Since September 2014, we have been conducting participatory classes on Environmental Studies on a trial basis at some primary schools in Delhi, Telangana (formerly part of Andhra Pradesh), as well as Bihar. These classes are provided based on lesson plans formulated jointly by the local District Institute of Education and Training (DIET) and fourth and fifth grade teachers. In the classes, children learn through a hands-on approach using materials that they can actually touch in addition to viewing digital materials projected onto a screen.
In order to confirm the results of the pilot classes, we conducted opinion surveys targeting participating teachers and children. The following are the results of the survey conducted in Delhi. To the question, “What is your favorite subject?,” 12% of the children in the fifth grade replied “Environmental Studies” before the launch of the pilot classes. In the results from a survey conducted after the pilot classes, however, as many as 36% of respondents answered “Environmental Studies, making the subject the most popular, followed by Hindi, which had been the most popular subject until then. Also, the percentage of children who evaluated the classes as being “Quite enjoyable” from among five possible choices increased from 39% to 67% among fourth graders and from 33% to 74% among fifth graders. Moreover, tests conducted before and after the pilot classes showed conclusively that the classes contributed to increasing the comprehension level of both fourth and fifth graders in all course units.
Also, the percentage of teachers who rated the pleasure of teaching as “Quite enjoyable” from among five possible choices increased from 55% to 80%. Comments made by the teachers included “Providing children with interactive classes has helped me to foster daily communication with them and encourage them to talk more about various topics” not only in classes but also in school life as a whole. These survey results demonstrate that the classes have a positive impact not only on children’s education but also on their overall school life.
In a school in Bihar, an exhibition demonstrating the results of the pilot classes was planned and held under the leadership of the children themselves. The purposes of holding this exhibition were for children to (1) re-recognize the roles played by science in the fields of agriculture, climate change, clean energy and ICT based on their understanding of the deep relationship between science and their lives and (2) think about how to solve a range of problems to create a sustainable society.
In the exhibition held on February 19, in addition to children and teachers, members of the school management committee, PTA and the DIET also participated. Children chose particularly interesting topics from among themes taught in the Environmental Studies classes, and presented their research results and work on the selected themes, including the growth cycle of agricultural products, water circulation, the solar system, anatomical models, and cooking equipment driven by solar energy. Moreover, at the exhibition, children listened to experts and exchanged opinions to learn from each other. The exhibition was covered by a local newspaper as well.
Children being interviewed in the survey
Children taking tests to check their comprehension level
The exhibition held in Bihar
Local newspaper in which the exhibition was introduced