For the next six weeks, Class 4 students of NL Dalmia School on Mira Road will not carry any books to school. They will learn about cars, and motorbikes in class.
The theme-based learning programme will span across subjects. Students will write essays on traffic rules in the English class; they will learn about kinds of vehicular pollution in science and calculate distances in mathematics class.
To make learning more effective, schools are experimenting with theme-based learning and moving away from conventional subject-wise teaching. And this method of city schools has found its way into the research practices of Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.
"In social studies class, we learnt how we went from bicycle to small cars to big airplanes. Our classroom is filled with posters of roadways, railways, waterways and airways. We stick pictures of different vehicles on these posters. We have lots of fun and it is easy to remember these things," said Pratayush Kumar, a Class 4 student of NL Dalmia School.
Smt Sulochanadevi Singhania School, Thane, has been implementing theme-based learning programmes for the past six years now. The school follows a system called SPICE (see box). "Through this method, students are encouraged to ask questions, and relate things they learn to the world outside. They work with each other and come up with innovative solutions to problems," said Revathi Srinivasan, principal of the school. The school plans to implement this method in Classes 5 and 6 next year.
In a similar attempt to break away from the textbook-mould, schools are teaching outside classrooms. What started as an experiment to grow food organically using campus waste, soon turned into an out-of-classroom learning experience for students of Smt Surajba Vidya Mandir, Jogeshwari. Besides urban farming, students studied the evolution of farming methods and Maharashtrian agriculture in history class and teachers taught concepts of demand-supply and budgeting in the economics class.
The arts too are being used to make dreary subjects more interesting. At Amulakh Amichand School, Wadala, students were asked to bring out lessons taught in environment studies, science and value education classes through plays in the dramatics class. During the Ugly Duckling adaptation, students spoke of self-confidence and displayed placards on keeping lakes and ponds pollution-free. During practices and rehearsals, English teachers taught them vocabulary and gave essays on topics related to the play. "Students overcame stage-fright, and their creativity blossomed. They even
made props from waste material," said Uma Chaudhary, principal of the school.