GEMS Modern Academy’s annual Challenge Based Learning (CBL) competition, a solutions-focused curriculum enhancement aimed at developing a human-centred approach to innovation, took on special significance this year with the launch of the Pranet Chawla Memorial Scholarship. Awarded to the project with the most potential for positive social impact, the scholarship is named after a well-loved GEMS Modern Academy student, who unexpectedly passed away in early 2020.
Launched by Pranet Chawla’s parents in memory of their son, who was an active participant in CBL and held it close to his heart, the scholarship provides the winning team with AED 5,000 to develop a prototype as well as invaluable access to an industry expert to help them refine and develop their solution.
“Although this year’s CBL initiative was a bitter-sweet experience for us, we left the final presentations feeling in awe of the sheer talent, determination, and hard work put into the programme,” said Ashish Chawla, father of Pranet. “Watching our little boy’s schoolmates put in so much effort into honing complex skills like community impact assessments, conceptualisation, and product modelling was a heart-warming experience and we are excited to see what the coming batches have in store.”
The winners of this year’s CBL and scholarship were ‘The Change Makers’, a team of four Grade 6 students who spent the last eight months developing their NutroLife project – a health and wellbeing app aimed at helping users maintain a healthy lifestyle through practical everyday activities and behaviours. Despite being the youngest team in the CBL finals, the four students – Anoushka Arun Kumar, Ishita Tandon, Ryan Thomas Jacob and Yashvi Rathi – impressed the judges with their use of design thinking to develop their innovative solution.
Now in its fifth year, the CBL initiative first started as Project-Based Learning, gradually evolving into what it is today. Using the design thinking process, middle school students and teachers begin by identifying key local or global issues, before viewing them through the lens of the groups of people most impacted in order to deepen their exploration and understanding. By bringing together the needs of people, the possibilities of technology and the requirements for business success, students learn a pragmatic, human-focused approach that is both a system for fostering creativity and innovation and a framework for solving complex real-world problems.
Nargish Khambatta, Principal of GEMS Modern Academy and Vice President – Education at GEMS Education, said: “CBL is aligned closely with our school vision statement, ‘Inspiring children to be positive change-makers’. Through this human-centred approach, we are able to introduce children to complex ideas, world-class concepts and still keep them rooted in empathy, respect and the authentic desire to make a positive difference in their circles of influence.”
Projects and solutions this year sought to address important issues across the environment, space, global health, e-safety, social needs, technology and mental health, while the impressive line-up of industry mentors included Rajnish Kapoor, COO of Liberty Building Solutions; Sanjeev Jain, COO of Nikai Group; Suniel Chhipa, a senior HR manager at Etisalat; and Dr Hiten Patel, a family doctor with MediClinic Dubai.
“I was struck by how the students could have such a heightened level of social consciousness at their young age. The best part of the experience was seeing first-hand their honest and authentic approach to a world problem which they were trying to solve through high-level research and complex ideas,” said Sushmita Bose, a former editor of Times of India, and who mentored one of the finalist teams.