Making students socially responsible

First posted on: http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/making-students-socially-responsible/article22352516.ece

Roots Academy has been promoting afforestation in the areas surrounding the school.   | Photo Credit: By Special Arrangement

From saving lakes to launching afforestation initiatives, several city schools are taking education beyond the classroom

How do you save one of Bengaluru’s many lakes? How do you raise funds towards the education of underprivileged children? These are some of the ‘subjects’ that children in several schools across the city are learning with teachers encouraging them to look for answers beyond the prescribed syllabus. In the process, they are attempting to teach children to be aware of their social and moral responsibilities.

A look at some of the initiatives:

Lake adoption

Students of Prakriya Green Wisdom School, Sarjapur Road, have adopted Haddu Siddapura Lake, and have partnered with Bhoomi, an NGO working towards the preservation of lakes, to revive the water body.

Devi Sudhir, principal, Prakriya Green Wisdom School, said, “We conduct regular talks by experts on the importance of saving these lakes. The lake is a long-term project and we are aware that it will take a lot of time to fully revive it.”

Siddarth G., a student of Prakriya since fifth grade, said, “The lake used to be full all year around, but now it only reaches those levels of water after heavy rain. We are glad that we can help in some way to revive the lake.”

Apart from participating in cleaning drives, students perform street plays and make short films to educate people on the deteriorating condition of the lake. In February, they will be organising a Kere Habba.

Durga Sitaram, director of the school, said, “We are reviving the lake as a part of the Real Life Project, an interdisciplinary method of learning, which incorporates the syllabus of the students into real-world actions.”

Harvesting ragi

At Poorna, an alternative school in Bagalur Cross, students have been sowing and harvesting ragi crop. The initiative was taken up after an interactive session with Pallavi Verma Patil, a member of the Azim Premji Foundation. The decision to grow ragi was taken mainly because of its significance to Karnataka.

Talking about the initiative, Vasantha Kumari, science teacher, said, “The school has ensured that the planting of ragi becomes an integrated part of the curriculum. Every subject has now included this in some form or the other right from solving worksheets after a farm visit to making earrings and rangoli out of ragi in art class.”

Pallavi Verma Patil, member and initiator of the project, said, “Incorporating the Ragi project in the curriculum has ensured its sustainability. There were times when we felt that the project would not go through due to long periods of drought and then sudden heavy rain. However, we noticed a considerable change in the quality of the soil from the first day when we started sowing the seeds to the last day after harvesting.”

Students Chandan C., Manjunath D. and Maitrya Narayan said they plan to thresh and store the ragi that is harvested for school community lunches, which are held every Wednesday.

The school now plans to grow mushrooms.

Fighting for afforestation

Roots Academy has been promoting afforestation in the areas surrounding the school by partnering with Eco Watch, an environment conservation organisation launched by filmmaker and environmentalist Suresh Heblikar. Under their Pot-a-Plant project, the school has roped in students and parents, who have been growing plants in the school’s farm lands. Right from choosing seeds to the soil, the students are involved at each step. The students can take saplings back home.

“Our association with Eco Watch is an open-ended process as of now. Our students plant trees on a regular basis in the school and neighbouring premises using the plant seeds and soil that Eco Watch provides us. We are also in talks with Eco Watch to make this initiative into a large community programme,” said Pranothi Banwasi, principal of Roots Academy.

Educating the underprivileged

Bengaluru’s Kunskapsskolan School, which has counterparts in Sweden, the UK and other countries, is working with Sukrupa School, an English-medium education centre that teaches underprivileged children.

“We first started our association with Sukrupa at the teachers’ level in October this year. All the teachers of Sukrupa came over to our school for various workshops on differentiated learning,” said Kiki Jerneheim, Head of Kunskapsskolan School. “Later, we contacted our branch in Stockholm, Sweden, asking them to raise money for Sukrupa. Students in Sweden have collected more than ₹1.5 lakh, which will be used to set up a library at Sukrupa.”

For fund-raising, students in Sweden have been formed into an ‘Indian Group’ and will visit the country in March. The money raised by them will then be used to construct a library for Sukrupa by June next year. “This will be a long-time initiative. Right now, we are just focusing on children from Sweden coming to India. In the later stages, we aim to conduct various workshops with Sukrupa to understand what else is needed,” said Anamica Cannivady, General Manager of the school.

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