One student’s idea for the next generation of learners
By Jackie Tepper
››Vihan Jayawardhane is a junior at Wilton High School and he has created a unique diorama kit to teach kids history and geography in a fun and interactive way. His kit also involves learning how to make origami shapes. Vihan has started a business selling his kits with 100% of profits being donated to the Boys & Girls Club of Ridgefield from sales of his kits in this area. He is also doing the same in the Stamford area by donating all profits from his kits sold in the area to the Stamford Boys & Girls Club. Vihan believes that his learning kits can engage children, teach them knowledge and skills, and be a great gift for the holidays while helping to support a local organization that is so important to our community.
Vihan came up with the name “CraftMap” because he seeks to teach children about America’s 50 states. The first kit focuses on the 11 states in the Northeast. The students draw and color a custom dot-to-dot map on the diorama board. Then, for each state, students create a sign with background information and they add fun facts. Next, the student assembles a “Who Am I” fold-up card featuring a famous individual and their accomplishments, and fold two state-specific origami models. There are a total of 22 unique models. Since the child is creating a diorama, the learning is interactive, engaging, and there’s a permanence to having the completed diorama sitting in the home reinforcing what the child has learned.
In order to make his diorama more engaging, Vihan has filmed over two hours of instructional videos that are easily accessed by QR codes that he has printed on the instructions. This allows students to follow the directions to make each origami model using the origami paper needed which is included. For example, one of the origami shapes is the rocket that launched astronaut by Alan Shephard. Alan Shepard was born in Derry, New Hampshire and is associated with that project.
During the past year and a half, Vihan has been teaching origami classes via Zoom. Libraries in the surrounding community and beyond have invited Vihan to teach origami classes. This helped Vihan and others alleviate the feeling of isolation from the pandemic. He teaches both beginner and advanced classes for children and adults for the Lewisboro, North Salem, and Chappaqua communities in New York, as well as for the Closter community in New Jersey. His classes have even reached as far south as Dallas Public Library System in Texas and the Palo Alto Library System in California.
Several local stores are carrying his CraftMap kits including The Toy Chest, The Angel Cooperative, Books on the Common and The Boys & Girls Club in Ridgefield, along with The Painted Cookie in Wilton. Vihan is looking for more stores to carry his kits to help raise money and awareness for the Boys & Girls Club. Vihan is also selling his kits through the website he created www.bit.ly/thecraftmap. His CraftMap kits make a perfect holiday gift for children 6 years old and up.
Vihan chose the Boys & Girls Clubs as the organization to support because it was founded in Hartford, Connecticut to nurture a positive environment where students can grow, learn and have fun.
As Vihan says, “For much of my life, I’ve dedicated time to teaching, studying, learning, and creating. I’ve brought together all of these interests to create CraftMap, a diorama where students will be able to learn more about our incredibly diverse and wondrous nation. With my business, I hope to do much more than simply market a product; I would like to serve the surrounding community as well.”
Boys & Girls Clubs of America, founded in 1860, is a 501(c)3 non-profit whose mission is to enable all young people, especially those most in need, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.