Designing and delivering creative lessons that integrate arts in education for 8-14 year olds
Client: Auromira School, Kechla, India
What I did: Teaching, Planning, Facilitating
The Auromira school, Kechla located in the poverty stricken district of Koraput is a Free Progress school that puts Sri Aurobindo and The Mother’s Educational Pedagogy in practice. The school uses informal teaching methodology- there are no formal classrooms, no textbooks or a rigid adherence to the curriculum. The school offers education and boarding to first generation Paraja tribal learners from nearby villages.
I worked in the Auromira school as an arts and project learning facilitator. I taught 8- 14 year old young learners using project-based, experiential teaching methodology. Life in Kechla was simple and the facilities extremely basic. Phones rarely caught signal and internet access was a struggle. So we read, walked, cycled, played chess and table tennis, swam a bit and dreamt a lot.
I taught art theory and practice to the Faith Group (the oldest learning group in the school had seven girls , 13 – 15 years old.) Faith Group girls were the most sincere, loving and wide-eyed girls you can ever have the delight of teaching! From day one, when they told me that I must guide them how to draw the ‘correct’ way to gradually gaining enough confidence in their art to define their own rules, the journey with this group has had a steep learning curve! The learning environment was informal and highly interactive. Each learner focussed on a topic or theme that interested them the most. No two girls had the same artwork. In a few months, the Faith Girls grew confident and courageous to paint a mighty wall in their hostel with their imaginative brush! Location of the learning sessions was dictated by the wishes of the learners as well as the weather – classes were held in the hostel courtyard or in the Art Room, sometime even on hill tops.
With younger learners (8 -11 years), we worked together on different projects adopting a more interdisciplinary approach. Every project class began with children’s vote that decided the topic of investigation. Next, relevant books of their choice were borrowed by the students from the library and used as reference throughout the duration of the project. During the course of the project, student played games, heard and told stories, made drawings and origami, learnt new words and used them in sentences.
At the end of every project, we organised a ‘sharing day.’ Sharing day is a fun way to help children consolidate their learning by making their learning visible. A few classes were dedicated to put up an ‘exhibit’ for guest visitors who were students from younger groups. When the guest students would visit the exhibit, the older students would show them around, share what they have learnt and play customised crossword, puzzles and other innovative games related to the project topic with them. This way, the younger students would get a peek into what the older students have learnt and the older students assume a responsible leadership position and grow into confident learners.
Since the students in Kechla come from a close knit family and clan-ship groups, practically everyone was related to the other in some way! There was a natural sense of collaboration that stemmed from living in harmony with nature and with the community. This especially showed up on ‘sharing days’ when students put their best foot forward to show the younger students who were their cousins or siblings what they have learnt.