Our Vipasana journey encountered a few hurdles before becoming the well-defined program it is today. It especially did not help that we were struck by the initial waves of covid while still at an embryonic stage of our growth. I am certain the reader is aware of the consequences of the pandemic, with our society coming to a virtual stand-still. Among those severely affected were the underprivileged first generation learners who did not have the means to keep up with their school education any longer. Those in the education field are conversant with the learning gap that has widened between the students who had the right resources and environment to sustain their education at home, and those who did not. At SMF, we made a conscious decision to reach out to these children in the primary classes to support them in any manner. We provided material and resources to help start some classes that would reconnect the children to learning. The effects of the pandemic however, go beyond simply loss of the curriculum or syllabus content.
Young children returning from the pandemic not only lost touch with the concepts they had learned before, but more seriously the ability and discipline required to focus, listen and learn. They were more distracted than before and traditional classroom set-ups failed to indulge their natural curiosity any longer. When schools began to re-open our challenge was two-fold-
Our solution was extremely simple but solved both our issues at once. Our TLM’s became reused/everyday materials! Yes, I mean Ice-cream sticks, paper plates, straws, toothbrushes etc. because our experience with students led to our belief that activity based learning always helped in long term retention of concepts. We started using the same TLMs like ice-cream sticks for activities. For example, a simple activity of making the Sun using ice cream sticks was linked to S-for sun (English), number 6 (number of rays, Math), as well as engaging their artistic side.
Once we decided on the methodology, our next steps involved identifying the key concepts they learn via the activity and mapping it with our syllabi. It was important that we had absolute clarity on these factors so that the teachers were able to successfully implement the lesson plan. This way of learning gave more freedom to allow the children to engage their creative side while allowing our teachers to understand their students better through recognising what kind of learning suits each child, and what areas they require help. It also gives one a sense of how a child perceives a particular concept once taught to them. For example, a child who draws a plant when asked to draw a tree perhaps assumes all vegetation to be trees, and a teacher understands this when looking at their activity, as it makes the child engage on their own rather than copy a blackboard definition. This kind of education helps us form a solid foundation of the basics for the children, right from the grassroots. This reduced the pressure on our resources as these TLMs were easy to acquire, while the activity based learning helped increase the engagement from the children. The benefits, were in fact threefold:
This was also an opportunity to teach the children about the importance of reusing and recycling our waste. We are confident that our children here will grow up to be very eco-conscious and resourceful individuals!
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