Case in Point: “At Valley School, we create an atmosphere of freedom because we feel that’s the only environment in which learning is possible. We believe that it’s not fear or competition, but relationships both with the environment and with other human beings that enable learning and foster creativity. When students know that there’s no need to conform, there’s creativity and spontaneity,” says Principal S. Jairam. The school creates this environment in many big and little ways. During assembly, students gather around informally. Classes have a maximum of 20-25 students, and many of them are held outdoors under a tree and are loosely structured.
Case in Point: According to Yasmin Jayathirtha and Vandana Srivastava, teachers and members of CFL’s founding group, “The focus at CFL is to create an environment devoid of fear, competition and hierarchy.” CFL also follows mixed age group classes. To ease the pressure, they even have an extended high school programme which is a 10+3 year programme instead of the usual 10+2. Jayathirtha says that this is done because “we believe that creativity takes place only in an environment where every child is allowed to learn at his own pace and his individuality is respected. The three year programme does exactly this.”
Case in Point: Valley School offers several courses in creative disciplines. In fact, it is mandatory for students to attend carpentry, pottery, weaving and sketching classes. The school also has separate sheds for each of these classes in its ‘art village’.
Says Veena Das, Riverside School Leader, “The school promotes creativity in a number of ways, be it designing scientific experiments for specific goals or working on more general topics like conflict and peace.” She adds that the school also encourages children through specific programmes and processes to get to theroot of a problem and work towards finding solutions – a process that “allows the child, by default, to be creative – and fosters the spirit of entrepreneurship.”
But how practical are these ideas for schools that deal with large class sizes and a packed syllabus? “The curriculum is a constraint only if it is viewed as one. The curriculum can be used as a guideline or even a tool to inculcate creativity in children,” contends Natarajan. “Children are creative by nature. Don’t set unnecessary rules to curb their instincts. For example, why can’t a child ‘eat’ juice with a spoon? Don’t we give him a straw because it is less messy for us to clean up? As adults, we sometimes want to move only in safe and tested waters. As teachers, we do have the freedom to move away from the text to focus on new ways to teach concepts and applications. We need to use that freedom more.”