By sending mobile labs over the years into India’s villages, Agastya has paved its way into the hearts of the rural people dwelling there. The nighttime community visits have long been a part of Agastya’s outreach. Instructors demonstrate principles of science. They lead discussions about medicinal herbs found in the region, among numerous other topics. In this manner, they dispel myths and earn the trust of the children’s parents and grandparents, using similar hands-on learning techniques as those employed in teaching the children. Many of these elders have valuable knowledge to share, as well, and Agastya has recognized that much of this was as endangered as parts of the environment itself.
Out of this, the activity-based iCommunity program was conceived. Its goal is to instill in the children, parents, and other villagers respect and love for the environment brought about through knowledge and understanding. The program integrates language and art, while introducing basic digital skills. Using a mobile lab outfitted with solar power, digital equipment comes together with ancient folklore, rural arts, community life, and demonstrates how all of these connect us to the land we share with the plant and animal life that surrounds us.
The iCommunity lab is outfitted with computers, cameras, audio recording devices, and a projector. Use of the equipment is taught while manual and digital methods are used to explore plants, insects, and small animals. Field observation and drawing by hand prompts opportunities for storytelling that is documented with video and audio recordings. Ethical responsibilities to the preservation of threatened species are spread by the collection of folktales, by fiction writing, and by tree censuses and surveys of the surrounding eco system.
Agastya’s iCommunity project falls under the direction of the MediaArts Lab, teaching digital literacy to village students who otherwise have no access to computers or the internet. They learn enough to at least understand what these tools are and the basics of how to use them, should they be able to further their studies or get work where they are used.