There's no reason why education environments in the developing world shouldn't be as elegant and functional as those in the developed. At least that's the premise at the heart of INDEX Design Challenge, which invites design and business students to address citical issues in global education design. Co-organized by Danish nonprofit organization INDEX and UNICEF, the contest builds on the legacy of INDEX: AIGA Aspen Design Challenge, held in 2008-2009.
Last week, the seven challenge finalists were announced – an admirable selection of tools and objects that redefine how children engage with their environment and with each other. Akshara – Learn As You Play is a an innovative twist on the classic alphabet book, turning it into a physical, tactile jigsaw puzzle that helps children assimilate more by introducing elements of play to the reading rote. Elephant Walk Desk was designed with Nepalese primary school children in mind and is made of layers of local woven bamboo, blending local sustainable production with a design that fosters a collaborative, engaging classroom environment. Lily Pad adds comfort to learning in schools with uneven seating surfaces. padBACK is a sanitary protection pad made out of papyrus and biodegradable non-woven fabric, designed for rural Africa where many girls miss school and thus compromise their education due to the stigmatization of menstruation.
Reach & Match is an edu-play kit designed for youngchildren with visual impairments as a unique bridge to early Braille literacy, using sensory stimulation to foster cognitive development and help build motor skills. Inspired by the traditional abacus, the colorful and playful Soap Shish practically "tricks" kids into washing their hands by attracting them to play with it, while preventing the soap bars from being removed or melted. Teddy Bear is a lightweight 2-in-1 school bag and portable desk, allowing children to transport their learning environment and tools wherever they go, home or school.
Maria Popova is the editor of Brain Pickings, a curated inventory of miscellaneous interestingness. She writes for Wired UK, GOOD Magazine, Design Observer and Huffington Post, and spends a shameful amount of time on Twitter.