Arvind Gupta- Turning Trash To Toy Treasure!

“I’ve been invited by most of the schools. And every time I go to a school, I see a gleam in the eyes of the children. I see hope. I see happiness in their faces. Children want to make things. Children want to do things.”~ Arvind Gupta.

What do you expect from an extraordinarily intelligent and brilliant IIT graduate in the 1970s when the tag was enough to get a dream-like job wherever they want, in the country or abroad? Certainly you expect them to join a big reputed company and spend a life in the dream-like world. Well, this may sound like an end to a story but this was just the beginning of a phenomenal journey of a genius called Arvind Gupta.

If you have heard of him, good and if not then here is your chance to know him, recognise him and in any instance spread the word so that his prodigy is spread far and wide and few more children can be benefitted from what we call as “the man who creates toys from trash”.

It takes just one episode to turn around the life and that one thing came in his life while he was working in TELCO, making trucks. After working there for two years, he realised that he was not born for making trucks. He says, “Often one doesn’t know what one wants to do, but it’s good enough to know what you don’t want to do.” Then what he wanted to do? He didn’t know that either.

He took a year’s off and went to spend some time in the village science program. The time he spent in that small village proved to be a milestone, something that changed his life forever. It so happened that once when he was roaming at the village’s weekly bazaar he came across a cycle valve tube, which fascinated him; something that would be easily overlooked by a normal person!

The ordinary cycle valve tube was made into flexible joints by putting two matchsticks inside this. And that modest tube eventually turned into angles- acute, obtuse, right, straight, even the pentagon, hexagon and all kinds of polygons. This was his first interesting encounter with a simple piece of rubbish which he turned into an alluring learning material.

This continued and he made learning materials from plastics, cardboards, bottles, tetra-pack, straws, newspaper, which are usually termed as trash and thrown away without considering their usefulness. But he utilised them, made them the source of learning science and math. These were the things that were available in every nook and corner of a village, town or a city, making them a discernible choice for him to craft things for learning.

Mr. Gupta believes that children learn by doing- feeling, cutting, sticking and going into the depth of a matter. The science should be studied in a fashion that makes learning fun for the children and help them deepen the conceptual understanding of the subject. Simple toys make the learning simple.

“Ours inclusive program is the most cost-effective program in the world with the cost of only 15 paise per person. It started with 16 schools and spread to 1,500 government schools. Over 100,000 children learn science this way. And we’re just trying to see possibilities,” says Mr. Gupta.

The comprehensive learning of science is fuelled by the toys that are accessible and affordable to the children throughout the world. His website is the learning site for many children in Asia, Africa and Latin America that contains numerous short videos explaining the difficult concepts. The videos available in a number of languages are a channel through which one can learn to make toys freely, without any copyrights restrictions.

His first book, “Matchstick Models and other Science Experiments” was reprinted in 12 languages. He has authored several books on science activities, some of them are Little ToysScience from Scrap, and Science Skills & Thrills: The Best of Arvind Gupta. He has translated more than fifty books and presented seventy films on science activities.

The touch, feel, break and make are something a child can enjoy and embark his journey towards a better learning. Well, you can’t learn to swim without going inside water, can you?

“In a democratic country, science must reach to our most oppressed, to the most marginalized children,”~ with this being his mantra, the social innovator goes deep into the basics of science and designs wonderful toys from the scraps which the children can build themselves and explore the possibilities of learning.

An exemplary trail of work lies behind him and what lies before him is the purpose of his life- lighting the brains, lighting the lives of many children, who would otherwise, may not have the privilege to learn and come close to the principles of science.

“Igniting the imaginative power of a child is enough; rest will be easily taken care of.” This is what crossed my mind as I put my pen down…

 Watch is TED Video here.. http://www.ted.com/talks/arvind_gupta_turning_trash_into_toys_for_learning?language=en