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January 16, 2017

Training of Savarayalu Nayagar Government Girls High School @ STEM Land

A note regarding the teachers workshop last week with Savarayalu Government Girls High School. Their principal Hemavathi had visited STEM Land with 10 of her children and (the computer instructor from KV Jipmer) a few weeks back and spent the day here interacting with the children and seeing their work.

I found the girls were very thoughtful and identified three areas that they wanted to add in their school - fun, challenges like puzzles, creativity in doing projects from their experience at STEM Land.

Hemavathi is the general secetary of the Pondicherry Science Forum and a very respected teacher trainer in the government. She was thrilled with the motivation and self-direction of the children who she saw were able to work independently and effectively. In her visitor note she wrote that STEM land gives her hope.

She put this in action and this week she organized all her 20 odd teachers from different subject areas including languages, Social, Sports and music and of course Math and Science to come during the holiday to STEM Land for training. We prepared a 4 hrs module on teacher training including use of stewardship tools that look choice of working from possibility and fears and doing things differently. Initially the teachers were not sure why we were introducing the stewardship tools that we said benefited us as teachers and are useful irrespective of the area you are working on, however, they were able to put this in practice the very next session when we jumped into getting teachers who had been fearful of computers for 30-40 yrs to program with Scratch. 
The teachers were very engaged and delayed their lunch by an hour and a half to work. They also interacted with a few children during the breaks. Three 8 grade children (Punidhivel, Kabilan and Vignesh) and Yuvaraj (9th grade) also joined the teachers and it was wonderful to see the teachers open to learn from the children. Thanks Anand and Geetha for responding to the children's request and letting them express themselves, it made a difference.

The reflections at the end of the day from the teachers gave us hope of changes in attitudes both towards technology and how they work with children. One of the teachers talked about how she and other teachers had assumed that being strict and making children sit straight and control their movement was making children learn, but now she saw what the body language of a children engaged in what they were learning looked like and would like to see that in her children. She also felt that she could have learnt a lot more if she had not grown up in a culture of fear of failure and that she will be bold in her actions for the benefit of children. Another teacher mentioned how she has always been externalizing actions (as school and we) and she will now take responsibility for her work as she sees its for her growth. An elderly teacher remarked that he had seen many schools both high class for well off children and poor schools. But, Udavi was special, its a high class school for children who are from poor families.

Given the positive response of the teachers we are continuing the engagement with them with a visit to their school tomorrow. Hope our work here makes the lives of the 450 girls and the 20 teachers in Savarayalu more meaningful and joyful.

(for STEM Land team - Arun, Bala, Muthu, Naveen, Pratap, Ranjini, Sundar, Sanjeev, Vaidegi)

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