IMPORTANT NOTE FOR GURUS
- The following contents have been taken from the book ‘Towards Human Excellence Sri Sathya Sai Education for Schools’ Book 7,”Experiential Learning” published by Institute of Sathya Sai Education, Mumbai.
- Balvikas Gurus are requested to read this thoroughly and use the activity in their Balvikas classes.
- Gurus may observe that in Balvikas Group I syllabus, experiential learning is limited to the stage of ‘Mind Mapping and Web Charting’ i.e., only up to the first 4 steps given in the following document under the heading ‘how to proceed’.
- However the entire procedure has been given here so that gurus understand this activity and its benefit in entirety.
- It is to be noted that the theory part is for the understanding of the Gurus only and not required to be “taught as a lesson” in class.
- The practical activity alone needs to be done in the Balvikas class.
- A sample activity is given at the end of this write up on experiential learning.
Experiential Learning is a holistic approach to teaching. It provides intra-integration while artificial barriers of discipline disappear. Children understand the science behind the phenomena, relate them to life’s experiences, and discern a fulfilling pattern. Thus, Truth, Goodness and beauty Sathyam, Shivam and Sundaram become the benchmark of ‘Experiential Learning’. This insight has a deep value inculcation dimension.
The purpose of this approach is two folds.
- Firstly, it involves all children of the class. While the class teacher selects the topic, the ideas for content and presentation all come from the children. Once children know their role, they gather all the inputs; the output is what you witness. When children merely listen, the absorption is barely 20%. When they get involved actively, and speak out what they have understood, the absorption ratio is 70%, or even more. Children assimilate what they experience directly. They can call that knowledge their own. What is not assimilated, i.e., not integrated into the system, is thrown out, vomited (as in exams nowadays). Bookish knowledge comes into this category, as Sri Sathya Sai Baba says. Practical knowledge is what they absorb; this is a net academic gain.
- Secondly, in working on a Theme, children work together; they develop co-operation and co-ordination. They exchange ideas and skills, which promotes the value of sharing. They develop consensus, inculcating democratic values. Thus, Group activity provides a lot of ‘peer group’ support.
- Experiential Learning is an approach to curriculum rather than a subject to be taught and learnt.
- Hence, it does not have a well-defined body of knowledge, set course content.
- The information content for any exercise cannot be pre-determined. Initially children provide the course content based upon their past experience and perception.
- However, as their involvement in the Theme activities increases, the course content gets deepened and widened.
- Thus, Experiential Learning is a dynamic, evolving process.
- Essentially, it is an enquiry method laying stress on social skills, intuitive experience and creative expression.
- In the process, the approach explores an extensive range of skills collection of all types of data and its interpretation, communication by a variety of methods and promoting inter-personal understanding.
- Ability to work in a group, giving and accepting suggestions, respecting others and the physical environment, and accepting responsibility are some other skills which are promoted with care to ingrain a stable value system.
HOW TO PROCEED?
- The starting point would be to initiate a class discussion focused upon identifying a Theme for the activity. The Theme selected should be such that it holds the interest of the children. This is possible when children see its relevance to their immediate environment and their role in life- situations.
- Once a Theme is agreed upon, the class should begin the mind mapping exercise. The teacher invites from the children words, which come to their mind, related to the Theme. A full list of words can be written on the display board. This gives a lot of scope for creative suggestions from the children; sometimes, even teachers may find inclusion of some words strange or mind bogging. Naturally, they are not be bound by the restrictions of a text or a syllabus. However, we have to accept children’s perceptions.
- When the Mind-Mapping exercise reaches a satisfactory stage, the class begins preparing a Web Chart. Each part of the Web-Chart is a set of words; it outlines the scope of the topic – words and exploration through activities. It is generally observed that children tend to group the words under the disciplines of science, mathematics, social studies, languages, etc because they have a well-defined course content.
- At the time of making the Web-Chart, it is useful if the children sit in small groups and share ideas. Sitting around in a circle promotes freedom of interaction. In the first few sessions, the teacher may observe that children speak too much or too loud. Once they get occupied with the work, and have set for themselves a target to achieve, the noise level will lower down.
- Next, the entire class can share ideas of these groups. Initially, the Web-Chart may appear too large, extensive or complicated. Alternately, the children may think that children have ‘missed’ several links; however any direct suggestions at this stage should be avoided. Yet, the teacher may have to bring some coherence into the presentation by skilfully guiding the children. Based on the interest shown by the children, the teacher may suggest that they work on certain selected portions.
