How many students going to city schools know of the magnificence of the Fort St. George or the unique buzz that characterises George Town? Besides heritage spots that add to the city's charm, each locality has an interesting story about it that children might want to hear.

It is with the aim of promoting awareness of local heritage that the School Education Department recently decided to set up heritage clubs in schools.

According to School Education Minister Thangam Thennarasu, also in charge of Archaeology, the heritage clubs would first be introduced in high and higher secondary schools.

“Students should know about their locality and district, the important monuments and archaeological sites there. Besides getting experts to address them, we also want them to visit some of these sites. When they are taken to a temple, they should be told about the temple's architectural history, what is special about it and so on.”

Gradually, students would be initiated to issues pertaining to heritage conservation. “We want them to get them interested in numismatics and in artefacts of heritage value. Once they know their value, they will be eager to preserve them,” Mr. Thennarasu says. Similar attempts made earlier have seen children responding enthusiastically, note experts.

The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) has been working with about 25 schools in and around Chennai since 2003, besides a few others in the State.

Besides helping schools establish Heritage Clubs, the INTACH has been offering guidelines, reading material and ideas on possible areas that students could work on.

According to S. Suresh, convener, Tamil Nadu chapter of the INTACH, students love gathering information on the history of their school or locality.

“Students of Sankara Vidyashramam School in Thiruvanmiyur collected a lot of information on nearby localities. In fact, they came up with some details on Adyar that even INTACH did not know of.”

While INTACH gives the partner-schools broad guidelines, suggestions and reference material, it is up to the schools to design activities. “Some schools hold festivals showcasing our traditional cuisine, while others have activities such as kolam drawing,” Mr. Suresh said.

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), on its part, has been organising heritage quizzes for students in classes IX to XII.

Having recently invited applications from affiliated schools for the national-level quiz to be held next academic year, Chitralekha Gurumoorthy, director, academics of the CBSE, New Delhi says: “We usually get very a good response from schools. From our experience in the last few years of conducting such a quiz, we have seen that students have an impressive level of awareness about our heritage.”

To encourage students further, the CBSE also wrote to school heads earlier this year, requesting them to organise trips for students to local heritage sites, to promote awareness. The circular emphasised the role of students in preserving the heritage of the country.

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Meera SrinivasanJune 28, 2012