One of the biggest challenges faced by cities across the globe is the management of the waste they generate every day. Students from Grade 4 C of Ekya JP Nagar took up this challenge, visiting the garbage crisis faced by the city of Bangalore. This, they did through the lens of Design Thinking – part of the Science curriculum at Ekya Schools.

Through the process of Design Thinking, students brainstorm, categorize, organize information, conduct research and interviews, ideate and make prototypes that solve real-world problems. They work with multiple perspectives, learn to access and make sense of information, apply critical thinking and intuition, iteratively learn from failure and create solutions that integrate the emotional and the analytical.


After an introductory activity set the ball rolling, our fourth graders huddled for several rounds of brainstorming. A number of ideas floated across the classroom, some revolving around Universal Dustbins to banishing waste to space and particular planets; others explored the possibility of bots segregating waste at its source. The students even offered to incentivize efficient waste management by proposing a machine that allows children to play games if and when they segregate their waste properly.


An integral part of Design Thinking is observation as it enables the students to understand the gravity of the challenge they are dealing with, the key factors that they have to consider while ideating and creating their prototypes and the roadblocks they may face in the process. Our children met and observed Pourkamikas, members of BBMP who help segregate waste on the streets, They even keenly observed their own family members at home, peers in class and support staff at the school, jotting down copious observations


With their observations recorded, the children grabbed the opportunity of interviewing the Asst. Commissioner of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike(BBMP), shooting a wide range of questions on the administrative body – from its objective, how it feels to work at BBMP to whether BBMP had studied other municipalities to understand best practices that Bangalore can adopt.

Using their observation and interview material, with references from newspaper articles about Bangalore’s waste management, user empathy maps were made. These maps helped the students arrive at interesting points of view:

– People tend to litter their surrounding plot or vacant grounds in their neighbourhoods because of a lack of dedicated space.
– Waste is not segregated at source because people may not be patient enough to deal with the procedure or that they do not like handling dustbins or the odour that comes with it.


Having studied the user empathy maps closely, the students arrived at the decision of focussing on specific users, to solve challenges specific to them. They created designs and blueprints for products and ideas, sharing it with the entire class for feedback. During this session, students offered critique, also taking the time to share their appreciation of what they liked about each project.


With ideas in place, blueprints finalized, the teams proceeded to build their prototypes. Described by many as their favourite part of the design thinking, our children had a riot putting together their models. Some had to deal with conflicts within their team over material, individual responsibilities or bringing the whole team on board to go with an idea – which they addressed democratically.

Once ready, the models were proudly displayed for user testing by teachers and other teams. With the showcase done, the students reflected on their journey with design thinking, exchanging notes on the impact their models would have on the city’s garbage crisis and also exploring what they wanted to do differently.

The chocolate vending segregator is designed to reward children with chocolates when they dump waste into the correct dustbin, thus incentivizing segregation.

Design of attractive dustbins to interest people in segregation.

Classroom Segregation Bot

The dustbins have the facility for children to put waste into four categories (dry, wet, hazardous and sanitary). They punch in their name whenever they dump waste. A bot would monitor the process and submit a report to the teacher on children segregating waste consistently. There are specific monthly rewards for children segregating waste properly like extra PE periods.

Game on segregation: A game designed to interest children, the idea is to make it available at kiosks around different communities, to spread awareness of the importance of segregation.

Solar powered segregator

To know more about Design Thinking, its process and how it fits into the Ekya curriculum, read our quick guide here.

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