Wilton teen teaches children about states with his educational origami kits

WILTON — A local teen spent the better part of his summer vacation devising a way to educate the younger generation in town and to give back to neighboring communities.

Vihan Jayawardhane, a junior at Wilton High School, wanted to incorporate his love of history, geography and origami, along with his keen business acumen, into a way to educate younger children in Wilton and beyond.

Enter Jayawardhane’s educational diorama kits, which he calls “CraftMap.”

The kits focus on teaching young students about the wonders of geography through hands-on learning. Each kit includes materials and instructions to imitate origami designs that Jayawardhane has mastered himself. Each lesson is crafted to teach students about a historical event, historically relevant individual or about geography.

He said Wilton is an insulated, small community, but he hopes his product helps expand other students’ views.

“I couldn’t see what was going on outside (of Wilton),” he said.

He said that he wanted to provide fun, informative educational lessons to young children to be able to teach them things that are outside of what they would generally be learning.

And Jayawardhane doesn’t just provide written instructions. Along with the individual kits, which he crafts by hand, he has filmed more than two hours of instructional videos that are accessible by QR codes printed in the included instruction packets.

“Instead of just having an origami book, I want to have people see it, and see how to do it step by step,” Jayawardhane said. “So I am guiding them through it.”

The kits incorporate facts about many of the states that make up the North East. For each state, he challenges students with questions on its history and picks one historical figure that lived there to play a “Who am I?” trivia game. Jayawardhane chose abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe for Connecticut’s historical figure.

For now, the kits’ first release only offers facts about northeastern states, but Jayawardhane plans to offer further releases to cover each state.

He said it takes him about forty minutes and roughly $11 to make one kit. He then uses social media to market the product and emails local businesses to inquire about their interest in carrying the kits. Each kit sells for $25.

“I’ve communicated with small businesses who were shuttered during lockdowns in Wilton and even in Ridgefield and Stamford,” he said.

All sale proceeds are given to the Boys & Girls Clubs in Ridgefield and Stamford.

In the future, Jayawardhane said he may be interested in making this a business. In fact, the 16-year-old is already a businessman after co-founding Emperor Tutoring in 2020.

“Since third grade, I’ve kind of always wanted to start a business,” Jayawardhane said. “To be my own boss.”

He said that, for now, CraftMap will continue to be a not-for-profit business that is focused on “giving back to our communities.”

The kits are still in their earliest forms. Jayawardhane is continually trying to fine tune his product and said he is “beta testing” with close friends, family and community members. He hopes to ramp up production in the near future.

First, though, he hopes to bolster his supply so that he’s ready when demand does increase.

He then plans to branch out and sell the kits to more than just his local community and the neighboring towns. His aspirations are to sell his product across the North East, the same area that his first iteration of CraftMaps covers.

“It is bigger than myself, yes,” Jayawardhane said.