Coimbatore

How are pre-schools in the city geared up for the next academic session?

Preparations begin for an online class at Blooming Buds   | Photo Credit: Siva Saravanan S

It has been a year since the pandemic and the education system especially has been thrown off its stride. But pre-schools in the city stepped up, picked up the gauntlet and devised ways and means to keep the little ones engaged and entertained. The biggest advantage has been the amount of time parents and children have spent together, and how it has made the parents so much more invested in the physical, intellectual and emotional quotient of their children. As these pre-schools gear up for the new academic session in 2021, they share their journey during the pandemic and how they overcame unprecedented challenges.

Blooming Buds

The pre-school classroom is a flash of red. Red balloons float in the air, red dolls and cars are lined up on a table... an online class on colours is in progress. Soon, the teachers transform into puppeteers and narrate the story of the thirsty crow with paper puppets. At Blooming Buds School, the pre-school education wing, one of the flagship contributions of the Air Force Wives Welfare Association (AFWWA), they had to devise an out-of-the box approach to engage the children during the pandemic. “If this learning window is lost, it can hamper the overall development of the child. Early years are crucial in the development of a child’s brain,” says Poonam Verma, President of AFWWA (local).

Teachers turn puppeteers at Blooming Buds

Teachers turn puppeteers at Blooming Buds   | Photo Credit: Siva Saravanan S

The school is a non-profit organisation that also accommodates civilian students. The basic model remains the same across the Air Force schools in India. The children come from varied backgrounds and the mix and match of languages, culture, lifestyles, teaches them to adapt, share and be accepting of others. “This makes them confident, teaches them empathy, and enhances their emotional quotient,” adds Verma. Moving seamlessly to the online mode came with its set of challenges. Says Ambili Thomas, the centre-in-charge of Blooming Buds, “First, we started thinking about shapes, colours, alphabets and numbers and how to make these activities a fun-filled one virtually. My teachers recreated the classroom atmosphere by recording videos on pre-number concepts and colours. We worked on voice modulations to suit video formats and ensured we had a lot of storytelling. Stories like monkey and the cap seller made the children laugh. We also enacted plays that introduced the children to values such as sharing, caring and respecting elders.”

Gradually, once the children got familiar with the activities sent over the WhatsApp platform, the school added 45 minutes of live online classes twice a week. “To improve their motor skills, we had activities like cutting, pasting and crushing papers, and engaged their little hands by making them peel bananas, button and unbutton their shirts and tie their shoelaces. We also in the process taught them to tidy up their rooms,” she explains.

The activities were entertaining, says Ambili. “We ask the kids to bring something yellow to the screen and they run around and pick a yellow pillow cover or anything else they find in the colour. This kindles their sense of curiosity, memory and recall prowess.” She says without the support and active participation of the parents, the shift to the online model would have been very difficult. Parents jumped right into the fray and enthusiastically participated in making Santa caps, practising origami or organising costumes for their children.

Keeping the element of social interaction alive in the time of the pandemic was especially important, says Poonam Verma. But the school, the teachers, the parents and the children together have celebrated various festivals, participated in greening drives and learnt about different cultures right from the comfort of their homes.

The activities have kept fear and apprehension about the pandemic at bay while the children have created happy memories. For the new session, they plan to add a music department. “It is going to continue to be a challenge. But, an exciting challenge where parents, children and the teachers all get to think out of the box and be creative,” says Verma.

Rak’s Lill Pallikoodam

A reggio emelia inspired kindergarten school

Reggio learning kit sent out to kindergarten children of Rak’s Lil Pallikoodam

Reggio learning kit sent out to kindergarten children of Rak’s Lil Pallikoodam   | Photo Credit: Siva Saravanan S

A kindergarten teacher sits in front of her computer with smiley balls, pom poms, play dough and flash cards. She folds her hands and chants a prayer. An online class begins.

On the other side of the screen, children sit with their parents and a reggio kit that has an empty papier maiche egg tray which the children use to learn colour sorting, pom poms to improve their fine motor skills, colour beads, and pre-writing tools like stencil boards and worksheets to learn new shapes.

Online class in progress at Rak’s Lil Pallikoodam

Online class in progress at Rak’s Lil Pallikoodam   | Photo Credit: Siva Saravanan S

“The first few months of the lockdown was challenging,” admits Swetha Krishnamurthy, Principal of Rak’s Lill Pallikoodam. “But, we were particular that the children didn’t miss out on an academic year. Along with online classes, there is an extended play activity that keeps them excited. The children are also learning to take photographs and uploading them,” she says.

The screen exposure to children was kept at 35 minutes and the remaining time was spent on activities. “We sent story books to the children. While we narrate the stories live with puppets, the parents read to them from the same books.”

Children cooked, danced, practised yoga and sang. “The greatest learning has been adapting to new technologies. ‘Google meet’ and ‘zoom’ are familiar terms now. We had long discussions with parents and it helped us strike a balance on the online platform, where we could reach out to children with lessons as well as engage them physically with activities at home with the help of parents. We are geared up to provide education without any bottlenecks. Children have opened up in a big way.”

Yellow Train School

Follows the Waldorf Method and MI Model

Parents attend workshops at Yellow Train

Parents attend workshops at Yellow Train   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

At Yellow Train School, it was a journey of sharing, learning and growing together as a family. With the pandemic making its presence felt, it has not been easy for the children, the school or the parents. But the kindergarten story became a blessing in disguise. For the 150 children (every year they have around 15 teachers), they also had over 100 parents who joined their child’s journey. “We did not put the children in front of the screens, instead we worked with the parents,” says Ezhil Saravanan, communications manager of the school. The school provided constant support through the year to the parents to establish a healthy rhythm at home. Parents attended zoom workshops and they in turn taught the children.

Art workshops at Yellow Train

Art workshops at Yellow Train   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“Since January we are bringing parents to the school to attend art clubs, handwork clubs and cooking clubs in small groups for them to learn and experience and replicate that experience at home with their children.”

The invitation to the ‘Kindergarten Clubs’ was received with much enthusiasm. In a way, says Ezhil, his year has been a blessing as children and parents have spent more time together. “We are happy to see how this has helped the whole community and lifted the veil between school and parents.” The pandemic, “has not limited us, it has in fact motivated us to look deeper and with more care into how we can adapt to the current situation.”

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Printable version | May 11, 2021 11:14:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Coimbatore/how-are-pre-schools-in-the-city-geared-up-for-the-next-academic-session/article34197761.ece

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