Monday, June 16, 2014

Integrating Extra-curricular activities into the curriculum

In most schools extra-curricular activities run hand-in-hand with academics these days. What started out tentatively as one odd dance or music or theatre class conducted after school hours has now been integrated into the school time table in very many schools. However one thing has still not changed. By and large schools still consider such activities as ‘extra-curricular’ in nature. True they are extra-curricular, but our experience in Trio World School is that they accrue tremendous benefits to the emotional well-being and growth of the student which ultimately is what education is all about.

Any activity that fosters a sense of team spirit, mutual respect, emotional maturity, emotional strength, humility, right values, emotional growth and the ability to transcend and overcome challenges is after all the ultimate goal of education. These are the essential soft skills that students will take forward in their lives. This will be the basis of their persona – what they project to the outside world and the basis of their lives. Class room teaching no matter how advanced or how inclusive, cannot only be the basis of knowledge dispersal. Learning must happen through various sources in unexpected places – like the football ground, when the student least expects!

At Trio World School we have seen how theatre has helped very many children develop emotional stability and growth. Through specialised theatre games, a deeper sense of harmony, bonding, better confidence, improved communication skills, reduced stress levels and a better self-esteem in participants is visible. The theatre has achieved much because it evokes the child-like state in participants and addresses deep rooted issues through play. Very many institutions today have theatre as an extra-curricular activity but don’t probably realize that for many students it is a potential life-saver. For most, it is only a hobby that students can pursue, but for the avid participant it can be his universe.

To validate our point about how extra-curricular activities can go hand-in-hand with academics we looked outside our institution and spoke to Shonali Acharya who is passionate about the choir and a class XII student of a leading school in Bangalore. In her school, like in other schools, the choir for instance is an independent extra-curricular activity. What Shonali shared was an eye-opener, “Being a member of a choir is the highest form of social interaction. This is because every member must have effective communication In order to produce the perfect harmony. With respect to timing and tone production each and every person works together. Also, the frequent meetings to practice enable exchange of information, news about each other and one and other. This makes it a highly charged social atmosphere.”


When asked about how the experience has specifically been for her, she continues “I have been a part of my school choir since the 1st standard. Being part of the choir has been very rewarding. It helped me grow as a person and gave me confidence and made me feel very good about myself. Its inclusiveness is incomparable and when I was in the tenth standard the thought of losing that scared me. Not being part of the choir? Join another choir? Blasphemy! So I decided to continue in my school for my 11th & 12th and continue to be a part of the choir. That was the best decision ever!”

So what has she learnt from that experience? “I miss choir now that I am passing out of school, but it made me a better person. It taught me about hard work and responsibility and how that eventually pays off in the end. It taught me to maintain a balance between fun and seriousness. Being a part of the choir also proved that if you do what you love somehow it will work out for you and if you are passionate about your work it will show and people will recognize it.” She is misty-eyed as she signs off.

Finding a common deeper co-relation in the outcomes of two diverse forms like theatre and choir singing is particularly fascinating. What is even more fascinating is when the institution can bring them as an added aid in education and not leave them to their own devices. Can that be done? Of course it can and that is what we at Trio World School have been aiming at. To illustrate with an example we take you to our football field. Now P.E Education is just an extra-curricular activity everywhere else, but not at Trio.

Avinash Kumar the Head of our P.E department has a work experience of eleven years. Avinash believes that the corner stone of physical education is ‘skill, fitness and life skills’. Life-skills? Let him explain.

“Sports develop trust, honesty, the need to follow rules and regulations...It is a medium where we learn life skills along with sports skills. Students learn discipline. They learn how to cope with situations. It brings out the fighting spirit in students and they also learn to help each other. Take any sport, for instance football. Without any of these skills, one cannot be a good football player” he avers.

Avinash shares one specific example where Physical Education class go hand in hand with academics to make a difference to a student. He gives the example of a student who had severe behavioural issues. When this was noticed, the teacher tried to address the issue in the classroom. When it was found that different approaches had their limitations, she tried to understand the student’s areas of interest. It was found that the student had a keen interest in football. Keeping this in mind, the teacher consulted with Avinash about the best re-course to deal with this situation. Avinash’s approach was a two-pronged strategy. One was to counsel the student and to devise a sports based approach to help the child deal with situations. He found that the child was facing personal issues at home and was unable to cope with it leading to behavioural challenges in school. He then devised a sports-based strategy which focused on developing life-skills to cope with the child’s personal challenges.

Corrective approaches were built into the sports approach. If aggression was exhibited on the sports field, a time-out was given to enable the student to reflect on the behaviour. Thus with a guided approach in a span of three – five months the student was better able to deal with personal issues. Needless to say the student turned out to be a well-balanced and mature individual with no residue of the previous disturbing behaviour.

At Trio World School similarly Physical Education classes have been used to help deal with conditions like dyslexia, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Syndrome) and Autism. In all these cases, sports have played a remarkable role in developing life skills in students.

In a fast paced world with numerous challenges, we need all the help we can to make education truly work. It is the need of the hour to use extra-curricular activities in schools not only as an add-on but to be able to be integrated well with education. When done so, it can complement educational, emotional, and psycho-social needs of children.

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