Plastic Bag Crochet Workshop at MET Rishikul Vidyalaya

The morning after Miguel and I arrived in Mumbai, we found ourselves in a classroom full of 75 children!

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Prior to our arrival, I had lined up a series of plastic bag crochet workshops with several people and organizations in Mumbai. This workshop at MET Rishikul Vidyala (MRV) was the first plan on our schedule. And while I knew I’d be teaching a group of children ages 10-12, I had no idea what to expect.

Fortunately, it was a pleasant surprise! I was truly impressed by the school’s organization, the children’s interest in the topic, and the warm welcome we received. Monisha Narke, founder of a volunteer organization called RUR (short for “Are You Reducing, Reusing, Recycling?”), worked with the school to plan the event and picked us up to take us there in the morning. As I was pushed up to a microphone to explain the concept of plastic bag crochet in front of a video camera, I was a bit overwhelmed. But my young audience was silent and attentive.

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They were interested to learn that we consume about 1 million plastic bags per minute worldwide, that it takes about 100 plastic bags to make a backpack, and that the reusable shopping bag I made will last for many years. As the children passed around some of the crocheted items I brought (such as a laundry bag, shopping bag, backpack, and hat), I could hear oohs and aahs around the room. The hat was a huge hit and everyone wanted to try it on. Then they were all eager to learn how to make their own reusable plastic bag creations.

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Since last year, Monisha has been working with the children every Saturday on various environmental awareness projects as part of an eco club. So far they have covered topics such as recycling, composting, and organic farming. Thanks to this eco club, these young students are wise beyond their years. They now compost all their wet waste, have a thriving vegetable and herb garden, and appreciate the benefits of living sustainably.

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The students have also organized several beach clean up drives, where they learned (and helped to offset) the detrimental effects of tossing plastic and other waste products into the sea. My workshop served as an extension of their knowledge about plastic bag recycling and because it was such a hands-on project, these kids left feeling inspired that they can reuse plastic bags in creative ways.

But even though the school knows that their students are smart and inquisitive, the teachers seemed genuinely impressed by how much interest my workshop generated. None of us were sure the children would have large enough attention spans to stay focused on the topic, so we had planned for the event to be more of a demo. I thought I’d just briefly explain the concept of plastic bag crochet, show them some of the things I made, and use it as a launching point to discuss why we should minimize our plastic bag consumption. But as it turned out…the kids were extremely enthusiastic. Everyone wanted to learn. And even after the hour was up, I was swarmed with children wanting to continue the lesson.

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My only regret was that I didn’t anticipate the large turnout and bring enough crochet hooks for every child to have one. Instead, we had to divide them up into groups of five so they could share and take turns, a plan that inevitably turned a bit chaotic since each child was frantic to be the first to learn.

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And because there were so many of them (and only one of me), it was tough to help everyone at once.

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Luckily Miguel and a few of the teachers were there to work with the students as well.

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It would probably take a few more classes to get all the kids crocheting, but at least the seed was planted and they can pursue it if they choose to.

Everyone loved the idea and the learning will likely continue.  Next week the teachers will pass out copies of the pamphlets Miguel and I made, along with the crochet hooks I will be sending them in the next few days (enough for each student this time).

A few of the girls made bracelets, one boy made a necklace for his mom, and another boy made a big, triangle-shaped ring. Several other kids made unidentified creations that they were quite proud of and a few others plan to practice at home so they can make hats like mine.

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To sum it all up, this workshop was a success and I really enjoyed my time at the school.

All the faculty members were amazingly sweet as well. After the class was over, Miguel and I were ushered into the faculty room where we were promptly served tea and a series of sandwiches, croissants, and sweets. Then Kavita Sanghvi, the Vice Principal, presented me with a beautiful gold bag as a thank you gift from the school.

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Notes:

*Many people asked where they can purchase crochet hooks in India.  And while I haven’t even visited this store yet, I think I managed to give a lot of business to a craft shop in Bandra called Hobby Ideas. I’ll be looking into places to purchase hooks soon (as I have the feeling I’ll soon be giving away all the ones I collected). Once I learn of places to purchase hooks in Mumbai, I will write a post about it.

*I will be writing more about Monisha Narke and RUR in a later post. And I’ll be teaching another workshop at her house on Wednesday, July 13th. But for now, here are a few articles about her organization.

*The school had a photographer attend the event and said they’ll send me the pictures. So I’ll likely be posting more pics at a later date.

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