Project #1594

Design-Driven Stories Teach Kids Skills

by Going to School Fund

Design-thinking is a wonderful set of words. It's human-centered design, designing with and for kids, so that it reaches them, so that when the story arrives, it connects with their emotions, their potential, their innate ability to change their lives and the world around them. We've been design-thinking since 2003 when Going to School in India began. We just didn't know it had a name. 2015 has been a year of completely creating anew. We received a report on our teacher training that said it was good, but could we do better? We responded to the challenge by doing what we know best - we created all new stories. With teachers as customers, creators, co-creators and collaborators we dropped the words 'teacher-training' and found a new voice: The Sound & Light Show. As you read this, this show has been on the road, to 10 districts in Bihar, India, sometimes playing in four locations at one time. It's a three-screen adventure, three laptops, movies and images surrounding you - screens made of bamboo and white cotton (our Indian invention at work - it was too expensive to buy and move ready made screens). We did this in 5 weeks - the redesign that is, and it's been playing now for 10 weeks. And the good news is very good. We've had 100% attendance from teachers in far-flung districts, words have spread like wild fire from teacher to teacher: there are movies, there's music, leaf plates serve lunch, feedback after every session and a chance to teach, to re-create and co-create. We've never had 100% attendance. I think we'll call this this Sound & Light show from now on.


Then, as the show makes it's way through Bihar and Jharkhand, the Delhi teams have been creating new skills stories. We have our all-star stories that teachers and kids love: Bijali brings the carnival to her village, Seher's Bolt of Lightening business, My Secondhand shoes. We're thankful they are all-star-stories. But even those things we love we have to remake a new - so new kids and new teachers recognize stories that reflect their lives in this changing world in which we live. There are six new stories. Kids can now open bank accounts in India - so there's a story about how to make that happen. A second story about a young woman with a bicycle repair shop and how she figures out the right price, just like prices are set in giant vegetable markets and stock markets. There's a story about taking a risk - just daring to speak up and do what you dream. Another about how a coin, one rupee, travels from you to me, adding and losing value, connecting us all. Climate change. Sustainability. Entrepreneurial skills. Getting started.


The Sound & Light show Part 2 will role out again in early December with six new stories. Come on down, this is what design-thinking is in India.


At Going to School, stories are the tools to learn. Everything we know, learn or share is through the medium of stories, either read or narrated orally. Going by the rate of unemployment, the future working generation are currently in school without the right set of skills to either get a job or create a job for themselves.  We are creating a set of design driven stories that each teach a set of entrepreneurial skills like making a budget, how to make strong social connections, learning how to negotiate, take a risk, innovate etc. We derive inspiration from real life success stories of entrepreneurs who take risks, identify problems and solve it by starting an enterprise.  

Our story books are read by more than 1, 30,000 kids in Secondary Government schools across Bihar & Jharkhand. Last year we printed one book for each child so that they can own it, take it home and read it with their friends & family whenever they want to. This is our third year in Bihar, and as we are just around the corner with this year’s annual report, s data shows that kids have announced their verdict- They love the Be! Books and the amazing way each book has been designed differently from them.  Children also loved playing the games and skills challenges that come as part of a complete book. This year, we have come up with five completely new story books that teach a universe full of skills, and with each book, there is one exciting new game that is followed up with an adventurous skills challenge.  We would like to share our new releases of summer 2015 with you.

Book 1: The Indian Train Journey: A Postcard Adventure. This book introduces the concept of entrepreneurs, enterprises and the different skills they have. The story revolves around the postcards exchanged between a brother and a sister. The brother meets new entrepreneurs in his train journey and writes back inspiring stories about them and their skills to his sister.

Book 2: The Book of Leaves. This book is based on a theme of Solution for Pollution and how the solution of using leaf plates is universal. The story starts with Archana, a real life entrepreneur who makes Areca leaf plates in Karnataka and how the same leaf plates are then made by our real life entrepreneur, Jitesh who lives in Bihar but makes leaf plates out of Sal leaves locally available to him. It focuses on the power of using local resources and being environmental friendly.

