SAIIER 2018:Effective learning environments by utilization of LIAPs (Leadership in Action Programs) in STEM

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Deep learning of Mathematics through EBD and materials
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Factors and interventions influencing students' attitude towards mathematics
Effective learning environments by utilization of LIAPs
(Leadership in Action Programs) in STEM
A project of STEM Land

by Sundar and Sanjeev R.

At STEM Land we wish to create an effective learning environment. We want children to take charge of their learning, by having the freedom of choice with the responsibility to focus on what they want to learn. Sri Aurobindo indicates that “nothing can be taught”, but the teacher can support and encourage a child in the process of learning, thus guiding them towards perfection. We believe we are being true to this first principle of true education.

The aim of this research was to study co-created effective learning environments with children by utilization of LIAP (Leadership In Action Programs) that connect the children to what they care about most, how they perceive patterns in society and community, and how they act. We explored the effectiveness of such a LIAP with 12 to 14-year-olds to foster leadership skills at STEM Land.

Description of project:

We conducted LIAP programs for the children at the iSMART classroom. The program was conducted over 5 weeks, with a session on each Monday. Students were 7th and 8th grade students from Udavi School and 3 interns at STEM Land (Aura Auro Design).

Students were split in groups of 6, with 1-2 table Practitioner Coaches per group. The Practitioner Coaches facilitated exercises adapted from “Stewardship for New Emergence” for the groups. We felt that for the sessions to be effective we should have resource people who are external to our current work, and so enrolled Bridget, Helena and Ahmed who are part of conducting the main “Stewardship” program. They were supported by the STEM Land team of Arun, Bala, Pratap, Poovizhi, Naveen, Sundar and Sanjeev.

The sessions conducted were as follows:

Day 1: ‘Stand’ and Fears

The day started with introducing the resource persons. Then ground rules for the entire workshop was created by the participants – children and coaches for children and coaches. These included: Switch off mobile phones; Respect the material and others and yourself; Be responsible; Only one person talking at a time; Be engaged and interactive; Raise your hand if you want to say something; Don’t waste time; Concentrate on the session; Speak softly and clearly; Help others; No clapping or chit chatting/whispering; Don’t ridicule others; Be joyful; Don’t play; No judgment.

Ahmed facilitated a session on sourcing our inner power. The children were asked to imagine their own superhero, someone he or she would admire, along with the powers the superhero would possess for the wellbeing of all the beings in the world. The children came up with different heroes of their imaginations. The values that each of the different heroes embodied were:

  • Happiness (+16)
  • Courage (+5)
  • Love (+5)
  • Equality (+5)
  • Joy (+3)
  • Kindness (+2)
  • Truth (+1)
  • Care
  • Compassion
  • Confidence
  • Creativity
  • Freedom
  • Handwork
  • Harmony
  • Intelligence
  • Perseverance
  • Respect
  • Wisdom

Each and every one declared their values in front of the class. These are what each of them ‘stand for’. Once all the participants had grounded themselves with their ‘stands’, the next tool was introduced. Everyone in the room was asked to find the social fear each one has, so that in a day-to-day life one can realize and act from possibilities rather than fear (which is a default state). The fears were found to be:

  • Judgment (+13)
  • Failure (+10)
  • Loss (+10)
  • Making mistakes (+7)
  • Not being good enough (+4)
  • Ridicule (+2)
  • Loneliness (+1)
  • Not being respected
  • Rejection

The children drew and colored their superheros before the next session. The day closed as each day does with organization group feedback: what went well, what could have be done differently for the next session. We felt we could do more thought breaks.

Day 2: Background conversation and deep listening

The day started with insights from the previous session: ‘what I learnt about myself’ (distinguished from what I have understood about the theory). This was done so that each of the participants could inspire others through their own learning.

Then the children were introduced to the most common forms of background conversation, which constantly distract the listener from really connecting with the speaker. This gave the children reflections on how it feels when someone listens to you and when someone does not.

This was followed by an exercise done in teams, demonstrating what is deep listening and what is not, how we have a choice to listen deeply or not, and how this can impact people around us.

Day 3: Four Profiles

Insights from background conversation and deep listening were processed on stage. (S: “I noticed that when I do not listen to others, they stop talking to me.” N: “I respect others when they are speaking by listening to them.”) The profiles Wisdom, Social, Personality, Professional were introduced. We did a group exercise of speaking based on these profiles, and table sharing. Two insights from each table were processed on stage.

Children came up with insights about how segregation based on religion occurs and how to notice it and speak up. At the end a child came up with “everyone has to be respected”.

Day 4: Movie on Creativity

Insights from the four profiles were processed on stage. (G: “We are all human beings, we should be kind.” “I noticed a social profile by going to a wedding of a different religion.” M: “I notice we see others' profiles and compare; profiles are just like dresses, I don’t judge people by their dress.”)

A short documentary on creativity was screened, with a powerful sight of how to view different events or opportunities in life with different perspectives.

Insights that came from participants on ‘what I need to do to be creative’: Free mind and imagination; Look from different angles and persevere; Different styles of thinking; To see extraordinary in ordinary; Discover and have my own way.

Day 5: Story of Stuff

Insights from the last session on were processed on stage. (A: “Not stop trying in any situation.” D: “Do something new every day.” P: “Make the ordinary to extraordinary.”)

System thinking was introduced to the children; an example of how the lunch break works was explained. Once the children found out what a system was and how it was designed we moved to watch a documentary called The Story of Stuff.

Here the participants were asked to find different systems principles they could identify. Some were: Recycling; System which is harming the environment; System with ‘perceived obsolescence’ and ‘planned obsolescence’; A pattern of production – consumption – disposal; System without responsibility or values; System has external cost; The system delivers what it is designed for; System is inter-connected.

At the end of these sessions, children were given triad sheets to color and instructions on how to attend each triad. Triad groups were posted in STEM Land and a PC had two triads with 4 children in each. This process is ongoing and being documented for insights from the children: on how they act now after knowing the tools and putting them in practice.

The completion of workshop for session 1 was celebrated with refreshments.


  • Children realized how social profile was segregating them, and decided to act from wisdom profile and said it is not right to treat people based on caste and religion.
  • They found out the importance and benefits when listening to other people attentively and not being distracted or letting their background conversation and judgments take over.
  • To not be afraid of making mistakes, and after getting one answer they look for the next right answer.
  • Children were able to reflect on their daily progress and create their own weekly plans to execute.
  • Children reflect in weekly triads, to inspire and grow with the learning of others.


This series of workshops gave me the opportunity to work with children and see their inner values.

It will be continuing in the form of triads and documenting the reflection of the children over a period of time, to see the changes each student finds in his or her day-to-day life.