We follow "Activity and inquiry based learning" at primary and upper primary levels. The activities are designed to impart learning as well as to act as assessment tools. Teacher’s keenly observe the participation and work done by children in activities and assess the learning levels of each child on various parameters, without the child even knowing that assessment is happening. This gives us a natural understanding of the child’s learning levels, based on which we group children and choose the teaching methods and learning activities for each group.

Pedagogy of Languages

We aim to create an environment in which a child may enjoy the beauty of the language, develop a taste for it and be able to read and understand contemporary and older texts, which is necessary to have an understanding of our roots, customs and subaltern histories and to be able to judge the contexts in which our beliefs and customs are or aren’t applicable.

Pre- Primary & Class 1

For the first 6-8 months of joining school, children converse in Telugu with occasional English words. Introduction to formal learning of the language is through carefully selected stories that contain simple often used words.

a. Pre-writing activities

Before they are initiated into writing, many activities similar to Pictionary (Where one is supposed to express oneself through drawing pictures), and games that require them not to communicate orally, help them devise innovative ways to communicate on paper, without even knowing the written alphabet. This prepares them mentally, to the idea of having symbols for sounds or words that mean something.

b. Pre-Reading Activities

Introduction to alphabets is through picture-word cards. We have selected a set of 13 letters that are most repeated in Telugu in this region and then the next most used 13 letters and likewise. We devised games using each set of those 13 letters which can be played by 2 – 5 members. The game aims to establish the sound symbol association in Telugu in fun and meaningful ways, while they interact with other children. With the first set of 13 letters children learn to read many words names of nearby village on the boards, names of the class rooms in the school, a lot of carefully selected stories and some stories created for the specific purpose, in the library. The need to learn and the practical application of the freshly acquired knowledge motivates them to learn the remaining letters in the alphabet.

c. Vocabulary

Games like Taboo (Customized to Telugu for each different age group) , Scrabble, crossword and few other games that we have created, let students search for new words, synonyms, antonyms, rhyming words and words with multiple meanings and context sensitive meanings etc. In all these activities we ensure there is emphasis on children talking with each other, because that is how vocabulary and hence language is best built.

Class 2 & 3, Class 4& 5

First 1 to 2 months in the academic year goes into easing children into new ways of the school. This is done through group activities that can be action games or games involving oral or written components. Teacher’s keenly observe the participation and work done by each child in these activities and assess the learning levels of each child on various parameters, without the child even knowing that assessment is happening. This gives us a natural understanding of the children’s learning levels, based on which we may be able to group children on various parameters and plan which group may need remedial learning to cover the gaps they may have had from previous learning or skip some activities for another group which has progressed beyond the learning objectives of the activity.

Carefully selected stories from folklore, the sciences and the social sciences act as rich materials for discussions while also exposing the world beyond the textbooks. Language games such as Taboo, Code Names and custom made games tailored to different age groups across classes and participation in physical activities such as pottery, carpentry, basket weaving and the like present children with a wide range of vocabulary.

Classes 6, 7 & beyond

Language games at different mastery level continue. Along with these, activities like debates and discussions are included. Children are encouraged to read extensively from the resources made available in the library and other avenues. Projects such as collection of some works of poets on a theme or writing stories and poems on various themes, translations from Hindi or English to Telugu are taken up.

Collection of folklore from nearby villages or from their elders, exploring local history or local cuisine, customs involving interviews and field visits is encouraged.

Exercises in the language that make the students perceive the context sensitivity or insensitivity of certain language components are taken up. These exercises aim to construct an intuitive understanding of grammar before formal teaching of grammar begins.

Pedagogy of Science and Social Sciences

Most of the children who come to us from rural areas are already exposed to plethora of natural experiences and have a fair knowledge of flora and fauna around the region. For instance often a decent understanding of seasons, their role in agriculture, farming practices and the economics around it is found in these children even before they start formal schooling. They also are conscious of their socio-economic conditions. We try and build on this rich existing knowledge and introduce children to formal learning processes.

Junior School

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.

Middle School

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.

Pedagogy of Mathematics
As we all know the best way to learn anything is through application. We try to introduce mathematics through practical application across all age groups and learning levels.

Pre-school Mathematics

In the pre-school we begin with pre-mathematical concepts and through participative games which are closer to their everyday living. Pre-school activities involve running, jumping and other physical actions as responses to identifying a number or doing basic arithmetic.

This keeps children active, participating and interested in the games while they learn without actively trying. Some board games motivate children to practice in order to be able to complete the game in better/efficient ways. A major advantage through non-competitive board games is that children learn to co-operate and help one another.

Anecdotes from Pre-School

A child was brought to our pre-school a few years ago. His elders told us that he didn't know any alphabet or numbers and is a bit dull. We learnt later that he was a school rejecter by that age.( He refused to go to school) and hence was already labeled as dull. He could only identify and write the numbers 1,2,3 and 4. One Monday during one of the conversations about what they had done on the weekend, he said " We met my uncle who gave us 50 rupees out of which I bought 2 chocolates at 5 rupees each and I still have 40 rupees left. I think I will buy a toy in the fair with the left over money".

This boy knew 50,40,5,10 the relation between those numbers, addition and subtraction intuitively. They could use them practically. Yet the world called him dull. And he believed in it. It took some time for him to forget those labels as he was eased into a non-judgmental environment of our school.

Junior and Middle School

The story of the boy mentioned above, proved yet again how effective practical approach to learning is. The boy was used to going to the shop and buying small items. That way he picked up the basic arithmetic and an intrinsic understanding of cardinality of numbers without even being able to write the numbers.

We developed role play strategy games that involve basic arithmetic operations and formulating strategies that can maximize their chances of winning(i.e., completing the activity faster). This helps them observe the relationship between numbers in an intuitive way. Through these games we gradually introduce the symbols or the language of Math, as a way to represent their intrinsic understanding of arithmetic operations and numbers and not as something completely different from what they have ever observed otherwise in life.

Formal learning of Mathematics is thus introduced in a way similar to that of languages.

In middle school also the approach to mathematics is similar to that of junior school. However as the range of topics grows, so does the variety of activities that create an environment to notice patterns around, formulate theories and test them. Interactive stories also serve as a means to introduce a complex concept in simpler and captivating ways.

Arts and crafts

Art and craft unleash the creativity in an individual. They are powerful tools of expression provided we leave children free to experiment with the art forms and also in their choice and object of expression.

We engage students in classical music, sketching and painting. Students also work with clay and wood every week. We envisage these sessions as activities that anchor children within themselves, as intense work done with the hands really calms the mind.

Fitness and sports

Children across age groups play basketball, badminton, volleyball and such group games. They run for agility training.

We have refrained from sports requiring individual performances like races. We view games as bonding opportunities where more skilled and stronger older students may help weaker and younger students and the younger ones learn from the older students. We emphasize more on rigor of regime than the competitive spirit that pushes one to win at any rate.