We concentrate on training children in observing deeply, expressing themselves, finding patterns, drawing inferences, asking questions and discussing with peers, recording observations, writing about their inferences, experimenting, designing experiments to check something, which are some of the formal processes of learning and scientific inquiry.
Anecdotes from junior school
Tomato- Organic Farming- Self-help groups- Mitigation of losses to farmers
We usually involve students in the farming activity on the fields associated with the school. As part of our school activity, junior school students were closely monitoring the organic Tomato farm that we were working on. They observed that the only fertilizer we applied is manure from cows that we procure from a nearby village, as opposed to the chemical fertilizers that are used here widely. They could also see that periodically we were spraying disinfectant made with neem oil and other medicinal leaves to ward off pests. They could also observe that in the middle of the rows of the Tomato plants, we have planted some marigold plants also and they questioned why we had mixed the plants on the same field. They were answered that the marigold plants aid in pest control in tomatoes.
They made calculations around the crop cycle as in the total investment including fertilizers, pest control measures, labor, the throughput of tomatoes per cycle (also accounting for the waxing and waning periods of production) the price offered to the farmer over the season, in the Mandi.
Children even as young as 8 years could observe that using chemicals and fertilizers cost their families exorbitant amounts each year and if the price of tomato is low they endure losses. This made them think of ways to end that menace. The group of children and the teacher discussed about the journey of produce from production to consumption, the need for middle men, the margin that each party involved gets and how it is more than what the farmer gets despite the risk of investment as well as their labor. This eventually led to the discussion on the efforts of a farmers’ self-help group that is operational in and around Madanapalle, which tries to mitigate the losses of Tomato farmers each year, by creating a supply chain devoid of middle men, and also promotes organic farming by creating a market for chemical free produce with fairer prices.
Learning during free-play
Once the junior school children were making paper boats and sailing them in a small water tank where one child observed that the boats kept on the East end of the tank were moving towards the West but those kept at the West end remained stationary. One of the younger children remarked that it was because of the direction of the wind. It eventually led to a discussion with the teacher on how to check the direction of the wind and construction of a wind vane and we went on to discuss the use of mast in ship.
Formal and informal discussion sessions are a very important part of our science and social pedagogy.
Dialogues (Formal Discussions)
During dialogues sessions children from different age groups sit and start discussing about anything they feel is important. Teachers guide the discussions when the children sway away from the topic of discussion, sometime they ask questions to make children think deeper, offer new perspectives. These sessions open one to other’s point of view, learn to be challenged and corrected and make one think deeply. These sessions are a practice into keeping ones emotions and allegiances in check and really be critical.
Dialogue sessions act as spaces of reflection on oneself individually, collectively as a group where we are headed. They also act as process setting democratic spaces in the school.
Anecdotes from classroom (Informal discussion, in middle school)
During a discussion on cotton crop and cotton picking picking, the discussion on labor led to discussion on employing children for economic gains. This eventually led to children questioning why they get to come to school while some don't. They went on to link how the scheme of "Ammavodi"( a financial aid of Rs.15,000/- to the mother of a school going child) by the government of Andhra Pradesh enables poor families to be able to dispense with the child's labor and let the child benefit from going to school.