Karkhana, which means “factory” in Nepali, is a place where people make things and learn through doing.
The teachers are engineers, designers, artists, and scientists, but in contrast to some traditional models of learning, the environment is a teacher as well. The Karkhana site is filled with marvels: home-built antennas, a laser cutter, colorful child-designed posters, musical instruments, and more, which make the visitor ask questions and want to touch and make things.
So, it’s an education company and makerspace, one that turns the classroom into a lab for discovery. There’s an excellent slide show with many photos explaining their approach and an overview brochure describing the variety of classes they run.
Karkhana works directly with learners ages 8-14 through an after-school program. They also do teacher professional development. I’ve been fortunate to participate in both of these.
There were several good things I noticed beyond the general idea of learning through hands-on inquiry. One was an interesting mix of design though felt pen and whiteboard (or more precisely, whitetable), through physical construction, and with the aid of computers. The point was not to let the medium control the activity, but to let each medium offer affordances that could further the goal–planning a school fair, designing instruments for use on a space station, or building a musical instrument.
Another was the concern for making the Karkhana approach accessible to the ordinary school and ordinary teacher. In addition to workshops for teachers, Karkhana develops a special technology: ziplock bags filled with simple, low-cost materials that can be used in a low-tech, minimal skill situation.
Karkhana already makes new kind of learning available to many children and adults. But it also stands as an example of what could be done someday in Nepali schools, or for that matter, schools anywhere.