Learning during my school days was textbook and classroom centric. Reading books (other than textbooks) or playing was not considered even remotely useful. I always wondered why the activities that brought so much joy to me were not ‘learning’ and why going to school always filled me with fear, dread, grimness, and everything serious. There was very little room for fluidity, uncertainty, discovery, and fun.
Years later when I began home-schooling my children, I found that my inability to teach within four walls and also to fall into the typical mould of an authoritative teacher opened new doors in the domain of learning. I was unable to draw boundaries of subjects or space and hence learning found its room in all the spaces that we lived in. We had no experts to show us the way, we had to find our own. Anybody could take on the role of the teacher, all of us were learners. Everything, including engaging in household chores or reading stories aloud was learning.
When I subsequently morphed into a formal teacher at a school in Hyderabad, I decided to try this method of learning by exploring and treating everything around us as learning material with a larger group of children. I had a set of 25 boys and girls in the age group of 8-9 years. I was to teach them science apart from many other subjects. I had made up my mind that my job was to instill a scientific temper of mind rather than stuff these little brains with information. I was looking for help and guidance and that’s when I found my inspiration in a handbook. This book ‘Joy of Learning’ Handbook of Environmental Education Activities (Vol I, II and III) developed by the Centre for Environment Education and Vikram Sarabhai Community Science Centre had more than 200 simple activities which teachers and parents could do with children. This became the springboard for the various activities that I devised of my own.
The author is managing a preschool in Coimbatore. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.