Natural Learning Process
Natural learning is a process in which the inherent, biological potential in human beings and external natural systems collaborate in a manner that produces knowledge and habitats in harmony with nature. The rural and tribal communities seem to act holistically and their every act is endowed with a distinct aesthetic quality. Our understanding of ‘culture’ is a result of this collaboration. Wisdom is that which enables the balance between nature and nurture. Between the biological needs and the psychological needs.
Non literate communities are closer to the intent of nature for their process of knowing. The biological integrity of their cognitive process is very different from the so called literate people who are far away from this. The biggest confusion with literate communities is about knowledge, process of knowing, children, values, aesthetic sense etc.
The cyclic and ever occurring nature of Nature is put into practice in the lives of these non-literate people. Recycling, re generation and re-creation is the way rural people live. They are constantly witnessing the process of life and death happening in nature, the cyclic nature of seasons and their own life style is in communion with each other. Since they are not preoccupied by the idea of permanence whatever they create has a quality of impermanence, openness and flexibility. The regenerative quality is evident in their culture. The constant re building of their mud houses, re cycling of materials and food is due to this nature. There is no word such as ‘waste’ in these non-literate rural cultures. Sustainability is the only way they know to be. All these qualities are lost in the modern schooling process.
The world outside is integrated and the child is born wholistic. As children experience the world in natural and autonomous conditions the integrity of the human being is retained. This experience is at once emotional, intellectual and psychological /spiritual.
The most important aspect is that schools are setup in response to ‘how to teach children’ instead of ‘how children learn’. It means is that the biological natural process of cognizing the world is being addressed keeping in mind the present societal conditions.
The general ambience of the rural villages enable a child to have a rich experience of real life activities such as farming, house building, cooking, looking after siblings, animals, ‘waste’ utilization. Their experience of life is rich enough for them to understand the natural phenomenon of birth, death and also the process of planting, harvestiving. Usually as a child goes to school all these experiences are discarded as children are made to believe that knowledge is what they receive from school and teacher is the one who imparts knowledge into us. This could be very damaging and confusing as the child is made to reject the knowledge one receives from the family and community. We are proposing to relocate school with in the context of their community as a learning space for children. This would not only help them value the knowledge present in their community but also involve the members of the community in their learning process. In this way the learner will also participate in creating the knowledge.
Utilization and validation this enables the child to value this real life experiences and take part in it with respect.
The main difference we are trying to bring to the existing school system is by replacing decontextualized knowledge from books with real context of the learner. This will make knowing as a process rather than knowledge as a product. It would also enable the development of the natural, biological cognitive and creative processes.
Type of intervention
- RESPECTING THE CHILD: The child is biologically wired to learn. But this require we respect the autonomy of the child and freedom is the primary condition for knowing to happen. This in way defines what children learn, how children learn. Children learn what they experience and creative and imaginative imitation through play is the means by which they understand how the world functions. In this sense what schools have been teaching children is to be a teacher, to obey, to be afraid of authority, to depend on authority for knowledge etc. (Children play teacher games once they start experiencing schools)
- CREATING LEARNING ENVIRONMENT: Creating conducive environment for the child to experience and learn would be the most important aspect as this is an area where a complete rethinking is required.
- RE ORIENTING TEACHERS: The teachers will also have to become learners and learn from children on how learning really happens.
- RE ORIENTING PARENTS AND COMMUNITY: In non literate communities the way children are reared is completely tuned with nature. A child’s autonomy and independence is respected by providing an ambience of freedom where no training/teaching takes place. These non-literate rural/tribal communities are the actual keepers of the wisdom knowledge that has sustained life for centuries but with the onslaught of modernity this is being made irrelevant. In fact, they are made to feel inferior which is creating havoc. This process needs to be reversed as they are the true representatives of this culture. Therefore our work in the community will be to enable them regain self-respect.
- KNOWLEDGE TO KNOWING: The idea of knowledge from being a product has to be replaced with knowing as a process (quality). This implies that the teachers will not be going to children with a ready-made product we call knowledge but will engage with them in a process of co creating knowledge as per the understanding and maturity of the child. This process will be continuously documented and updated. Unlike in a regular school the chapters of life will never come to an end but will continue as life itself is integrated and synthesized.
- FOUNDATION: The environment will be such that enables the children to experience, acquire and imbibe the following contents
- Value: Children are born with a nature centric mind that enables them to live in harmony with nature. Contentment, completeness and trust are the innate nature of a child. Cooperation, selflessness and sustainability are the values they acquire by living in a rural environment.
- Qualities: They are humble, innocent, open, curious, daring and resilient. The conditions created will ensure the flowering of these values.
- Beauty & Aesthetics: Children are immersed in the beauty of the world and therefore their every act of engagement encompasses an element of beauty. Art as a separate subject will destroy the totality of this quality in children. Allowing children to engage with the world freely would awaken their senses and aesthetic sensibility. Our only role here could be to broaden the awakening of the senses by participating with them in order to experience the world. Drawing probably would help children in keen observation where it’s focus would be shifted from drawing as ‘self expression’ to drawing as ‘observation’.
- Phenomenon: Children need to experience various phenomenon of the world which will enable the development of their cognitive structure and helps them understand the various processes of life. Things are happening around them all the time.
- Language: Language needs to be re-claimed as communication tool. So language will be taught to children as naturally as possible based on the natural way of acquiring language skills. The clues to teaching language in an English medium school will be taken from how children naturally learn their mother tongue. English words will be introduced by observing and studying what children are doing. Language will not be broken up in to alphabets, unconnected words nor will grammar be introduced.
- Science & math: Science and math will be taught in a manner that doesn’t alienate the learner from his/her experience. Hence learning will be an outcome of a child’s engagement with the world around. Here, a natural sense of number, direction, quantity, measurement, etc. needs to be understood by the mentor.
- Reflection: Reflection is the process in which children will be recollecting various activities they have been doing. This will help them retrace and overlook what they have been doing.
- STATE SYLABUS: Maharashtra Board provides enough scope for experimentation since there are no examinations till 8th standard and therefore the pressure on teachers is also comparatively less. Proper care and consideration will be given to whatever is ‘prescribed’ by the board in a way which will be sensitive.
TECHNOLOGY: Exploring the apt use of technology will be considered.
RESEARCH: Research with only be initiated with people who have an in-depth understanding and knowledge of their respective subjects (Maths, science, etc,.). Their role will be to observe and help children identify how they are engaging and experiencing the mathematical and scientific laws in nature. This would require us to hold continuous brainstorming sessions with the subject experts.