Learning Geography lessons through stories

Beyond classroom

Learning Geography lessons through stories

 For decades, Geography yearned to break free from the stifling confines of the classroom, take the children out on adventurous learning drives, talk about earthquakes and tsunamis, floods and climate change in ways far more exciting than those boring, academic textbooks.

Tagging stories to nature, linking arts, culture and architecture to landscapes in an engaging way, a Bangalore-based outfit, GeoVidyaa Geography Centre is doing precisely that. Using workshops, field trips and dramatic talk shows, the Centre, based out of the Army Public School campus on Kamaraj Road, is striving to put that “fun” element back into Geography learning.

So, the Cauvery wouldn’t be just a line on a map. As Cultural Geographer and GeoVidyaa’s brain, Chandra Shekhar Balachandran put it, the students would learn, feel, experience the river from its Talacauvery origin to the delta. Following the water, they would learn about the architecture of buildings old and new along its route; dig deep into agriculture, mingle with the people living on its banks, listen to stories of struggle and power.

“We would discuss the politics of water, and at Srirangapattana, explore how and why a place gets chosen to be the capital of a kingdom,” Balachandran explained.

It was about connecting geography to history, an ancient course of nature’s water with man’s existence. At a GeoVidyaa workshop, he would ask the students to pick something they are passionate about, and link that passion to geography!

“The children get excited about such things, making learning so enriching. Textbooks today are the least imaginative. Students simply memorise, and the teachers are not empowered to change that,” said Balachandran.

Weaving stories around apparently disjointed words and phrases, geography learning evolves organically in those workshops. If big ships, deep waters, wide channels and fruits from afar had to connect, he would remind students that “movement” is a major theme in geography. Inviting them to online research, he would talk about movement of materials, ideas, people, information, natural entities and more. 

With interesting facts

Sprinkling stories with interesting facts, GeoVidyaa would talk about geography, transportation and the OK sign behind trucks, that once stood for “On Kerosene” when fuel was rationed. Tracking altitudes on a rail journey, the students would learn to understand the MSL (Mean Sea Level) numbers on station boards.

“I start my workshops with random things and connect them. I ask students about sipping water, how fresh the water is, and then venture into historical freshness, when did it all begin. That journey takes the learners to the earth’s core, 3.5 billion years ago, to the volcano eruptions and more.”

Since its launch in October 2010, the GeoVidyaa Centre has arranged workshops galore for hundreds of teachers and students in many city schools. The Centre is part of the Indian Institute of Geographical Studies (www.tiigs.org), which organises workshops for teachers and students, intervenes at different systemic levels, and works with school managements to introduce small changes in long-term geography education.

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