A school with courses in engineering, flying drones, creating 2-D and 3-D animation, coding, photography, robotics, sound engineering, farming, sports, music, and languages. A school which is India’s first Zero Energy School. A school that was built and is still looked after by its teachers, parents, NGOs and even students themselves.
We’re talking about Wablewadi Zilla Parishad School, situated 45 kilometres from Pune. Built on a 3-acre land that was donated by the villagers in a hope to give their future generations a better tomorrow, it is headed by a brilliant headmaster, Dattatray Ware.
Ware has been working towards the upliftment of his student and community for almost a decade now. He has personally made sure to convince parents in the nearby 20+ villages to send their children to school regularly, for whom he’s developed a curriculum that would not only educate them academically but teach them skills that are futuristic. In fact, he was awarded the National Teachers Award in 2015 by the President of India.
Read the excerpts from our extensive conversation with this 40-something educator to understand his unique pedagogy.
Remember the days when the entire village got together to build this school.
Wablewadi is a small settlement where 60 families live together, with a total population of about 400 households. The main occupation of the people is agriculture and along with those who work as unskilled labourers in the nearby MIDC.
All of them stand firmly behind the school. In 2012, when the land was not available for the expansion of school construction, the villagers of Wablewadi donated three acres of land. The market value of the land today is around Rs 9-10 crore. Everyone had participated in this movement according to their strength. The construction, water supply and all the other kinds of engineering aspects were looked by them.
When the actual work started in August 2012, the Gram Sabha held two main conditions. First, you do not want to accept any help from the outside for the development of your school. Second, the alumni whose wards are going to study here have to spend a part of their money and work hard according to their skills for the institution.
Today, every work in the school is done with the help of the villagers so the feeling of closeness and ownership towards the school stays in their minds regularly. Everything is explained to them, from the construction of the school to the availability of physical facilities to the experiments in actual teaching and learning. This is to ensure that the change of teachers does not have any adverse effect on the school. The rest of the money is used for the development of the school by simply celebrating festivals like Ganpati Utsav and Navratra Utsav.
When visitors come to our school, villagers feel proud. In return, this gives visitors the confidence that the villagers can easily communicate with the school and support their school's development.
Talk about your unique pedagogy and how it works.
We have got a 16-step policy that explains how to work in a school to further help fellow schools get better and more efficient. Saturday is a set day for understanding the school. Every Saturday, many visitors from all over Maharashtra and across the country come here to understand our work style. In the last five years, more than one lakh people have visited us. We made the following steps to make it easier for them to work in their school:
What has the school been doing to conserve the environment and teach about it to its students?
Solar Electricity, Conservation of Water, Plantation are some of the key areas that we focus on in the school to promote collective agriculture, modern agriculture, international school construction, etc.
Talk about your ‘Subject Friend’ Scheme.
In Wablewadi, we saw that children can learn in a better way and with pace if accompanied by their peers. Usually, if they have any doubt while learning, they don’t share with the teachers either because of the fear in their mind or due to anticipated insult. And with the doubts in mind, while starting the journey of learning, there comes a halt called 'underdeveloped phase.’ This situation prevails in about 80% ZP schools. ‘Subject Friend’ Scheme is boon to such kind of ZP schools.
For this situation, we developed the ‘Subject Friend’ scheme, wherein the teacher takes the help of a higher grade student from the same school. As per the enrolment, a group of 6 or 12 students who are interested in particular subjects have shouldered the responsibility to guide junior peers in that particular subject. These small grade students ask their doubts to ‘Subject Friend’ without fear.
How do you manage to strike a balance between traditional education and modern sciences?
The ultimate outcomes to be achieved through teaching science are to find a basic theory of every incident and develop a critical scientific approach. The teaching of science subject through sheer books and digital media is extremely fallible. The current laboratories are not sufficient to teach science either. I feel nature is the greatest teacher wherein science can be learnt, moving around freely.
Take our Avishkar laboratory, for example. They’re extended into three parts. The first part is meant for portable ready-made models, which the teachers take to their class. In the second part of the laboratory, we have a workshop where DIY activities happen to create models, equipment, and experiments. The third division is not confined to only the laboratory room but goes to every part of the school campus. Here, we take the help of Sun, wind and rain to fix our models and get them working. The cause and effect of everything that students see and experience in these labs is significant.
Share a few salient features of the school with us.
6. Avishkar Learning Innovation: Started from the current academic year (2018-19). The objective of this design is to bring up `research-oriented students` for early identifying of the talents. This is carried on after school hours. A daily schedule has been made covering 10 areas of multiple intelligence. This also covers an integrated way of conducting syllabus, where subject classrooms are designed. This means that students attend subject classrooms as per subject allotted to the class. They move from one classroom to another and do not occupy the same classroom for the day.
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