Book 3: From here to there, women drivers are everywhere. The book is based on how a young girl stops driving as she grows older, because she sees no role models, or other women drivers. However, in her search, she finds a large number of women drivers who drive autos, bikes, cars, and even tractors breaking the stereotype. This book gives an inspiration to women and young girls who ride cycles and bikes but eventually stop due to societal pressures. In a world where there are women pilots, astronauts, train drivers, tractor drivers, young girls should never stop riding their cycles.

Book4: Plan Bee is based on real life entrepreneur Neelakantesh who starts his own beekeeping enterprise. The story presents a solution to the problem of depleting nature of our farms due to the use of harmful toxic chemicals. The benefits of honey bees that help in increase the productivity of the farms as well as provide organic honey. This story introduces the concept of beekeeping enterprises that can help us save the farms.

Book5: Seher’s bolt of lightning. The book focuses on finding a solution to the problem of no electricity and how the protagonist does extensive market research before starting her own solar light enterprise. During her market research, she also meets our real life entrepreneur, Rita, who runs her own solar enterprise in Bihar.

With every skills book, a game was designed to teach a consecutive skill.

The Perfect Match Game that teaches how an entrepreneur looks at a demand and solves it for his customers by the perfect enterprise. With four set of shuffled cards- Demand, Supply, Enterprise and Customers, kids flip through, discover, and find out the perfect match for each demand.

The Cash Flow Game teaches children that in an enterprise, there are many odd situations that come up every day or every month. It is essential to keep a track of every transaction, money that was earned and money that was spent in a statement. This game comes with a board and a deck of cards with different situations where the player decides which situation to go with- to make the payment or incur the loss in the following months.

Social Connection Game teaches the importance of social connections and how we can connect to anyone through simply 5 people, including you. The concept is based on the theory of six degrees of separation which states we can connect to anyone in the world with the help of six people, including you. Children also add the place where they met a particular connection and the skill they used to reach the next connection.

The Marketing Game teaches children to choose between available options and make their best marketing strategy for their enterprise. The board game lets two players compete towards a better marketing strategy which runs against a time frame of 1 minute in each round.

The Business Plan Game teaches children how to make their own business plan by choosing the best options from a deck of cards for nine different categories that include which enterprise, what problem it solves, the risks, the customers, the skills etc.

Our brand new five books are also available to read online on our digital library as well as on our new book app Skool, which can be downloaded from the Google Play Store.


We believe in design driven stories and innovation. Every year, we add a new element, twist, new set of entrepreneurial skills, stories to our Be! Schools Program.  Before our skills stories reach 130,000 children in Government schools, these stories and games are first shared with their teachers. A massive teacher training workshop begins at the month of June across multiple districts of Bihar. Last year we took them on a journey of stories. We used movies, short clips as well as organised mock storytelling experiences for the participants.

This year 2015, we have geared up to an exciting new chapter. Lights were turned off, entry passes were collected and everyone took to their seats wondering what was about to start. This time we shared our stories through a grand sound, art and light show.

We created an experience as per the theme of our stories. The first five new stories for the year were told with the use of visual and sound effects. The first book was ‘The Indian Train Journey: A Postcard Adventure’.  The session was designed to make one feel as if they were on the train along with our protagonist, the postcards that came to her, the view it showed etc.  Post the story, they played a game called perfect match where they had to match a demand to a supply, an enterprise and also find their corresponding customers.

The second story was, ‘The Book of Leaves’ which was along the theme Solution to Pollution. The video showed how the pollution takes a toll on us and the time it takes to decompose. A banana peel would take two weeks, a paper bag would take 4 months but a plastic bag would take millions and millions of years. Post the video, we brought in alternate options to treat garbage at our homes and how we should segregate them. We also started clay pot compost which if started on a large scale, can be a prospective enterprise. Participants shared their ideas to solve pollution and how we can together bring a change. Post the story, participants played a game that taught them about cash flow. As part of their skills challenge, they were given a big desk of resources using which they made something useful that could solve a problem.

