Christine Kwon, ‘24, poses for a photo with children at a health clinic in Makeni, Sierra Leone. Kwon was a part of the “Mothers of Sierra Leone” project which set out to create a documentary about the resiliency of women and healthcare professionals in Sierra Leone. (Courtesy of Christine Kwon)

Creative Inquiry project teaches in India


This year marked a new partnership between the Office of Creative Inquiry and the Agastya International Foundation, which aims to ignite curiosity in science and the arts among the youth. 

The Agastya International Foundation, based in Bangalore, India, is an education trust and non-profit organization. 

The foundation’s mission is “to spark curiosity, nurture creativity and instill confidence” among economically disadvantaged children and teachers in India.

Agastya is in 23 states across India, with 135 science and innovation hubs. 

Their team is made up of 1,500 staff members and 6,000 volunteers. 

In June, five Lehigh students will travel to India and join a related project. 

According to the Creative Inquiry website, the project is called “Democratizing Science Education and Sparking Creativity.”

During fieldwork, students will visit different areas around India to teach science to children and teachers.  

Ramji Raghavan, the founder and chairman of Agastya, said science education is beneficial for experiential learning, as science lends itself to curiosity.

“The objective is to get children to experience the spirit of ‘aah’, ‘aha’ and ‘ha-ha’ moments,” Raghavan said.

Raghavan’s onomatopoeic philosophy can be explained as, “aah,” awakening the mind; “aha,” finding answers and “ha-ha,” having fun in what you are doing. 

Along with teaching, the Global Social Impact Fellowship (GSIF) 2024 team will concentrate on mobile science labs, also called “Labs-on-a-Bike,” which are fully functional laboratories that can be easily transported by vehicles. 

The goal is for Lehigh students to reinvent the labs to be more innovative and practical. 

Bill Whitney, the assistant vice provost for experiential learning programs, said students will spend the spring semester preparing for the fieldwork. 

All fellows complete the CINQ 388 Inquiry to Impact Workshops course to help them advance their projects and prepare for the journey.

The Office of Creative Inquiry facilitates a variety of programs for students to work on impactful projects nationwide and worldwide, with an interdisciplinary perspective amongst other students, faculty and external partners.

Whitney said this year there are 102 impact fellows across every college and most majors. The projects they embark on tend to span multiple years.

“All of these projects are opportunities to make some communities better, to make some systems work better; and so it’s everything from technology innovations to educational innovations to policy innovations,” Whitney said. “We want to help Lehigh students find ways to make an impact.”

Angelina Patel, ‘26, traveled to Sierra Leone last summer through The Office of Creative Inquiry project titled “NewTrition.”

I liked it so much I decided to join this project [Agastya International Foundation],” Patel said.

According to the project’s website, nearly 44% of children in Sierra Leone suffer from stunted growth due to a lack of access to nutritious food. 


Maggie Roberts, ‘23, Sofia Ruiz, ‘25, Kamryn Li, ‘24, and Rosa Medina, ‘24, pose for a photo outside of their accommodations in Sierra Leone in July of 2022. They were all a part of the “NewTrition” team working to develop vitamin-rich foods that can be distributed in Sierra Leone to combat malnutrition. (Courtesy of Christine Kwon)

In 2023, the GSIF NewTrition project focused on creating nutrient-rich foods that could be locally manufactured using locally sourced ingredients.  

Patel said she realized she wanted to see how different parts of the world work and use her opportunities to help underprivileged communities.

“The difference between public schools and private schools in India is quite large and we are trying to get rid of that difference,” Patel said.

Omar Hossain, ‘25, also was a part of the Sierra Leone trip last summer and decided to join the Democratizing Science Education and Sparking Creativity project.

“Seeing the project and its focus on providing hands-on learning to students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to have those opportunities really kind of just reached out to me,” Hossain said. “It was something that I wanted to be a part of.”

Since this will be Patel’s and Hossain’s second trip with GSIF, Patel and Hossain are now “Super Fellows” for the India trip, which means they will be project mentors to other Lehigh students. 

The India project is brand new to the Lehigh community, so there are many opportunities to explore.

“There are a million complex problems in the world and we want to find ways to solve them, so we are always adding new opportunities,” Whitney said.

Raghavan said the goal of Agastya is to impact 100 million kids by 2032.

“The ultimate vision is a creative world – a world of creators, thinkers and solution seekers, who are also humane and connected,” Raghavan said.

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