Learning in real time

Samyukta Ninan is an avid reader and a theatre enthusiast. She has been teaching in Bluebells school International for the past six years and is someone who loves to keep changing her methodology of teaching. Trained in Bharatnatyam and Carnatic music, Samyukta believes that preservation of all Indian performing and visual arts will help children connect with the ‘Indian’ in themselves. A true lover of history, she has been conducting heritage walks to instil a love of Delhi within her students. Samyukta dislikes aggressiveness and believes that anything can be achieved through a positive mind. She hopes to, this year, focus on getting her production on Raziya Sultan ready for the students, and wants to inspire them to write and produce historical plays.

The child of the 21st century has myriad privileges when compared to a child from an earlier century. But then, today’s children lose out on simpler things that were part of the lives of children once upon a time, such as the art of reading a book and telling a story. Once, family outings would end at a book store; schools motivated voracious readers, creating an environment that inspired children to read. Today, technologically savvy teenagers rely on summaries of books available at the click of a button. Their reading lacks analysis and this intellectual lethargy permeates all aspects of their education.

The essays, reflections, and creative writing of the 21st century student come as a rude shock as they lack depth and imagination. Therefore, the social sciences department of Bluebells School International made it their goal to improve this situation at least in their school.

Heritage walks exposed students to the many facets of history, helped them recreate a particular period of time and stimulated their curiosity. The students were more alert and active learners outside the classroom than they were inside. During the walk from the Archaeological Park to Mehrauli, the students saw a baoli or a traditional water body meant for conserving water. There was an interest in finding out the depth of the baoli even as they enjoyed running up and down the stairs of the structure. The students walked around the baoli, took their time to explore the area and inquired about the concept of a community centre. Thus, an environment was created based on observation, inquisitiveness, and reflection encouraging even the reticent students to participate.

As an extended activity to the walks, students were asked to pen down their reflections. At this point they were also introduced to the Amarchitra Katha – a good way of learning complex histories of the Chola kings of the south, the Mughals, the Sultans of Delhi and even the Vedas and Upanishads. Films, televised serials, and documentaries further built on the students’ learning.

Students began to find articles related to the topic under discussion and created photo banks of historical places they visited, motivating others to follow suit. Historical fiction demands vivid imagination and research skills. To cultivate these in the students, as a final addendum, they were asked to write an essay-cum-story based on any event in history. This activity motivated them to pursue published historical fiction.

Recently, the students were asked to write an essay as an officer of the East India Company seeking his fortune in India through spice trade. After perusing conclusions drawn in group discussions, documentaries, photographs, and paintings, students were able to analyze the viewpoint of a colonizer, assimilate known facts with imagination and employ historical terminology.

A positive and regular feedback is a must to assure students that their effort has been evaluated and commended. The teacher must become a ‘useful’ facilitator providing inputs to help the students fill the gaps in their work.