Bicycle Project
The Bicycle Project
The Bicycle Project
The Bicycle Project
The Bicycle Project
A scrapbook to teach skills
A scrapbook to teach skills

We've been working hard, for a while now, on a new idea. It's called The Children's Scrappy News Service. This is the first makeshift news service run by kids for kids taking on the world's biggest problems and solving them with design-thinking and scrappy skills. Every episode takes on a new problem to be solved such as: Why is there no place to play? How do your grandparents cross the road? Why do prices always go up and never come down? Do you know how to swim? Kids take on problems they face where they live and invite adults into the newsroom to chat about solutions. Kid anchors cut to kid field reporters who are on the streets finding solutions by spendng the afternoon with hero sustainable entrepreneurs. We love being scrappy. In fact we love it so much that we created a pilot for our TV show. Being scrappy means creating something out of nothing and changing the world in whatever way, whatever style you can.

Once we'd made our large-scale TV format we then wondered how we could ensure kids anywhere could start their own Children's Scrappy News Service. We thought about what moves us - design-thinking, solving problems, recycling, repurposing, problem-solving, upcycling, tinkering - and so we made five handmade scrapbooks out of once-loved-things. We used dried palm leaves for the cover of one, recycled cardboard for another, plastic woven shoe laces to tie everything together. Our marvelous design team made screen prints for the pages (because we were determined it should all be made by hand). Then came the bigger challenge. We'd made gorgeous books, but could we make 1,000 of each that were each orginal in their own way?

We made recycled scrappy backpacks for our kid reporters, five scrapbooks for every child, a team of 35 people spent 40 days in rural India building newsrooms with kids, learning how to find and research stories, write scripts, use cameras and finally make their own shows. 

It was an amazing journey. We had overhwelming demand from more kids than we could handle. Over 5,000 kids wanted to be a part of it. And even-more demand for our handmade books. We wanted to make recycling mean something. And we did. We made it mean scrappy news. Come visit us when you come to India. There'll be a Children's Scrappy Newsroom somewhere nearby and we'd love to invite you into the studio. 

Another story
Another story
More stories
More stories
Another story
Another story

Luna is naughty. She doesn’t care much for fancy clips that hold her hair together, she’d rather let them run wild with her as she solves some of the biggest problems the world faces. Luna’s sky is every colour you have seen and some colours that are only visible to her. Her world is a world of imagination and possibilities. She doesn’t give up. She doesn’t give in. She’s strong. She’s fierce. She’s full of love and kindness. She looks for all things new, and questions the old.

Luna traveled to 16 districts of Bihar all through July and August, and we were thrilled to see so much love for her! The Luna series is going into 261 schools and into the hands of thousands of girls in Grade 7. But none of this would be possible without the support of the 261 principles and 500+ teachers who spent their days with us, getting to know Luna and everything she stands for. 

Just like Luna, the trainings held for the teachers were different too. Aptly called ‘I Am Luna’, it gave teachers a chance to explore the adventurers hidden in their hearts and to see everything from a new perspective. They painted using flowers and grass and tea leaves, lit bulbs using potatoes, and sowed seeds to grow organic gardens! By the end of the second day, teachers couldn’t wait to take Luna into their classrooms.

Shweta, a teacher from KGBV Bhojpur, said, “Luna thinks differently. She’s so different from everyone else! If all the girls in KGBVs, or anywhere else, start thinking like this, the world will become an entirely new place.” While everyone loved Luna’s fierce spirit, they also saw value in the lessons the stories were teaching; talking about Luna's Garden (one of the books in the series), Raka Rani, a headmistress, said “We need kids who like gardens, and plants, and trees. Let them make a garden, fail at it or make it; but the most important thing is that they try it.”

We’re excited about Luna meeting thousands of young girls just like her!

Watch the Luna movies here:

Why Tanu wants you to carry an empty bag
Why Tanu wants you to carry an empty bag

School is about to begin again in Bihar, India, in 2,200 secondary government schools. It's 100 degrees. There's a single fan. But there are amazing stories of children going to school.

This is Tanu's story.

This is the story Tanu wanted us to tell you.

And so it begins.

Tanu always carried an empty bag. As she walked along the narrow road, she would look at the speck on the horizon and tell whoever was with her at the time “That broken home is mine.” Tanu was not afraid of broken things, she thought they were chances for people to do better. Her school was broken in many ways too, there were no toilets, no electricity, no place to play, a locked library… the list went on and on.

What baffled Tanu was that everyone’s solutions to broken things was to just throw those things away. The teachers told them to go for tuitions instead of fixing the school, her friends told her to throw plastic in the drain far away instead of finding an alternative, and her family told her not to be too adventurous and attract attention instead of telling everyone else that adventure is a necessity if we want to make things better. But nobody wanted to make things better, they just wanted the broken things to go away. 

Tanu’s theory was that everyone cared too much about what everyone else would say or think, they didn’t want to take initiative because they didn’t want to be judged. What if they did something and everyone else thought it was a silly idea? What if it didn’t work? What if everyone called them a failure? And so, Tanu decided to start taking initiative herself. 

