Building strong values

Building strong values

Bernadette Pimenta is a veteran teacher from Thane, who began teaching in 1971. Over the past 35 years, she has taught countless children. In 1996, when she completed 25 years of being in the noble profession of teaching, she decided to do something that will go beyond classrooms and help young children in developing an all-round personality. Early childhood, she recognised, is perhaps the most important phase of human life because that’s what determines personality a child would possess when he grows up. Thus, Garden School, of which she is the principal, started "Enrichment Class", an extra-curricular course for young children that aims at developing a high spiritual, emotional and intellectual quotient among children. It’s a values-oriented course that endeavours to arouse among children a concern for nature and the importance of giving back to the society in some meaningful ways. The course has different levels depending upon the age of the student, from pre-school to level five, and is slowly progressive to more advanced levels. This is the first year of level five and although activities at every level are interesting, the ones of class five deserve a special mention.

Held once every week, students are taken around a prominent part of the city. During the visit, the kids observe the environment around them, making mental notes of whatever strikes them. Once back, they write a report on their observations, detailing all the small and big nuances of the city. This improves their observation and writing skills while inculcating a sense of appreciation of the surroundings which they inhabit. As the festive season approaches, every week the children will be taken to one place of worship – Temple, Church, Gurudwara, Agiary, and Mosque – so that they learn to respect all religions and understand the importance of co-existing with others. A visit to Mani Bhavan helps them recognise the contribution of Mahatma Gandhi and also learn his values of non-violence and love. They also learn the basics of a foreign language (French), which helps them to acquire a perspective of the world outside their own country.

The 45-week course also includes a kitchen module, wherein for a few weeks the kids learn to manage the kitchen. The kids learn simple tasks like peeling and cutting vegetables, spreading butter on bread and making sandwiches. They learn the right way to hold a knife, the importance of washing vegetables and maintaining hygiene, and also table manners such as not slouching, not over-eating and gargling after meals. Every Monday, these 10-year-olds learn to prepare a new dish like Poha, Upma, and Sabudana Kichdi, so that they are able to cook something in the event of their parents/maids not being available for some reason.

By stimulating their thinking and observation skills, and by teaching them daily chores, the course helps students to learn to trust themselves and their abilities. It provides the little students with a way of life, while assisting their overall growth and development. The role of the teachers here cannot be overemphasised as they work relentlessly to ensure that the objective of every activity undertaken is met.

Many experts believe that our personality characteristics are rooted in childhood and remain more or less fixed throughout our lives. Values such as love, compassion, non-violence, honesty, truth, and hard work cannot be acquired by adults – these have to be coded in childhood. This being the case, Garden School’s enrichment class deserves to be applauded for imparting sound values in little children – values that will serve them well when they grow up and thereby create a highly values-driven society.

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