Lessons in Learning: School-in-a-Box

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In December 2004, an earthquake rattled the Indian Ocean, triggering a massive tsunami. Indonesia was the hardest hit with approximately 130,000 deaths and more than 500,000 people displaced. It was a devastating disaster, and nearly every aspect of human life was affected. With such widespread destruction, though, it’s amazing to think that interrupted schools began to reopen one month after the tsunami. UNICEF initially distributed more than 4,600 School-in-a-Box kits to help jump-start classes in regions of Indonesia affected by the tsunami.

School-in-a-Box is part of UNICEF’s emergency response to get students around the world back to school. Each kit contains enough supplies for a teacher and 80 students, such as pencils, exercise books, erasers, scissors, etc. The materials come in a box that can also serve as a blackboard. It’s important to know that UNICEF has developed these School-in-a-Box kits to be culturally neutral so that they can be used anywhere while being supplemented by local books, toys, games, etc. School-in-a-Box kits are intended to help continue education within 72 hours of an emergency (a disaster or a conflict). This is incredible, considering some of the recent, major world events that have disrupted education. Not only are the School-in-a-Box kits necessary for the students whose schooling has been disrupted, but they can teach others about the needs of people around the world. Take a look at this video about children in Rwanda:

While School-in-a-Box is intended for short-term use following a crisis, the concept is intriguing. I can envision learning initiatives like:

  • Theatre-in-a-Box: providing puppets, set materials and scripts

  • Music-in-a-Box: providing simple musical instruments, sheet music and song lyrics

  • Camp-in-a-Box: providing ideas for camping excursions and activities, fire-starting kits and rope

  • Survival-in-a-Box: providing step-by-step instructions for surviving specific emergency situations and practicing useful skills

  • Health-Education-in-a-Box: providing information to people about certain diseases (e.g., HIV/AIDS, heart disease, diabetes), pregnancy, nutrition, etc.

What else could be delivered in a box format to encourage learning? The kits are relatively low cost, applicable to any setting and location and simple to use. So many parts of the world – in an emergency or not – could benefit from a similar approach to education, whether it’s the primary learning method or supplementary to traditional classes.

I love the idea that remote areas of China, Saudi Arabia or Kenya could purchase a box of learning supplies and materials to initiate a new education program or energize one already in existence! What do you think?

This blog post is part of a series focused on alternative learning styles. Previously, we’ve explored the concept of experiential education, distance education and unschooling. Over the next couple of months, we will continue to consider a number of alternative learning styles that can be found all over the world.


Education Research and Journalism Fellow, Bon Education

Image available under CC License by Heb

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