The ZP school in Tembhepada makes excellent use of different educational aids based on the constructivist approach to learning, thanks to the untiring efforts of Ashok Sonavane ‘Sir’. Sonavane ‘Sir’ is the Std 5 class teacher here. Keen as he is on painting, craft, sculpture, clay modelling, and music, he makes use of these varied arts while teaching.
All schools teach students about natural phenomena, such as the water cycle, or phases of the moon. But Sonavane ‘Sir’ uses animation to explain these phenomena to his students. With a paper folded in the shape of the letter ’V’, he draws pictures of historical events like Chhatrapati Shivaji’s coronation, or his escape from Agra, on its various folds. He then describes these events while opening up each layer, literally unfolding the story before his students.
Sonavane ‘Sir’ explains that his passion for both drawing and sculpture led him to experiment with these novel methods while teaching, which he has been developing for over a decade. His observation is that students feel less bogged down if they are asked to do projects related to their studies.
In 2016, he attended a workshop on ‘Educational Aids using Constructivism’ organised by Vidya Pradhikaran Pune, which was where he learned how to fold paper in the form of a “magic box’, diamond, or the letter ‘V’, draw pictures on its folds and then use this to narrate stories or explain concepts step-by-step with these hand-made animations.
The students, too, are now able to explain scientific concepts using these paper animations. Sonavane ‘Sir’ also makes a magic box similar to the Rubik’s Cube but which unfolds in eight different ways. These sides may be used to write the names of fruits and vegetables, colours, animals, forts, leaders – the list is endless. As students learn to make these boxes, they also learn the names written on the sides.
All through their school, the students have installed various geometric shapes using mount board paper. The school holds drawing and colouring competitions regularly, while at least two hours a week are devoted to learning through practical experience.
From this remote part of Maharashtra, Sonavane ‘Sir’ makes sure that his students get to see places like the Taj Mahal, Gateway of India, Red Fort, Qutub Minar, Sanchi Stupa. He has made beautiful models of each of these buildings from materials like thermocol, mount board, paper, plaster of Paris, and clay. He shows these to his students and elaborates on their various points of interest.
He explains that while making these models, he uses photographs from calendars or from the internet when possible. He makes sure that the models’ dimensions are accurate. “One finds the time if one is passionate about something. I worked in Washim in Vidarbha region for 10 years, before coming here. I have been making these models since 2007. I found out that the Centre for Cultural Resource and Training in Delhi holds workshops on the cultural treasures of India. I enrolled and attended a 10-day workshop in Udaipur in 2016. I learned a lot about national and international treasures, the history of art and culture in India. I also learned the traditional arts of “bandhni” (tie-and-dye) and paper mache.”
After each such workshop, ‘Sir’ tries to incorporate his new learning into his teaching. On returning from Udaipur, he taught his students to make miniature paper mache birds and other figures. He is adept at making models using oil-based modelling clay, which he buys for himself and shares with his students. They, too, have made beautiful models from this clay – the finesse and eye for detail displayed by such small children are impressive.
Sonavane ‘Sir’ is also a trained singer, and plays the harmonium very well. He has formed a school choir, and rehearses with the students so that they may perform the national anthem and other songs on Independence Day and Republic Day. Besides, he also teaches them to sing traditional Adivasi songs, poems from their textbooks, inspirational songs about ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan’, and welcome songs. Although the school does not have a teacher who can play tabla, he uses a digital tabla on the Net for their sessions. The students have become adept at karaoke and have won several competitions. They also sing songs in various languages, to promote national integration.
What is admirable is that Sonavane ‘Sir’ has no formal training of any of these art forms. He says, “I learned and started practicing these arts only after the age of 30. We start teaching these skills to the students while they are eight or ten years old. These Adivasi students seem to have an innate affinity for these arts. Who can say, maybe one of them will become a renowned painter, singer or sculptor!”
Additionally, the students of Tembhepada are accomplished players and win the district level kabaddi and kho-kho competitions almost every year. Sunil Thakre, their sports instructor, gives them special training. Though the school does not have its own grounds, teacher and students together turn the empty fields into playgrounds once the harvest season is over. Spending his own money, Thakre ‘Sir’ gets accomplished players from within the district to visit the school and to help coach his students.
We could see the sincere efforts the teachers were making for their students’ overall development, despite a regretful lack of funds. Though the teachers have managed to raise money through community participation and PESA, no further funds are likely from the community. Yet these enthusiastic teachers continue to dream of ways in which to improve the school. They scrape and save, often doing maintenance jobs and minor repairs to the school structure themselves. A little generosity would go a long way in helping the students of Tembhepada achieve their dreams.
Contact: Ashok Sonavane 9423943107 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Blog & photos: Snehal Bansode-Sheludkar
Translation & editing: samata.shiksha team