The third story was, ‘From here to there, women drivers are everywhere’. The video showed a large number of women drivers who drive autos, bikes, cars, and even tractors breaking the stereotype. This book gives an inspiration to women and young girls who ride cycles and bikes but eventually stop due to societal pressures. In a world where there are women pilots, astronauts, train drivers, tractor drivers, young girls should never stop riding their cycles. Post the video, teachers played a game which shows how we can use the power of social connections and the theory of six degrees of separation. They came up with fun, fictional stories to use their six cards or connections to reach to the person they want to meet. As part of their skills challenge, participants were given a blueprint of a cycle. While some transformed it to a cycle that could become a boat, somebody added a more comfortable seat. There was one cycle with a solar mobile phone-charging device. This activity brought out many ideas for innovation based on necessities they see around them, everywhere.

The fourth story was ‘Plan Bee’ which showed the depleting nature of our farms due to the use of harmful toxic chemicals. The benefits of honey bees that help in increase the productivity of the farms as well as provide organic honey. This story introduced to the concept of beekeeping enterprises that can help us save the farms. Participants made a marketing strategy as part of their skills challenge to market this concept to the farmers through slogans, catchy radio scripts, posters, pamphlets etc.

The fifth story was ‘Seher’s bolt of lightning’. The video showed how often when the power cuts, the helplessness people go through in the dark. The moment the fan starts again, the relief we get and the amount of ease having electricity brings to our lives.  The concept of using natural and renewable solar energy was introduced in this story. Participants played a game where made their own business plans to start an enterprise that would solve a problem in the community.

We ended the workshop with a fun photo shoot which had props from the stories we read about- a train, honey bees on sunflowers, a tractor. Teachers loved the concept of visual and sound show and their eyes were glued to the screens. They only wished if it went longer and never stopped. It gave them a broader sense of where the story originates from, what is the bigger problem the story is addressing to and how there are many more solutions other than the ones we are discussing in the stories.  The Art, Light and Sound Show was a huge success and we can’t wait to share it with hundreds of other teachers across Bihar. 

Seher's bolt of lightening
Plan Bee
Plan Bee
From here to there, women drivers are everywhere
From here to there, women drivers are everywhere
The Indian Train Journey: A Postcard Adventure
The Indian Train Journey: A Postcard Adventure
The book of leaves
The book of leaves

In 2014, Going to School added a new chapter to the program- Going to School in Jharkhand.

Teachers loved the books and incorporated into their school routine immediately. Children were excited about each story, each game and most importantly, they were up for any skills challenge!

Girls read the story about Aditi who trains for a marathon and makes a plan to eat well, sleep well and be well. Strangely (because it is a story) as Aditi runs through the forest every morning, she meets amazing people who always seem to have good advice for staying healthy. After they read the story, then the skills challenge begins! We challenge children to make a plan for five days of what they eat, when they rest and what they do to be healthy. Once they’ve drawn their plan, we ask kids to interview a person where they live, who they think is the healthiest person they know. 

While children are getting ready to read new stories that we’ve designed for them for this year, we are having a fabulous time looking at girls’ skills challenge projects from rural Jharkhand. Young girls & boys from many school across Jharkhand have completed their skills challenges and have submitted us super skills projects.

This year, Going to School is creating five new, magical design-driven story book for children. The stories are inspired from real life hero entrepreneurs, inspirational women drivers, entrepreneurs who identify and solve problems for everyone in their communities. Stories are the new tools to learn, and children are the most excited to complete the skills challenges. We are having a great time designing super stories and we can't wait to share them with everyone. Meanwhile, our all-paper-story-company released an APP. It's called SKOOL. Here you can download every one of our stories you ever wanted to.