- After making this Web-Chart, the class can now be organized into groups of say 5-6 children. Each group should choose to work on one particular sub-part of the Web-Chart. They will naturally choose the part that interests them most. The teacher should rotate the nature of work in such a way that specialization is discouraged. All children should have an opportunity to develop all skills in due course of time.
They can now start listing all possible activities; this will largely depend upon the particular talents and skills shown by the children. The area of activity will normally fall into several categories such as language skills (songs, poems, writing skits or role-plays), mathematical skills (measurements, estimation, mapping, graphing), creative skills (art, craft, music, dramatization), and communicative skills (interview, story telling, speech, writing).
The duration of each Experiential Learning Theme may vary anywhere from 6 to 16 hours. Schools may allot one hour each day for several days. Strictly speaking, most schools have a tremendous flexibility of time tabling and curriculum selection; however it is not generally explored. Schools and teachers must have the conviction to adopt innovative methods and provide for unstructured time schedule.
- When the exercise is complete, opportunity may be given to the children to make a presentation to other classes and visitors/parents. Charts, models, role-plays, songs, games, stories or any other activity can be used for effective presentation. The class can then proceed to the next topic.
ROLE OF THE TEACHER
In all this process, the teacher’s role is very crucial. She must always keep the essential objectives in mind. The teacher is a friend, guide and philosopher to the children. Friend, because children should have an easy access to her and they should receive encouragement from time to time. Guide, because the teacher adopts a suggestive approach, not a dominating one; she gives careful suggestions and hints, conducts discussion and question sessions in a positive manner. Philosopher, because the teacher’s presence and influence, hints and suggestions, influences the children to discover the values inherent in all learning.
With very young children, who have yet to develop good writing and conversational capability, questioning and discussion immediately after the activity is very essential. Children should be asked to describe what they have done, what they have discovered and concluded. This increases their vocabulary and communication skills. It gives them self-confidence and self-satisfaction.
As stated earlier, Experiential Learning is an approach, not a discipline. The teacher, must, therefore, come out of her own limitations of thinking in terms of the syllabus alone. When children enjoy and are engrossed in their work, when they develop a deeper understanding of co-relation among diverse events and phenomena, when they are able to express effectively what they observe and learn, and when they have harmonized their thoughts, feelings and actions into one unified entity, we should feel satisfied with the outcome of the effort.
SAMPLE CLASS ACTIVITY FOR GROUP I
How to do this activity in class?
- Begin with Silent Sitting – either through prayer, guided visualization or closing their eyes and observing silence for about one to two minutes. This helps them to calm down and relax.
- Choose a topic – It should be ONE WORD. Write down the word in the centre of the board. The word should be of interest to the children, appropriate to their age and they should be aware of the word and its meaning. Please avoid using abstract words like love, peace, honesty etc. Let the word be concrete. Let’s say we choose the word “colours”
- Now we ask children to name all those words that come to their minds when they think of the word colour. This is called Radiant Thinking. Write down all the words in the board/their note books as they call out. Do not organize or number the words. As given in the sample below, children may come up with a gamut of words relating to the topic(word) “Colours”. Encourage all children to participate. Some of the words may appear irrelevant, Gurus in that case should try and gently ask them why they have called out those words. Please note that words should come from children only.
- Mind Mapping and Web Charting
Ask the groups to connect and categorise the words; that is – make the children group the words under different headings as it appeals to them. For example, the words randomly listed above can be grouped under the following headings.
- Now organize the children in groups of 5,6 or 7 depending on the strength of the Balvikas class. and ask each group to prepare a web chart based on the categories/headings now decided upon. When each group has their own Web Chart ready, ask them to present it to the class. Now discuss and arrive at one Web Chart for the whole class. This step is important to proceed with the next level in Experiential Learning. The final Web Chart may look like this
THE LEARNING - What is the benefit of this class activity
- This activity ensures participation of all children in class
- The Radiant Thinking exercise stimulates creative thinking and enables free flow of ideas and concepts without the barriers of restrictive / confined thinking processes.
- The Mind Mapping and Web Charting exercise after the Radiant Thinking stage, helps in systematic analysis and processing. By making the children group the words under different headings, organized thinking is promoted.
- This exercise therefore enables children to become more disciplined in organizing not only their thoughts but also their work in a more systematic manner in the long run.
- They learn to brain storm, analyse and finally reach the best case scenario.
- Also, this activity promotes co-operation, co-ordination, exchange of ideas and logical thinking.