If you haven’t heard this enough already (which we doubt is a possibility), we will say it one more time, just for the record. The early years are a crucial period of learning and discovery in a child’s life. According to recent research, in the first 2000 days of a child’s life, the neurons in the brain develop at a rate of 700-1000 per second. And the experiences in these 2000 days is a strong predictor of an individual’s health, learning and behaviour throughout life. Children ask questions, experience their immediate environment, learn to share, and thrive in a happy environment. Our only goal is to provide the apt platform to build productive, lifelong-learners in our children to set them up to face future challenges.
With this backdrop, we wanted to take you through our teaching and learning process in the new learning environment – how it started and why we (the children and us) are thoroughly enjoying it today 😊
With schools shut in March 2020, our entire world changed as much as yours did. We went back to the drawing board with the aim to rethink the learning process. There was a unanimous consensus among us – the curriculum team – that, even in the new learning environment, the 3 primary pillars of learning had to remain unshaken.
Three primary pillars of ‘how children learn’ –
These 3 methods fall under the larger umbrella of the holistic play way method of learning, and this had to continue, more so because children were at home and opportunities for the social play were reduced significantly.
It has been rightly said that PLAY is the serious business of a child. Play is a form of action, which covers the child’s entire world and effects all activities of their life. Genuine play is self-regulated and self-initiated. This secret ingredient of play, the sense of ownership (I own what I play) stimulates nerve cells of the brain to make faster connections with each other. Time and again, research has proven that more the playful state of mind in the first six years, stronger is the growth of the human brain. Even in studies on teenagers, playful activities are found to be influential in the growth of frontal lobe which is the centre for planning and decision making. A child at play is intrinsically motivated to learn and is able to develop socio-emotional skills, psychological and physical development, and build organizational skills. Play gives children the freedom to inquire, experience and express which are the other 3 pillars of how a child learns.
Among other initiatives, ‘Fun Fridays’ which is a part of the Learn@home program, aligns with the play-based learning methodology to provide children with ample opportunities to participate in role-playing and creatively express themselves. Children look forward to the ‘Show and Tell’ sessions, Art, and Dance sessions when they can express themselves through words, colours and movement.
When we see children playing a fruit treasure hunt along with their teachers, we know that PLAY continues even on the Learn@home platform. As their fruit baskets get heavier, they have not only explored the fruits with all their senses but also learnt all about ‘heavy and light’ properties of objects, by way of experiential learning. When Priya introduces her grandmother during the ‘My family’ themed session or Arjun shows his pet animals during ‘Animal welfare’ session, these little ones ‘learn by doing’.
When a wonder-struck facilitator shows the video of a caterpillar weaving a pupa in her garden and asks the children, “I wonder what it is?” we know that curiosity and inquisitiveness is honed and valued as an important skill in the child’s mind. We consciously stay away from just ‘telling’ but rather ask questions and encourage a child to explore, observe, notice and arrive at a conclusion.
Apart from academic learning, we believe that it is important for children to express their emotions, thoughts, and perspective. This is a big indicator of a child developing his or her identity and is an integral part of essential life skills for them to face the real world. Our carefully curated art, dance, role-plays or costume dress sessions part of Fun Fridays ensure that children get ample opportunities for Self-Expression.
We base our teaching philosophy on a simple yet profound concept by author and Professor Alison Gopnik. Stemming from a metaphor about the parent-child relationship in her book ‘The Gardener and Carpenter’, she poses a fascinating central argument of being a gardener rather than a carpenter, while bringing up children. While a carpenter chisels away at something to achieve a particular end-goal, a gardener toils to create the conditions in which plants have the best chance of flourishing.
There is one particular excerpt that is very apt to what we want to convey in this piece. It goes like this – “So our job as parents is not to make a particular kind of child. Instead, our job is to provide a protected space of love, safety, and stability in which children of many unpredictable kinds can flourish. Our job is not to shape our children’s minds; it’s to let those minds explore all the possibilities that the world allows. Our job is not to tell children how to play; it’s to give them the toys and pick the toys up again after the kids are done. We can’t make children learn, but we can let them learn.”
While we ‘let’ children learn, we think it is our duty to make sure that they enjoy the process rather than fret about the end result. The process itself is the means and the end.
With children out of school, physical distancing as the new norm, and children’s rights under threat, the new world order has “turned back the clock” on years of progress made on children’s well-being. However, it’s not all bad. As a human race, we’ve been built to adapt: we’ve seen a tipping point in technology-enabled education and the promise of a new education policy in our country.