In the Learning Camp with St Christopher, Letchworth
Sixth former Josh Taussig describes his trip to the Learning Camp in India that has helped his school gain UNESCO recognition.
Teaching in the Learning Camp, by Josh Taussig
Our group arrived at the Learning Camp on the afternoon of December 22. As this was our first day there, we used simple games and songs to introduce ourselves to the children and start to get to know them. Despite the lack of a common language and our initial inhibitions we all had fun and the children seemed to love what we had prepared.
Our party was split into groups to teach different subjects, which included: Arts and Crafts, EFL, Maths, Games and Science. A particular focus of teaching was on Science, and we set out to give the children a foundation in basic science, which included simple experiments and the concept of discovery and finding out how things work for themselves. All exercises were conveyed interactively.
We separated our experiments according to the children’s varying abilities. Some experiments would be solely to aid discovery, and others were more specifically aimed at teaching topics, such as magnetism, floating and sinking and pressure.
Our teaching was structured, but we always tried to be flexible and adapt to how each experiment was received. For instance, some experiments went down very well and it was obvious that the children were excited and engaged. They crowded round us, avid for every detail and listening to every word we uttered. When this happened we were very conscious of trying to harness the enthusiasm and expand on the particular topic if we could. On the other hand when it was clear that the experiment was less accessible to the children, we didn’t persevere for too long, but instead introduced a new topic.
Another important aim in our teaching was to involve the teaching staff at the Learning Camp, so that the successful experiments could be recorded and used for teaching successive groups of children at the Camp in future. The teachers were incredibly enthusiastic. They were so dedicated to understanding the concepts, so that they would be able to communicate them to the children. We came to realise that teaching the teachers was as valuable as teaching the children, and it was exciting to realise that some of our work would continue after we had gone.
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What was particularly satisfying was that by the time we came to leave the Learning Camp, we felt that a foundation really had been laid and could be built on very easily in the future.
Our time at the Learning Camp was extremely fulfilling, and although our reason for being there was to teach the children, we all felt, that we in turn had learnt as much as any of the learners.
The St Christopher School/Seva Mandir link project has been going for eight years. Its aim is to foster an ongoing and mutual relationship that is both culturally and educationally beneficial.
Seva Mandir is a non-governmental organisation working in southern Rajasthan in India, and is dedicated to helping the rural populations in this area. Its projects influence the lives of approximately 360,000 people in 626 villages. These projects focus on: strengthening people’s livelihoods, building people’s capabilities and promoting and empowering village institutions.
St Christopher School has strongly supported the work that Seva Mandir does, and sends two 6th Form student groups every year to observe and help in some of the projects. These can range from teaching children aged 6 in Seva Mandir’s “Learning Camp” and non-formal education centres (NFEs), observing some of the development and ecological work, and learning about village life in rural Rajasthan. This learning is not just to show how village life in rural Rajasthan is harsh, but also to allow students to reflect on the ingenuity of the villagers and the sustainability of their lives.