Read us online at

While we give the last touches to our brand new stories, take a look at the amazing projects children have made this year & a sneak peek to our new story books.

Women drivers are amazing
Women drivers are amazing
Neelakantesh, the bee whisperer
Neelakantesh, the bee whisperer
Bees don
Bees don't sting, they help increase the yield
From here to there, women drivers are everywhere
From here to there, women drivers are everywhere



People must understand that girls should be allowed to play just like boys. Games have to be part of school, Im going to make sure games become part of our timetable again. Neeru, age 15

Bettiah, West Champaran, 3.22 pm

Neeru and her friends can’t wait for the last bell to ring. Their legs are stiff from sitting in the same position for over two hours. Neeru has been looking at the last postcard her brother sent her. It’s a photograph of him playing football with his friends at his boarding school. She looks at field outside her classroom. Their school had a beautiful field within its compound but grass and weeds had grown making it impossible to play. The shed in which all the games equipment was stored was home to cobwebs and creepy-crawlies. The footballs were punctured and the cricket bats chipped and broken.

The field had once held two football nets and a cricket pitch but ever since the games teacher left there was no one to teach games. Since they were in a girls’school, they could only have a female games teacher. There were no applicationsfrom women games teachers.

Neeru thought that no one realized how important games was. Playing was as important as studying, it made you strong. Neeru felt free when she used to run, like she was flying.

The last bell of the day rang cutting into Neeru’s thoughts. She passed the boys playing their usual game of cricket on the streets. For as long as she could remember they’d always played cricket just there. But today, she stopped and watched. None of them wore shoes. They had no equipment. Their cricket bat was a broad stick, their ball was a chewed tennis ball and their wicket was a three legged chair. If the ball hit a tree stump you were awarded four runs, if it broke a window, you got six runs. They did not have an umpire or a coach. They created, broke and judged their own rules. They were very happy.

Neeru realized she had spent six months being sad about a problem instead of solving it.

First, she would speak to the gardener and ask him to mow the school lawns. She did not know who the gardener was, she had to find him. Then she would speak to her friends and together they would take an appointment with the principal and request her to allow them to play after school hours. Once they start playing after school hours, she was hoping that the principal would begin to notice how good they were and then the next step would be to speak to her about including games in their curriculum next year. Yes, she would make something out of nothing, just like the boys playing cricket.

Neeru turned back to see the ball sailing through the air and crashing into someone’s window shortly followed by jubilant cries from the winning team. Maybe she would become games teacher one day. There were doctors in the town, but no games teacher and that was who her school needed most right now, and who girls would need later to be able to play.

When asked what would you like to learn at school that you don’t yet, 59% of girls said overwhelmingly: NCC games. Games win. The World Economic Forum cites a healthy diet + exercise as one of the 10 skills you should leave high school with be work-ready, knowing how to be healthy, exercise and eat properly is imperative to have enough energy to work.

When we asked girls how they spent their time after school, 78% said studying [though we know realistically with transport and family demands they don’t have this much time], 15% said household work [while only 9% of boys said they help at home] and playing, sports, only received 5% for girls, and 9% for boys.

Giving girls space and time to play at school is imperative - when you exercise your body you open your mind, and in organized sports you learn other skills - team work, leadership, communication and negotiation - imperative life skills. Longer term, if there is NCC games in your school and you complete the tasks to receive a certificate, you get extra marks when you are applying to be a police officer, in the railways, army or police force.

Neeru is inquisitive, a problem-solver and is taking initiative to bring games to her school for girls. Neeru identified that her social connections can help her achieve her goal. 97% of girls in our program are curious about new things that can happen in and around them and once they are curious, the next step is finding out how to make that ‘new idea’a reality in your school.


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Organization Information

Going to School Fund

Location: New Delhi - India
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Lisa Heydlauff
New Delhi, India
$15,030 raised of $75,000 goal
340 donations
$59,970 to go
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