Society

Learn the fun way

Prasanth Gangadharan Photo: Nita Sathyendran   | Photo Credit: Nita Sathyendran



There’s much to learn from impish Mr. Plus, the gatherer, and his friends, Mr. Minus, who loses everything, Mr. Multiply, the magician, who spreads the cheer, and Mr. Divide, who shares with everyone. And that’s not just how to do sums. Through the quartet’s antics and more, Prasanth Gangadharan opens the door to a fun-filled world that emphasises on learning through stories, theatre, poetry, movement, play and art. The engineer-turned-educationist is launching his new initiative, Learning Alternatives, ‘an alternative way’ to learning the basics of math and English, in the city, on August 6.

Math, English, science, history, geography and the like, it seems, can be learnt in other ways than through rote repetition and memorising reams of material until they get imprinted on the brain. “How we arrive at the answer or a point does not need to be rigorous,” he says.

“For example, Mr. Plus counts the petals of a flower and through it the kids learn their numbers. They can feel the flower and draw it and learn the science behind it and a whole lot of other things. Mr. Multiply invites them to hop skip and jump in counts of two, three and so on and teaches them the times tables. Mr. Divide teaches fractions as he moves back and forth across a number line or by cutting a cake into equal pieces… It’s thus possible to make difficult stuff like fractions and multiplication interesting. This way the children are not only thinking about the subject at hand but they are feeling and doing it too. They learn to love the subject and get a deeper understanding of the world around them,” explains Prasanth, sitting in his home-cum-office near Vettamukku.

Stories, he says, are an essential part of childhood and their imagination needs to be nurtured. “Children listen to stories. A lot of academics can be woven into the stories,” says Prasanth. “When they are of kindergarten age children live in a world of imagination, and recounting fairy tales can help develop creativity and a sense of social behaviour. As consciousness about the world around them starts to develop, they are told Jataka tales and fables. At nine years they tend to delineate from the outside world and that’s when they are told stories of saints and creation and the like where there is an order. Then comes mythology, history...,” he adds.

Learning Alternatives draws inspiration from the thoughts of Rudolf Steiner and his Waldorf education model, which gives importance to the role of imagination in learning and holistic – intellectual, practical and artistic – development of students. “The idea is to build a community of learners that is non-competitive and inclusive where learning happens in an environment of freedom, creativity and compassion, which will lead to a deeper inquiry into the subjects at hand than what’s available in the system,” says Prasanth.

As anyone who has gone through it would know, there’s little joy to be had in the ‘conventional’ system of learning that’s followed in mainstream schools in the country.

“Our education system, for all its successes, has a mechanised way of looking at things. Children are put through an assembly line of sorts, which makes them ready for the industry. They’ve got very little chance to explore their creativity as they rush to meet expectations and it’ll be years before they recognise their calling,” says Prasanth.

He should know, for he was one of them. A graduate of College of Engineering, Trivandrum, who also holds an MBA from International Management Institute, Delhi, Prasanth was a high flying marketing executive before he realised that teaching was his passion – in his 30s.

“I have always loved teaching. When I was working in Bangalore I used to take lessons and story-telling sessions. It was when I happened to attend an open day at Bangalore Steiner School that really opened my eyes to the possibilities,” says Prasanth

With the arrival of his elder son, Sacheth, who has a borderline learning disability, it cemented in him the need to discover more about alternative teaching and learning methods. He quit his job and over the past 10 years he has taught at an alternative school, designed programmes for business schools and run mentoring programmes for young adults partnering with companies and NGOs and so on.

This alternative system, says Prasanth, works for children of all abilities. “It’s worked for Suraj, my younger son, who loves stories, and Sacheth (now nine years old) too,” he says.

GET THE BASICS

‘The LA Foundation Program- Level 1’ is a programme for six to eight-year olds that aims to build in them a strong foundation in English and mathematics through stories, movement and more. Beginning August 6, it will be held at the Jawahar Nagar Association (Rainbows) School, between 2.30 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. As a precursor to the programme Learning Alternatives is conducting a free seminar for parents on ‘Teaching through Stories.’ It’s on July 30 and 31, 4 to 5.30 p.m., at Rainbows school. For details, www.learningalternatives.in

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Nov 26, 2020 1:37:45 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/Learn-the-fun-way/article14515143.ece

Next Story