Pavithra Lakshminarayan, known to most as “Pavi,” believes that every child is a genius whose intellect and creativity need to be fed and nurtured.
She has other foundational beliefs that have guided her career in education and technology, but there’s one in particular that seems to dominate the others. Pavi believes that families and how they engage with their children’s learning is the most defining factor governing whether the inner-genius will ever surface.
Pavi serves as a leader of the South Jersey STEM & Innovation Partnership (SJSIP), and is also the founder and president of Mindbytes, a company that works to bring out children’s creativity and improve their comprehension, communication skills and confidence through workshops and summer programs.
Families engaging beside their child
A critical piece of Mindbytes’ work is involving parents and having them engage right alongside their children.
“I am a firm believer of this that it takes a village to raise a kid. So it’s not just not in the hands of the teachers, it’s not in the hands of our enrichment providers, but it’s mainly starts at home,” she says.
At times, that happens when Pavi works directly with families in workshops where she makes sure that they are armed with the knowledge as well as the confidence to work alongside their children.
But Pavi recognizes that not all families have the luxury of time nor the needed transportation to attend workshops. In those cases, she works to share simple tips that she says can turn 10 minutes of time in front of a screen into a meaningful learning session for all.
Pavi says parents can embrace technology, including phones and gaming devices, and help their children learn with them.
“I always tell parents that it is not wrong to give devices to children,” she says. “Have them watch something on the device, but make sure you are also asking questions to instigate their curious minds.”
Pavi says children must engage with their families about their devices. “They need to foster the creativity. Otherwise, it just becomes a television you know with nothing stimulating their minds,” she said.
And she has other simple strategies that families can use for powering learning in everyday settings, including car or bus rides.
“For example, if there is a car coming, ask the children why car tires need to be round and not square.”
Tips for single parents
Pavi says she has worked with many single parents who hold multiple jobs while trying to raise children.
“Every single minute that you have with them can be transformed into a learning and engaging moment with them. It doesn’t have to be an hour at a workshop. It can be anywhere and anytime.” she says. “Kids will open up when asked and that’s when you can identify their struggles and interests.”
She says children who are struggling emotionally are often far more likely to and in need of opening up to their families. “There’s a lot that the kids go through and they need to talk. So I would say that you don’t have to have a specific time saying that oh I need one hour of this time to sit and do all that. It’s not needed. You can talk whenever and wherever and make it productive,” she says.
Leading better lives through education
Pavi says most of the parents she has worked with have expressed desires for their children to lead better lives than they have. “And that comes through education,” she says.
From a big picture philosophical standpoint, Pavi says the most important thing that families can do is to remain relevant and stay connected to their children’s learning opportunities.
- Learning happens at any time and in any place. Families can engage simply by asking children questions about events or objects in their daily lives.
- Families must be connected to their children’s learning and feel relevant. This means they need to understand opportunities and be given the resources to understand possibilities for their children.
Mindbytes aims to help children bring out their creativity, improve their comprehension, communication skills and build confidence. Mindbytes offers a variety of learning ideas structured as workshops, after-school and summer programs, for children of ages 4 – 18.
Given the pervasive role technology plays in our lives, Mindbytes uses technology as the platform to deliver its programs. Mindbytes is an approved partner of the Mount Laurel Schools, NJ for their after school programs and the Mount Laurel & Ocean County, NJ public library networks.
Mindbytes not only helps children utilize their skills to express themselves but also provides them an avenue to extend their work beyond the classroom.
The South Jersey STEM & Innovation Partnership (SJSIP) is a community of collaborative partners to improve STEM education and career pathways across southern New Jersey. Our growing community includes collaborators representing industry, post-secondary education, K-12 schools, philanthropy, small businesses and STEM-rich organizations engaged under a common vision for STEM.