Project #1594

Design-Driven Stories Teach Kids Skills

by Going to School Fund

What’s happening in Be! Schools in Bihar

We’ve trained teachers, books are delivered to schools, children are learning a skill every week, they are creating stunning skills projects & winning hero badges for excellence! 


Going to School’s second academic year in Bihar began with reaching our first milestone: we completed teacher training sessions across nine districts (Patna, Gaya, Nalanda, Bhojpur, Siwan, Saran, West Champaran, East Champaran and Vaishali) by July 2013, so all teachers were trained before the school year began. This meant that Be! Schools could begin in the first weeks of school reopening after the summer holidays.trained before the school year began. 


Number of schools in the program 871

Number of teachers trained 1,742

Number of head teachers (Principals) trained 632

Total number of teachers trained 2,372


In 2013-14, 87,000 children will read 21 design-driven skills stories and create projects over the weekend, for one academic year in Bihar, India. After the first year, we received excellent insight from teachers, children and trainers about what needed to change in our stories, projects and teacher training. In response, we made our stories shorter so that they could be read in a two hour session, we re-wrote children’s activities so each step was clear and we included local stories in the skills books, for instance, in My Family Tree, a child told us that his grandfather taught local young people martial arts so they would learn about focus and perhaps stop causing trouble. You’ll see new stories within our first generation stories this year, and six new skills stories have been introduced to the program. We changed the order of the skills, to move from simple to more challenging and, we published the best children’s art projects from last year in the stories to encourage children this year to do even better. Teachers and our team were keen that children should receive recognition for their projects, so we developed 16 iconic skills badges that five children in every school can win each week for exceptional projects that show they learned the skill. Once children have collected five badges, we’ve delivered Skills Hero Backpacks for ‘super skills heroes’. And for the best performing teachers, we built and delivered on Teacher’s Day, 12 Little Free Libraries for the 12 highest performing teachers from last year. Be! Books will now be housed in classrooms, and without locks on the door, available for children at anytime they’d like to read the stories.

We’re into our second year with our partnership with the Government of Bihar and we’re excited about the extension of our MOU until 2017 to complete a five year commitment. As we understood the way the Government school system functions, we decided to experiment with technology that would help us monitor and evaluate our programme, equipping each of our team members with a mobile phone to log the number of projects completed by children every time they visit a school. This has proved to be exceptional in terms of on-time monitoring and we’re able to take swift action reporting to Government about schools’ progress or the need to encourage teachers to work just that little bit harder. Addressing how the program can be sustained within the Government system, we are exploring associations between our skills content and the mainstream curriculum and continue to meet and plan with the Government as to how this program can be taken to scale, and sustained within the system. With so many developments to our programme, we are excited to see our plans, ideas and efforts in action and continue to understand the impact of our new approaches. To crystallise and communicate what we know, we have brought together an in-house qualitative research team who constantly evaluates children’s skills projects, the skills they learn, efficacy of our content and games, and based on what they’re learning, develop new skills content and share public skills reports. The academic year for 2013 has started so well, yet we know, there is still so much more to do.

“Every child has talent. I know its hidden inside of them. But how do I tap each child’s

potential? I tried, but I just couldn’t seem to make it happen. Now, through Be! Stories I’ve found a way to help children discover the skills hidden inside of them.”

Prerna Kumari, teacher, Be! Schools, Sarvodaya High School, Nalanda District, Bihar




Teachers began the Be! programme in their classrooms in July. Over the last three months most of the participating schools completed reading the first six books and playing their skill activities. One school in Siwan distract completed reading 10 books! Here is a look at some of the skills projects that our field officers have been grading.


Julie Kumari of D.P. Rai Higher Secondary School in Nalanda made this adorable social network chart on a page from her notebook. All she had was one black colour pen and her imagination and creativity ran wild. She included her family, her friends and neighbours and even what looked like her dog in her expanding social network. We don’t ask for big chart papers and sketch pens. Understanding of the skill and creativity to communicate that understanding is a full score.