The biggest problem Tanu saw was that there was plastic everywhere. A few months ago she had done the math - even if 50% of everyone in Patna carried their own bags to buy vegetables, it would mean 700,000 fewer bags being used on any one day. But when she spoke to people about her idea, everyone said no. “Walk around with an empty bag? Do you know how silly I will look?” “I pay the vegetable seller to give me what I need, why should I have to carry my own things?” Deciding to not give up, Tanu started going out with the biggest empty bag she could find. A bag so big that everyone would notice it. Everywhere she went, she carried The Big Empty Bag. And every time someone asked her why, she told them about her math. She told them if everyone used one less bag, maybe the grass would be green again.

Not everyone has started using The Big Empty Bag yet, but some have. And every time Tanu meets someone who asks her why she carries the bag, she tells them the same thing: “Be good. Don’t wait for everything to come in the market so that you can buy it. Create it on your own, and be resourceful. If there is a problem, find a way to fix it. The powerful idea of all of our brains is to serve, it doesn’t matter if the people you serve are from villages or cities or if they would be able to pay you for your service. It doesn’t matter if what you do is something huge or a tiny deed. If you are right, it doesn’t matter what the world thinks about you. Carry an empty bag.‘‘


Sudha is 15 and she goes to school in Bihar, she wrote a letter to her brother Ravi, to tell him about how a story inspired her to start a school under a tree for other children. Dear Ravi, I hope you are studying well. I am waiting for you to come back and teach me how to use a computer. Can I learn how to use one even if we don't have one? Yesterday, our teacher read a very moving story about a girl named Mishti called My Second Hand Shoes. Not everyone owns shoes. Some people are rich and they buy a new pair after wearing a pair for a few days. After reading the story, I decided that I wanted to help children just like Mishti. I don't know who Mishti is. I don't know if I will get to meet her. But I want to do something for people. But what? Just like how you have gone to Punjab to learn computer skills, I am learning new skills at school too - how to do something well, how to identify something you have a passion/talent for and how to do things on time. My skill is to teach children. Our teacher, Rajeev, is very encouraging. He asked us to make something new out of old, unused materials. He gave several examples in class. But I wasn't able to come up with something original. What is old that can be used again? And how can it be used to help people? Then I connected the dots and discovered what I must do for my project! 'I get immense pleasure in teaching kids. If I teach children who are unable to go to school in our village or children who do not get good education in the schools they already go to, then that is an art. That means creating something new with children. This is such a great opportunity! At first, I just wrote down my idea and submitted it to my teacher, but then I decided to make it real. I called 10 children - the youngest one is 6, the oldest is 11.' After my board exams, I will build a room near our house and the fields which will be used to teach kids at a fixed time, and the classes will be more regular. Wouldn't that be a beautiful place to study? That would be just like my dream school. My dream school would be in our village, amidst the orchards and fields. Children would study, in the middle of magical natural beauty. Gardens, orchards, rivers, ponds and pools would surround the place. When they study geography or about plants, they will understand better looking at the green. It will cost Rs 50,000 to build the room. Father says he will get the room built for me. He is very proud of me. He says that there is no value of money these days. One person has it today, another will have it tomorrow. So my school will be a free school. He says that if my students become SP or DM in the future, he will be very happy. I want to make him happy. With the money that Pita ji gives me, I will buy pens and notebooks for other kids as well. Some people use a few pages and throw their notebooks in the garbage or sell them to the thelawaalas (recycling). When the thela crosses our house, I pick the ones that have only a few used pages. I can save these for my students. Right now, I use these notebooks to do my rough work after coaching classes. I have to study hard and do well in my exams. Since I want to become a teacher when I grow up, I keep asking questions to my teachers right now in order to plan ahead. You always teach me to plan ahead. I will work hard and when I do that Mum and Dad will be willing to teach me further. Looking at me, other people in the village will also encourage their children to study. I will work hard and become an Udyami (entrepreneur) in the future. Do you know what an 'Udyami' is? An Udyami is (defined as) a business person in text books. According to the Hindi meaning, 'Udyami' is 'hard-working' like farmers or labourers. But I believe that an 'Udyami' is someone who has courage, they don't think whether a task entails profit or loss, they do it fearlessly, anyway. And then they are also able to face the outcome.' I believe that the universe is made of opposites. There is night because there is day. Happiness is followed by sorrow. Similarly, initially in any big task, there will be losses, however, later on good things will come too. No one has to lead a life without education. No one must be illiterate. Girls, who can't go far to study, can come to my home, my school. The next time you visit home, you can take a computer class with my students! Though, right now, I am focussing on teaching alphabets. But they will get there. Lots of love (Wish me luck for my board exams), Sudha


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Organization Information

Going to School Fund

Location: New Delhi - India
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Lisa Heydlauff
New Delhi, India
$15,265 raised of $75,000 goal
341 donations
$59,735 to go
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