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When Creativity inspires Learning

Drama workshop at Mahatma School. Photo: Special Arrangement

Drama workshop at Mahatma School. Photo: Special Arrangement  

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It is the bane of our education system that values conformity over creativity. But increasingly schools are conducting special workshops and programmes for students to search for their creative freedom and space

In his book “ Finding Your Element”, author and educationist Sir Ken Robinson, says creativity is the crucial skill of 21st Century required for solving today’s pressing problems. Perhaps it is time then we reclaim the creativity of our children. And some schools in Madurai are at it.

The annual drama festival of Mahatma Schools is one wonderful example. It brings together the toppers and the studious to the backbenchers and the struggling learners in a creative environment and helps them to recognise their potential. Held for the third consecutive year, it saw an unprecedented participation of over 10,000 LKG to class XII students from all the four branches (at K.K.Nagar, Alagar Koil and Baba Building) this time. For two days, the school buzzed with frenetic activity as students went all out to entertain with tremendous positive energy and hard work. In the preliminary rounds each section of every class presented a Tamil and an English play on the given title that varied from scenes from Shakespeare’s plays or based on any Indian, English or American author’s short story, ballads and poem, stories of kings and queens, folk tales and weather stories and more.

An unbelievable 275 dramas were showcased in the semi-finals of which 50 each in both the languages were shortlisted for the finals by eminent personalities.

“In this kind of a fun exercise, even the most disengaged child in the classroom gets working as a team,” says Premalatha Panneerselvam, the founder of Mahatma group of schools.

“It is amazing to see how the children otherwise lost in the world of academics, when given a chance gather their dormant creative instincts. Their enthusiasm proves that creativity only needs an opportunity and not training,” she adds. It was Premalatha’s brainchild to have this kind of a mega festival of plays where students write their own scripts, prepare the stage props and costume, score the background music and select the cast. “Since they are judged on the basis of the theme-matching play they choose and the effective characterisation, dialogue delivery, presentation, stage and time management, the students end up refining their soft skills and leadership qualities,” she vouches.

“The drama fest helps our students to truly explore themselves and quells the fear in them of making mistakes,” notes English teacher Karunakaran, adding how it also brings to the fore several hidden talents.

His counterpart Priyakumar echoes how it helps to develop four important faculties. “They read a lot because they have to select an appropriate play, the writing skills improve because they script the dialogues, narrative and songs, the art of public speaking is fine tuned by going on stage and they also turn into attentive listeners as part of a team for creative inputs.”

“When you engage children's imaginations and their curiosity, you get them happily doing practical work in the real sense,” points out Vice-principal Shanthi Ramoharan. More than anything else, each child’s confidence and self-esteem is boosted when he or she gets a task of choice to be accomplished, she feels.

It is also a happy break from the tedious and monotonous homework and class assignments and high-pressure exams that students so often tend to rebel.

The feeling was reciprocated and the atmosphere was similar at Lakshmi School during the dussehra holidays when the middle school children volunteered to sign up for a creative camp because they saw a possibility of flexing their imagination. They were excited about creating a new world called Lakshmilandia that was devoid of description but where anything could happen as long as they could justify it.

Sophie Quick and Oliver Reavell who are visiting the school under a three-month British Council project envisaged the idea where children were divided into groups to create seven countries each with a distinct landscape such as desert, mountainous, coastal, temperate forest, river grassland, icy tundra and rainforest. “We loved the concept,” says a seventh grader, and “simply thought and thought harder how to create our country.”

“We became thick friends with students from other classes and learnt what team work is,” said her friend. “I got the confidence of speaking out in a group and explaining things to others,” followed up another. The camp ended in a World fair when each group presented their country and explained their work on stage to a larger audience.

Such activities help students to learn and explore not in a traditional way but by setting wings to their imagination.

“It had a positive impact as it increased the confidence level of students in sharing ideas and expressing themselves without inhibition,” says Oliver. “If we protect the children’s in-built creativity, they grow into empathetic and happy individuals with an enhanced ability to take on risks and challenges that they may face later in life,” he adds.

With flexibility in teaching, when activities like music, dance, theatre, drama and debates are integrated into the main curriculum, it makes education more personalised. When children are creatively motivated they develop their own sense of identity and find their own voice that equips them better for future. And, which parent or teacher wouldn’t want that!

QUOTES

“At the creative camp, students were made to think differently by blending fantasy and fact, creativity and critical thinking. Now more students are requesting for such camps so that they can enrich themselves. -- Shanthi Mohan, Senior Vice Principal Lakshmi School

“It is very important to cultivate creativity in our children. The arts are just as important as reading and it has been a fantastic experience for me and my staff to watch the growth of our annual drama fest in the last three years and how it is helping our children to develop into far more confident individuals. – Premalatha Panneerselvam, Founder and Correspondent Mahatma group of Schools.

Inside Lakshmilandia – the world of children

Our goal of the camp was not just to allow children to apply their existing knowledge in a creative manner. It is essential that children learn to work effectively in teams, are able to manage their time and can communicate their ideas well. A classroom situation does not always allow time and resources to develop ‘softer skills’, with teachers pushing through the curriculum using grades as the indicator of achievement. The camp offered a chance to practice these skills and see their value both during and after the academic environment.

When we asked the students to describe the landscape and consider the necessary adaptations of the life forms to design their new country, we could instantly see the sparks of creativity. Ideas such as musical mountains pocked with holes that sing when the wind blows and a rainforest filled with floating islands containing new metals which repel each other were developed beautifully to further describe the people, flora and fauna of their land, their food, festivals and technology. We marvelled at their imaginations and their ability to link together the suggestions of the whole group to form a cohesive country.

Laksmhilandia enabled the students to explore their creative minds and invent in a way we could not have expected. We were thrilled to see the originality the camp sparked in them. -- SOPHIE QUICK (Bioscience graduate from University of York, U.K.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 5:42:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/when-creativity-inspires-learning/article7818042.ece

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