Situated in a small slum in Padarayanapura (Bangalore), Florida English School (FES) teaches hundreds of students from low-income backgrounds. Although it is still a small school with limited resources, FES boasts of colorful classrooms and a community dedicated to providing the best education to its students.
Three weeks ago, I began my month-long internship with Mantra4Change. Dedicated to servicing the local community and transforming education in low-income schools, I flew to India for the first time in nearly five years. Since then I have been working with the lower kindergarten children and the teachers at FES.
When I first visited the school, the students were bursting with exuberance and an insatiable desire for high-fives. Workbooks clasped in their hands, they wandered around the classroom and yelled for the teachers’ attention. Those who had mastered the learning objectives for the day crowded around their friend’s desks, stealing pencils or fighting. Much to my disappointment, those who were unable to complete the classwork sat on their chairs disillusioned and lacking confidence in themselves. Heartbroken by the incessant distractions and sense of helplessness in the classroom, Aishwarya, Megha, and I organized some activities to transform the learning at FES.
Discovering the solution
On the third day of our internship, we learned that the children loved to color. We brought some poster paper and crayons to the class, and the childrens’ eyes shone with excitement. Suddenly, students who once clutched the school gates crying were sitting in a circle; enthralled by the letters and numbers strewn across the paper. Students who once struggled to write were grabbing crayons and forming haphazard lines. Class participation surged, and the activity turned out to be a huge success; students were having fun while learning rudimentary writing skills. Apart from coloring, another successful activity was circle time. Seated on the floor, we asked students for their name, and they replied in full sentences. Eventually, we began to review numbers, colors, and body parts in the circle formation. Both students and teachers were engaged and relaxed in this new learning environment. We designed a curriculum for the class and worked along with the teachers to implement it.
“My favourite thing about teaching at the school is seeing the children each day and then seeing their progress as the week goes by. I am happy to see the teachers conducting circle time on their own and implementing our advice in the classroom.”
As time progressed, Aishwarya, Megha, and I witnessed significant development in the skill sets of the students. Coloring and playing with blocks strengthened their fine motor skills and thus, penmanship improved. Students are now successfully able to recall and write the alphabet and numbers 1-10 with crayons. As the year progresses, students will begin to write with pencils and learn small words. FES will continue to follow the creative curriculum and take an activity-based approach to learning. We are positive that these teaching methods will have a drastic improvement on the students’ education.
The laughter and smiles of the children at school enriched our stay in Bangalore, and we will miss the memories created on this trip as we return to our routine life in America.