The experience of education precedes education itself. Just as who we are, is in part heredity and in part our environment, similarly, the environment in which we grow during our time in school is also instrumental. And for evident enough reasons, that would be valid even more so in the formative years. Herein comes our Leapfrog Programme. (Leapfrog : to move ahead of or beyond (someone or something) in a very quick and sudden way)
The programme is at present for Classes 1 to 5. In these classes, there are 2 teachers (one main and another floating between classes) for about 30 students. Then, there is the room itself. These are twice the size of normal classrooms (actually, we removed the walls between two adjacent rooms).
So, what do the above two changes mean for the children? The first is an emotional reason and has to do with relationships. At that age, the role of a teacher is as much to impart knowledge as to nurture the children in her care. The school should be a surrogate home for these impressionable and fragile minds. The teachers of these classes have to perforce take on the onus, and the responsibility, of sound transfer of knowledge. And for the most part, these teachers teach most of the subjects other than some language and computers. So, there is a sense of comfort as well as responsible and effective education. There is also the FGA-Fortnightly General Assessment. Teachers grade their children once a fortnight on parameters such as hygiene, peer relations, lunch- box and eating habits and self-confidence. And each child is compared to himself or herself; not with the rest of the class. That also is an important life skill- to compete with yourself and not necessarily with others.
Another important factor is the size and hardware in the rooms themselves. These Leapfrog rooms are a school unto themselves. The usual furniture apart- desks, chairs, whiteboard, shelves- these rooms are equipped with their own learning areas. There are laptops available for the children and teachers in the computer corner. There is a reading area with a mini-library from where children borrow books. And they issue the books to themselves-that’s about teaching responsibility! This area is followed by the writing area where the children pen down their creative ideas and thereafter they are encouraged for public speaking as they narrate the story they read to their classmates. In the Jodogyan and puzzle area, there is left-brain development. Puzzles are a great way of learning lateral thinking and instilling picturisation skills. And of course, how could the school be complete without an art area. Paint and other equipment is available right there to unleash right-brain creativity. Music is available so that teachers may use it
as a teaching tool for musical/rhythmic learners.
To now tie up the package neatly, where we have teachers with long tenure and a strong bond with the children and a mini-school for each class, we try and ensure through effective lesson planning, that each topic taught in any subject, should employ these areas mentioned above. So, whiteboard talk on rainfall would be followed up by research on related topics like average rainfall in the area. The teachers could play music related to rain or simply play the sound of rain as a source of grey noise to calm the children. They would sit in the art corner and paint water colours on rain and its effects. And thus, each learning style is addressed to a large extent creating a holistic learning experience.
And so, for us, how they learn comes much before the actual learning occurs. And that is how much we love our children and how much we love teaching them.