SAIIER 2016:Learning from Our Environment

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Transition School
SAIIER Annual Report 2015-16 icon.jpg




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Learning to Learn Independently
Learning from Our Environment
A project of Transition School


Introduction

There is a commitment to developing the whole child at Transition School. We try to include various methods in the program so that different learning styles and interests of the children are addressed: cooperative learning, individual work, class projects and field trips and outings. Field trips and school outings are known to be important moments in learning. They enrich and expand the program. They also provide the students with the opportunity to explore various topics in a real setting outside the school environment, increase children's knowledge in a particular subject area, are memorable and help children to ground their learning and make sense of the world around them. They are also fun; the children look forward to these days.

The following brief reports demonstrate some of the wide range of experiences that were offered to the children this year.

Trips in Auroville

Education and progress are central to the Auroville society. There are many activities and areas of research and innovative work, and this offers opportunities to extend learning beyond the walls of the classroom. A wonderful aspect of our trips in Auroville is that they give the adults the chance to meet the children and the children the chance to get in contact with Aurovilians and see what is happening in Auroville. In Auroville there are many knowledgeable people happy to share their expertise and we benefit from these resources as much as possible opportunities.


  • Farms, forests and gardens are great places for the children to go. The caretakers are happy to see the children and the children love the nature and animals. This also reinforces their study of environmental science, animal and plant life and care for nature. Students from 1st and 2nd grade visited Pitchandikulam Forest. There is so much to see there: many birds and animals and plants. There is a special focus on medicinal plants that the children found very interesting.
  • The 7th grade students went to Hermitage to learn more about water conservation and see the see the check dams. This was part of a project on Water. The students enjoyed themselves, asked pertinent questions and learned a lot by actually seeing the changes that happened in that area because of the bunding and water collection. Kireet was a very inspiring guide.
  • This year the 8th grade class went on several outings that were related to our study of science. We started our study of environmental science with a trip to CSR. There we met Tency who spoke to the students and then showed them a very interesting Power Point presentation that helped them become aware of the work done by CSR and others in Auroville on working towards a sustainable future. It highlighted work done in the field of renewable energy systems (wind, solar, biomass), appropriate architecture and building technologies, waste water recycling and sanitation. The exchange with Tency was relaxed and pleasant and the students were impressed and one boy even said now he knew what he would do as an adult: he would come and work with CSR.
  • The 8th grade class had a project on biochar, conducted by Deoyani. First the students had a Power Point presentation on biochar, its benefits, applications and its manufacture. Then they were introduced to the use of biochar in Auroville through trips to Annapurna and Discipline Farm, where they learned about the comparative yields with and without charcoal . They then continued their learning by making some biochar at school. We used this biochar to enrich the garden that the 2nd grade students were planting.
  • Many groups of children visited the Matrimandir throughout the year. The children learned about different gardens, twelve petals and other stories about Auroville. Some of the children got to go to the top of the Matrimandir.
  • The second grade students had a special guest Mr. Frederick who is a long time Aurovilian. He shared his experience about Auroville with the children.
  • This year in the 6th grade (the Dolphins) studied Ancient Civilizations and the advent of writing. We decided to see how paper is made. We went twice to Auroville Papers. Once we went to see the process, all the different steps, and learn how to make paper. The second time we got to make our own paper, plain paper, and double layered paper with seeds and leaves in between and enjoyed it a lot. We pressed them and finally put them to out dry. The class loved this adventure and felt they had learned and experienced a new kind of learning through this technique that is actually thousands of years old.

Trips outside of Auroville

  • The second grade class went to Vandaloor Zoo in Chennai as a part of our Animal research project. Some of the parents joined us. All the children were extremely excited to see the different kinds of animals. We were inside the zoo for 3 hours. It was really a learning experience for all of us. Some of the children's comments: “it was really the best trip”; “wonderful trip”; “we wish to go again”, “the best day of my life”, “our favorite trip”. We learned a lot and had lots of fun.
  • The 4th grade students (Jaguars) while studying birds went on a trip to Vedanthaangal, one of the most important bird sanctuaries in Southern India. We are lucky to live not far away from Vedanthaangal – it is a two-hour drive from Auroville. Birds from as far away as Siberia migrate to this place during winter. The migratory birds arrive in September and stay until March. We spent the day observing and studying about the birds. The children immensely benefited from this trip. They were happy to see the migratory birds in close quarters. We saw beautiful Painted Storks, glossy Ibises, gray Pelicans and Eurasian Spoonbills among other birds. On the way home we stopped by Crocodile Bank. Even though it is a place for crocodiles, it is also home for birds. Here we could see their nests very closely and how they feed the young ones.
  • The 4th grade also made a field trip to Kazhuveli Wetland, a home for many migratory birds. The 10-year-old students made this trip a memorable one. They were up at 4:30 in the morning to travel to Kazuveli. We were there well before the sunrise. We walked about three kilometers along the bank of the swamp to observe and study birds. The kids understood to tread softly so that the birds may not be disturbed. They also learned to be quiet to not to chase the birds away. We were guided by two research students from the Department of Ecology, Pondicherry University. During our field trip we spotted purple heron, gray heron, little egret, great egret, intermediate egret, northern harrier, pied kingfisher, kingfisher and a very shy bird, pheasant-tailed jacana which is not easy to spot. Thanks to the Jaguars for their love for birds, parental support, and the unwavering moral and material support of the Transition School management which made this project a success.
  • This year we took the 5th and 6th grade students on an outing to the Pondicherry Science Centre and Planetarium. We visited the gallery on Marine Life as well as the “Fun Science” section, which has a variety of interactive displays where children can explore different principles of science. We then went for a show at the Planetarium where we learned about the universe and our Solar System. This outing, as well as being educational, was a great opportunity for interaction between children of the different grades.
  • The 7th grade students went to Devanandapettai, a natural reserve area near Gingee. This trip was related to environmental studies but the students also learned that they can do difficult things like climbing small mountains, and they also noticed the importance of water and shade for the well-being of humans and animals. We had to carry our own drinking water and many of them ran out before we were back at the bus. Although the trip was difficult at times, we all learned from it.
  • With the help of Joss from Pitchandikulum, the 8th grade students had the great opportunity to visit Adyar Poonga. This is an eco-park in Chennai. It is the result of the restoration of the freshwater eco-systems of the Adyar River and estuary. This was a very uplifting experience. The students saw that with attention and hard work even areas which had been made into an ecological disaster could be restored. They can see how with hard work, dedication and the knowledge of science what can be done. This is important as sometimes children of this age feel overwhelmed with all of the news about ecological problems and disasters. After this trip they all wrote a personal narrative telling about the day, what they learned and how they felt about it.

Outcomes

  • There was a lot of enthusiasm and interest generated through the trips.
  • Some classes gave presentations to other classes about their outings.
  • The children wrote entry slips for their portfolios.
  • Ideas for places to go were shared by teachers.
  • Through environmental outings, the children are becoming more aware and also more knowledgeable in this area.

Conclusion

Including outings and field trips is a really important part of integral education. The students can see, really understand and meet the people who are doing this inspiring and important work.