Finding that the toilet in their school, owing to lack of roofing, was perennially littered with leaves that had fallen from trees, students of Panchayat Union Middle School, Thandalai, were concerned that they would catch diseases. But inspired by the simple 4-step formula of Feel-Imagine-Do-Share that has been developed by Design for Change – a not-for-profit organisation that challenges children to solve problems in their community – the students decided to actively take the matter into their hands.
They made plans to build a roof and, in the process, were eager to learn about construction processes through project-based learning.
The students – Dhileepkumar T, Jahan B, Guruadityan M, Hariharan S, and Pathy J – under the mentorship of Punniyamurthy D, settled on using waste plastic bottles which might otherwise pollute the agricultural soil in the community. They conceptualised that they could cut off the top and bottom of the bottles, and then slice them longitudinally to get flattened shapes. One could mount these onto a wooden frame as roofing tiles.
To garner support towards this initiative, the students made prototypes of the roofing module, and showed them in meetings with the President of the Panchayat Union and parents, who joyfully declared, “No dust, no worries!” On encountering financial problems, the alumni, parents, and PTA helped out. The students gathered bottles from marriage halls, took help from the parents in constructing the wooden frame, and completed the project within 7-15 days.
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The project went on to make it into the Top 20 stories selected from amongst 2,512 Stories of Change submitted for the ‘I CAN Awards 2015’ organised by Design for Change in India. Plastic roof is not entirely UV-proof in the long run, as far as we know. But the idea has been around for a while. There are other variations that explore interlocks between the strips of plastic to create an undulating roof. There are also examples where people have crushed and strung together entire bottles, almost like a thatch roof.
Nevertheless, the children’s initiative to think of an unconventional solution to the problem of roofing is indeed striking. Seeing children have such a sustainable outlook towards problem-solving, one looks forward to a bright future indeed!
Be a part of one of the largest global movements of children driving change in their communities. Take up the ‘I CAN School Challenge’ in your classroom. Find out more online.