This neatly made Family Tree project is by Abhishikha Sarshaf of Raj Sampochit Kanya Uchh Vidyalaya, Betiya. She has written that her father is a driver who started his work out of sheer necessity to earn for his family. However, he does not enjoy his work

because he does not get any free time to spend with his family.






Anita Kumari from Raj Sampochit Kanya Uchh Vidyalaya, Betiya created a masterpiece without colours. Using only pencil, she shaded a beautiful family tree with each family member flowing into a branch. She has written about her hero, her uncle who sells fruit on a pushcart to support his family.





Kiran Kumari from Raj Sampochit Kanya Uchh Vidyalaya, Betiya, went into the details of every leaf of her family tree. She wrote about her father who is a electricity meter-reader. He enjoys his work because he gets to visit people in their houses, meet different kinds of people and make new friends.





Naveen Kumar showed that girls were not alone when it came to producing project masterpeices. He created an intricate border for his project with a pen, and added beautiful artwork, parrots and flowers to his super family tree. 




Last year we received outstanding skills projects from children in Bihar. We did not expect such beautiful work – understanding of skills, their application and their presentation. This year we decided to reward not only the best performing children from last year, but also introduce immediate rewards so kids knew they had done really well. We began with Hero Badges. 16 iconic designed collectable badges. The children with the best  project after completing each skills activity will receive the Hero Badge for that book. Once each child has collected five Hero Badges they will receive a red or purple hero backpack. But the ‘prettiest of them all’ are Little Free Libraries – beautiful handmade structures, with no locks, made from old wood by carpenters in villages in Uttar Pradesh. The Little Free Libraries was given to 12 best performing teachers from last year on Teachers’ Day. The libraries will be kept in classrooms and the books inside them will be easily accessible by all children.

The Little Free Library movie on You Tube :



The girls of Dhaneshwari Girls Highr School in Patna couldn’t wait to stack up their old and new books inside their Little Library.




16 HERO Badges - one for each book. You have slippers and cows, pickle labels and maps. They’re amazing. You collect 10 and do you know what happens then? You get a smart back-pack to pin your colourful badges on to your bag!

Harshita Kumari
Harshita Kumari

Year 2 of Be! Schools is just about to begin. We've trained 2,000 teachers across 1,000 schools to use the dynamic entrepreneurial skills stories with children. As I write this, 5,000 sets of 21 books are on their way to Bihar. The monsoon is still washing away roads, which makes delivery to schools in deep rural India very hard work. When trucks can't go all the way, our team jumps out and walks carrying the heavy books to ensure they'll reach children in school. We're excited about Year 2. We have nine new skills stories: Goal Goa (ethics & teamwork), Majid Makes Jam (Be resourceful), Madhur's Book of Memories (Documenting information), Asha makes a budget (making a budget), Risky Business (take a risk!), The Magician's Secret (Tolerance for Ambiguity), Short Circuit (Financial Literacy), Who will you choose? (how to crack a job interview) & It's not scary it's just paper (register your business). And we've made changes to our last year's content that's really popular with children, My Family Tree & Bijali Brings the Carnival to her village, to ensure the stories reflect what children have told us. We've also created five new board games including one to make a business plan!

It's time to go to school in Bihar, India again.

Thank you for your gift to send beautiful design-driven skills stories to children in school.

We're sharing with you postcards from children in Bihar.

Kundan Kumar
Kundan Kumar
Nikki Kumari
Nikki Kumari
Saurabh Kumar Pandey
Saurabh Kumar Pandey
Anjali Kumari
Anjali Kumari


Mavis Ratna Singh’s class of Grade 9 boys at Daroga Prasad High School was the first to complete Book 15: Manjeri’s Business Loan and one week later, they crossed the finish line: they went to the bank to understand just how it works.

Be! works like this: after reading the story, kids are asked to; choose the business they’d like to start, making sure it solves a social, economic or environmental problem. They write a mini business plan and do the numbers and calculations to make a cash flow statement. From this they can then determine the size of loan they would need to take from the bank to start their business.

Now, the kids are ready to visit the local bank! 

But before they do, they prepare and write down the questions they want to ask the Bank Manager about how to take a loan.

