The social science subjects, history and geography, ought really to be the most interesting. But most students find them boring, to be studied only to pass exams. However, the ZP School in Dhoki village of Latur district has made geography so much fun that, even pre-school students here are easily able to name, all 36 districts of Maharashtra, for instance. Through enjoyable games, students have been learning the geography of Latur district, followed by that of Marathwada region, then Maharashtra state, and then the entire country.
Kiran Sakole, a teacher at the school, says, “I was transferred here from Osmanabad district in 2016. I was an English teacher there. After coming here, one day I casually asked the students how many tehsils were part of this district. Not one of them knew the answer. Some named a couple of tehsils, while others named cities like Beed and Aurangabad as tehsils of Latur.”
He adds, “I was disturbed, because I felt that they ought to have at least that much general knowledge about their own district. I thought it would be my failure as a teacher if my students were unable to answer such basic questions, in case any guest at school asks them. I also realised that the information needed to be made interesting, and that students might learn best through games, or similar activities. I started thinking of ways to do this.”
The Dhoki ZP School being a primary school, Kiran Sakole decided to provide the basic geographical information about the district to the entire student body. He began with a map of Latur district, on which he identified the 10 tehsils and the direction in which each one lay relative to where the children were located. Then he got 10 students to stand in corresponding positions, based on the map. Each represented one tehsil of Latur – Chakur, Renapur, Shirur-Anantpal, and so on. The game consisted of each student announcing the name of the tehsil she represented, followed by a student from the audience coming forward, both students slapping their hands together, and repeating the name. Soon, all the students had learned the names of the tehsils by heart. Even the kindergarten students were rattling off these names.
With some modifications, Mr Sakole used the same game to teach the names of the rivers running through the district. The principal river that runs through Latur is the Manjra. One student is made to stand as Manjra and give information about the river. She says: “Manjra is the principal river of Latur. It originates in the Balaghat mountain range; and other rivers like Rena, Tavarja and Dharni join the flow.” At this point, three other students, who represent the three other rivers, join hands with the first student. When the student playing the Manjra says, “The river then flows into Osmananbad district, where the Terna river meets her,” another student joins in. Thus holding hands, the students walk out of the classroom saying, “From Osmanabad the river flows into Karnataka state.”
Actually seeing how it happens, in a sense, helps students to understand and retain the information.
Kiran Sakole has the students play musical chairs, with coloured tyres instead of chairs. In this version, the person who is left without a place must name the tehsils of Latur.
He has also designed a game to teach students about the railway lines passing through Latur. With white powder, he draws two tracks on the school grounds. One track goes towards Mumbai, the other towards Hyderabad. Students, role-playing as train carriages and engines, learn about the running of trains: the signalling system; how the trains avoid colliding with each other; what a junction is and so on.
Once the students had mastered these games and all the information, they gave a demonstration for an audience during the school’s 15 August celebrations in 2016. The villagers were happy and proud that the students could name all the tehsils and knew so much about the region’s physical features like mountain ranges and rivers.
Sakole says, “Earlier, the ZP school teachers had to go door to door to get students enrolled in the school. Most parents preferred to send them to private English-medium schools. But now the village community has faith in our ability to impart quality education. At one school function, Sunil Shinde, an introverted student, was asked a question related to the tehsils of Latur. We were not sure whether he would give the correct answer, but he surprised us all with perfectly accurate information! Today Sunil, son of a sugarcane farm labourer, is well-known in school as a bright student.”
Once his students had learned about the geography of the district, he proceeded to teach them the geography of Marathwada, followed by that of other administrative regions of Maharashtra. Then, through more games, he taught them about the principal rivers, mountain ranges and peaks, and sanctuaries in the state. The students have become proficient in the geography of Maharashtra, and are eagerly learning about the geography of India.
Responding to the efforts by the school and the progress of its students, the village council gave the school Rs 1,50,000 from the state funds it had received. The school has used this money to buy a new computer, projector, inverter and amplifier. Teacher Kiran Sakole and Principal Pawar now plan to teach their students the geography of India and of the world, with the help of the Internet.
Blog: Snehal Bansode-Sheludkar
Translation & editing: samata.shiksha team