Lewitt Somarajan

Lewitt Somarajan

Lewitt is Founder and CEO of Life-Lab (www.life-lab.org). Started in 2013, Life-Lab makes science education fun and engaging for children and builds the capacities of teachers to create experience-based learning environments. Life-Lab, having a team of 40+ is currently working with more than 1200+ schools, impacting 6.5 lakh children across 11 states. Lewitt is an Ashoka Fellow, Acumen Fellow, a Teach For India Fellow and has earned his Bachelors in Chemical Engineering. Life-Lab has been working in India for over 7 years, focusing on numerous pedagogical experiments based on the foundations of fun, engagement, conceptual understanding, creativity, innovation and problem-solving.

I started my journey in the development sector right after graduating as a Chemical Engineer. After exploring and learning with various organizations like WWF and Nandi Foundation in the social and education sector, I joined Teach for India Fellowship in 2011. During my 2 year fellowship, I realized the extent of a problem arising due to a lack of good quality experiential learning in schools. The issue becomes more serious with low-income schools where there is not enough support and infrastructure to enable teachers to act as knowledge facilitators. 

Science is one such tool that closely relates to our every-day life and can be easily used to inculcate inquiry-based and engaging learning experiences in classrooms. With a vision for cultivating “science as an attitude” and making self-directed learning in low-income classrooms a reality, Life-Lab was established in 2013. The project has been awarded the Acumen Fellowship and Ashoka Fellowship in the year 2015 and 2016 respectively.

Why do you want to be a part of the HundrED Community?

Bringing about systemic and sustainable change is crucial for any idea. But when there is the involvement of the community, the task becomes a whole lot simpler. The support, encouragement and collective knowledge are what powers the idea to become a success. 

The HundrED Community embodies this thought by collecting ideas and innovations from across the world to help it spread, scale and be recognised as a powerful idea. I have admired this community and am honoured and humbled to be among the creators, the risk-takers and dreamers who believe that change is possible in the world. 

How can education support students to flourish?

Education is perceived in most countries as a means of enhancing equity and equality. Innovations could help enhance equity in the access to and use of education, as well as equality in the learning outcomes. 

Therefore, to remain relevant in the face of rapid changes to society and the national economy, educational systems need to adopt teaching, learning or organizational practices that have been identified as helping to foster “skills for innovation”.

What role does innovation play in education change?

For decades, educators have been alert, waiting for the game-changer. While schools and classrooms have been touched by technology’s influence, nothing has fundamentally altered to strengthen the basics. The challenge is to ensure that innovation plays a constructive role in improving educational opportunities for billions of people who remain underserved in a rapidly developing world. This not only includes s use of affordable and accessible technologies to expand access to but also require other innovative processes or service strategies that do not rely on technology. 

It may require a shift in focus, to target educational and training programs to align more closely with what people identify as their most urgent needs. Providing education in new and unconventional ways is only one of a number of solutions, but it is through innovation that we can meet the challenges of improved efficiency, lower costs, increasing accessibility, and greater success in achieving development goals through education. 

As in all sectors, innovation will be essential to bring about qualitative changes in education as opposed to the quantitative expansion seen so far. These changes are needed to increase efficiency and improve the quality and equity of learning opportunities. Education can also foster innovation in society at large by developing the right skills to nurture it. These skills, including critical thinking, creativity, and imagination, can be fostered through appropriate teaching, and practices such as entrepreneurship education.

Three HundrED innovations you love. (and Why?)

The top 3 HundrED Innovations which truly resonated with me are mentioned below

The innovation ‘Kids Can! Innovation Camp’. It provides students with the opportunity to lead their own learning as they tackle real-world problems aligned to UN SDGs through interdisciplinary project-based learning challenges. Similar to our vision, this innovation believes in fostering curiosity amongst children to strengthen their designing thinking skills to create and design solutions in the form of projects and products.

The ‘Blueprints’ co-founded by Jeff King. The innovation helps impart valuable skills like self-awareness, empowerment, and motivation while keeping the projects aligned to their core academics. These skills are important for children to be ready before they enter for higher education and the future workplace.

Nurturing Young Minds-Suraksha Education Programme’. The innovation uses local culture with fine arts to ensure the basic the foundation of education for children who have dropped out of school or are slow learners. I believe it is important to build a strong foundation of the basic education for children to reach the learning levels to be able to use higher education ahead.

Three innovations you would love for HundrED to know about. (and Why?)

The present situation in India is that a critical gap exists, that all efforts have failed in scaling is in enabling teachers to transition to practising an Activity-Based Learning, which requires deeper conceptual clarity and competency on part of the teachers. 

Bridging this gap has become the focus of Life-Lab, where we use science as a medium of expression. With a varied portfolio of teaching-learning materials, we use pedagogical tools for teachers and hands-on tools for children to cater to grade-specific needs. 

Three innovations at Life-Lab I would like to share with HundrED are: 

1. Life-Lab has developed a portfolio of 140 Do-It-Yourself activities. These activities can be performed using frugal materials, helping it to be accessible to children from all backgrounds. These activities are aligned as per the child's academic curriculum and learning levels. These DIY activities help children understand the science concept in an experiential way, and relate them to solve everyday problems. These activities lead to fewer misconceptions, higher retention, conceptual clarity and better learning outcomes. 

2. Life-Lab has developed engaging science posters to inculcate the spirit of inquiry and maximize the science mastery levels of each and every child. These posters have a set of open-ended questions and statements which provide an opportunity for teachers and children to have open discussions regarding concepts in science, thus increasing the interaction of students and teachers in the classroom to make it more inquiry-based. 

3. Life-Lab has developed Science-based graphic novels for children. The novels are designed keeping minimum reading and comprehension levels of children to inspire & encourage them to read the story & then by referring to the appendix, explore, create and perform science experiments. These comic books have revealed significant likeability & engagement towards science learning along with enhanced creativity, imagination & problem-solving amongst children. Further, educators have observed children demonstrating feelings of sharing, caring, helping and understanding towards their friends.