Learning in context

Lalitha Krishnamurthy

It was late evening when I walked down the hills from Kempty town, near Mussoorie, Uttaranchal. I stopped to watch a movement in the bushes, and also to take in as much of the quietness around me! The terraced hillside was being prepared for the next growing season. I watched as women and men carried gobar to each level of the land and poured them down to form cone-shaped heaps almost at equidistance.

The path was rugged, narrow and I had to watch each step of mine. The bell tolled from the distant temple and the caressing breeze gelled coherently with the serene ambience.

I heard footsteps behind me. I turned around to see a child with a bucket in his hand. He held the bucket high lest it touched the ground! He walked past me to stop at a point where I saw water trickling from a broken pipe on to a cemented surface and running off it.

I stopped to watch the kid. He put the bucket down and seriously got to work. He picked up a couple of fallen leaves and started positioning them to give the water an extra jet. Not happy with his job, he changed the direction of the flow, secured the leaves in position till he got the right jet of water flow. He allowed the muddy water to drop down and placed the bucket under the jet making sure that clean water collected in it. All this took a cool 10-15 minutes. The child all along was totally engrossed in his task and was never bothered by my presence. Now, all he had to do was to wait patiently until the bucket filled! What would he do? Jump here and there … start playing with stones… or would he saunter back home to come later? I wondered. But no, what he did was totally different.

He now started splashing water from a tank close by and started scrubbing the platform with his tiny hands. Every time he splashed the water, it reached farther from before and he seemed to enjoy it all. All the time he was careful to see that he put his foot carefully on the edge of the tank, lest he should slip into it! At this time, I started recording his actions, of which he was again unmindful! There was a purpose in his act, which was fun. I moved slowly away from the scene leaving the child still engrossed in his cleaning (act) play! (What made the child clean the place he was never expected to?)

This episode may appear trivial to a casual reader. But look at it this way, here was a child who exhibited his intelligences in logic, aesthetics, spatial, and intrapersonal areas. All his learning was contextual and meaningful. I am yet to see learning sessions in our classrooms that would match this kind of experiential learning. The day learning (as in schooling) was separated from real life, spontaneous, and meaningful learning has taken a back seat!

Another incident can help the reader understand what I am trying to say. I was travelling from Dehradun to Delhi. My co-passengers were all schoolgirls from Class IX-XII who were returning from a four-day trip to Mussoorie.

The journey was for five hours. What shocked me most was the condition in which they left the compartment! Swanky boxes of their breakfast, packets of confectioneries they ate, mineral water bottles, bits and pieces of fruits, lay strewn all around in the AC compartment. My rather humble reminder to them of who is going to clean up the place received glares and the very thought that they should tidy the place they so far occupied was disgusting to them! The teachers who accompanied them were totally oblivious of the scene.

Was there any learning here for me? Quite a lot. What about you?

The author is a teacher and is associated with TVS School, Tumkur. She is passionate about learning and can be reached at lalithak58@gmail.com.

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