How homework can cease to be a burden

Right from the tiny tots to the High School graders, everybody detests homework. But then it is unavoidable too. The Mahatma School faculty tried to make the holiday homework fun and interesting for its students this winter vacation. How? They encouraged the students to explore beyond textbooks and travel with the world that shines beyond their classroom.

While students gained more knowledge about the Chennai Cuddalore floods, they also baked cakes for Christmas and new year. The variety of homework the students indulged in is huge and it ended 2015 and welcomed the new year on a wow note!

Bird watching, exploring social issues, knowing market rates of vegetables and fruits, planting saplings, farming all became a part of their enjoyable holiday homework. On a serious note, many students delved deep into Chennai floods and prepared albums of the city before and after floods. Some wrote travelogues, others reviewed books that caught their attention and many more creative and innovative activities.

P. Varun Vishwa of Class 7 excitedly shared his homework experience: “We were asked to imagine ourselves as the District Collector and write the steps that would be taken during natural crises in Madurai. I came up with valid measures that impressed my teachers a lot. Now, I am inspired to write the civil services exam.”

K.S. Oviya from 9th grade Ninth grader K.S.Oviya wrote an e-mail to the District Collector on the measures that could be taken to protect the city from floods. The exercise of writing a letter to somebody in a position of power and influence makes her feel empowered.

“We did a study on Madurai’s water bodies and were saddened to see how river Vaigai is polluted. We explained things in detail to the administrative authority and are now waiting for a reply,” says her classmate. Some students even chose to dash off letters to the President. Some came up with exhaustive list of tanks and water bodies that have been encroached upon in the areas where they live and suggested suitable action.

“It is very depressing to know that the skating ground in Sundaram Park was built over a water body. We talked with elders, took surveys and even documented the encroachments” says G.A. Karthika Mari studying in class XI. She adds that their documentary on “My Madurai” will feature the current situation of water bodies in the city and its illegal encroachment. They are also adding special notes about the killer tree ‘Seemai Karuvaelam’.

Buoyed by the students’ enthusiasm, the school now plans to assign activities to the children based on the theme of the UNO. This time it is the “Year of the Pulses” and so the students are all geared up to add organic farming and Grama Seva as part of their homework experience, that varies according to the class they are in.

For instance, a Sixth grader goes for questionnaire filling on a particular subject, while the Ninth grader critically analyses the survey and presents the findings. The High school students follow it up with technical inputs for making a documentary. Basically, all students work in a synergy which makes the learning experience not only exciting but meaningful too.

“As per the Government order, 60% of the student’s time is spent on the syllabus and remaining 40 percent on such activities. We make it a point to concentrate more on that 40 per cent and train the students to learn beyond classroom learning” says Vice Principal Shanthi Ramoharan.

Even the naughtiest of the naughty child is finding it interesting to work on the homework. They have made newspaper reading a classroom habit and also maintain a journal penning down their day’s activities. In the primary sections, the students are given the freedom to decorate their respective classrooms.

Teachers insist parents to carry story books whenever they are travelling in order to kindle the reading habit in their wards.

The idea is to take the pressure off from classroom and textbook reading alone and help the students observe the world around them, know and learn more through experiences and develop the confidence of taking on challenges. “This kind of hands-on practical learning,” says Shanthi Ramoharan, helps them in future to deal with oddities.