Mavis called the SBI Bank Manager and got permission for the boys to visit. He said YES. She had also asked permission from her school Principal who was very supportive and helped in the planning and arrangements of the visit.

On Saturday, Mavis then set out with as many boys as possible stuffed in her car and a fleet of more boys followed on their bicycles. The fifteen boys who got permission had prepared their questions (with help from their friends) and Mavis gave them numbers to set the order in which to ask questions.

The Bank Manager, Mr. Kumar was absolutely delighted by the visit. He could not believe it these young boys had such insightful questions. They were so polite. It was exactly what should happen at school, a visit to the bank! He ended the day by saying: “I’m so impressed by all of you and I wish you all well in the future!” He then gave every boy a chocolate.

Mavis tells us the boys enjoyed the field trip so much that they wanted it to last longer. Her only regret was that she could not take more children. It seems like everyone in the ‘Going to...’ program (that’s what they call us, not Going to School :)) wanted to go too, but the Principal had only allowed fifteen in the first go because of safety and permission.

As the visit was such a success and all the boys were talking about at school, they arranged it again for the next Saturday. And this time we went along...


Skills@scale: Postcards & prizes, recognizing the little things in 2013

When Sarwat, one of our team members, visited a school last month, the children recognized her immediately: “You wrote to us!” they exclaimed and Sarwat nodded, removing another surprise from her bag: a backpack for young girl with the best project.

You see, for most of 2012, the team in Bihar and Delhi, had been overwhelmed by the quality and design of children’s projects that we collect each week: thousands of children have been hard at work collecting giant yellow chart paper with glitter, ribbon, interwoven two colour drawings, intricate design, even 3D models and portraits. So while we collect and grade each project, and we’d sent postcards, we decided we needed to do more. We thought we’d visit schools as a surprise, and reward children whose projects were superlative.

We’ve been delighted that children and teachers were quite plainly shocked to see us coming to meet them personally with prizes. Teachers and principals were extremely proud that their students were recognized and rewarded. Now, there is no going back. While we will continue to track each child and school by the number of skills projects we collect each week, and their grades for each project, we know there is no replacement for surprises, personal connections and recognition. And we know this means we’ll be writing even more postcards, and making even more visits with prizes in 2013.


My Family Tree
My Family Tree

Nishu Anand from P.N Anglo High School, Patna. A family tree project stood out from the pile of hundreds of skills projects. We looked at the beautiful shades of orange, yellow and brown make the most unusual but beautiful tree impression on a large piece of cheap white paper. As we started monitoring the first activity skills projects handed in by the children, we saw a parchment similarly made just as beautiful. We realized it was the same boy whose unique sense of design and skill stood out in all his work and was easily identifiable. In fact we realized that he possibly used the same three colours because he didn’t possess any others. The confident, powerful strokes with the great combinations and aesthetic use of the colours surprised us, as his skill and ability paralleled professional designer work we had seen before. We wondered if he himself knew how talented he was... we visited his school to give him an award and are talking to the local newspaper to print photos of him and his artwork. 


Md Shahid Raza, Miller High School, Patna. As we sat monitoring the fourth activity for Jaane Kyun?, we realized that this activity was particularly multilayered, having many different elements to evaluate as it’s a group activity. The more activities we saw, small parts were sometimes being left out or some concepts seemed unclear, even though the effort and attempt was apparent. We finally came across one activity which was complete in every way and beautiful and creative as well. Each aspect of it was included the way it was supposed to be. Concepts were surprisingly clear and very well presented, and each step of the activity, including little pointers and notes given in the instructions had been clearly and creatively presented. As we looked for the names of the group of students who had made this project, we saw only one name and realized that it was only one child that had done the entire project: Md Shahid Raza. We were very surprised he had completed the project by himself, it could not have been an easy task. It would take an exceptional child, to be able to do this. We sent him a personal postcard and went to visit his school to congratulate him and his teacher. 

Getting to the bottom of it: solving problems!
Getting to the bottom of it: solving problems!
My teacher is an entrepreneur
My teacher is an entrepreneur

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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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