'Teaching & Learning' is a weekly column on education and related issues.

The city has been celebrating its past over the last few days. While those who have been living in the city for decades have been reminiscing those “golden days”, younger residents are surprising themselves with details about the city's heritage.

It is to tap this spirit that the School Education Department's decided to start heritage clubs in schools. Following the decision, the Directorate of School Education has recently sent out circulars to all schools, asking them to set up the clubs.

According to senior officials of the Department, a team of teachers is designing activities that may be incorporated into the initiatives of the heritage clubs.

Subala Ananthanarayanan, Principal of Sri Sankara Senior Secondary School in Adyar, says students thoroughly enjoy participating in the activities of the club.

“We organise an activity once in two months. Senior students take up research on the local history and heritage of a locality or a monument or other little known places. They would, later, make a presentation to the rest of the school. We also feature traditional games such as pallanguzhi and conduct kolam contests,” she says.

Heritage club exhibitions are held for students of younger classes to work on projects and models on traditional food and cultural heritage. A group of students from a city school documented very interesting facts about the plants and insects around the school, says S. Suresh, Tamil Nadu Convener, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).

INTACH has been collaborating with several schools, including Sankara, to set up and hold activities as part of heritage clubs. “The government introducing heritage clubs is really welcome. Depending on the strength of the school, the available resources and location of the school, a range of activities can be planned. The opportunities are endless,” he says.

From heritage walk, tours to documentation work, students enjoy the activities, Mr. Suresh adds. “It would be a good idea to design activities that span about eight months. Students can work on them in groups,” he says.

The clubs are also bound to make the teaching of history more interesting, say teachers. N. Madhavan, who works at the Panchayat Union Middle School in Venkatesapuram, Acharapakkam, says he was once pleasantly surprised when a student in his class brought back very interesting information after working on an activity. “We decided to make family trees and look at what our ancestors did. One child was excited to find out about his grand father's contribution in building the Aiyanar temple in his village,” the teacher recalls.

It might be interesting to ask children to interview elders in their locality to find out more about local heritage, so that there is more scope for the child to connect history learnt in class to her environment, says Mr. Madhavan, who has also been involved in the writing of social science textbooks for primary classes.