"You don't understand anything until you learn it more than one way." a quote by Marvin Minksy, explores how different approaches aid and strengthen the knowledge a learner acquires. While their academic knowledge may be limited to the classroom, learning in other forms transpires every second of their day. Therefore, the school as a whole can serve as a source of learning itself, broadening their scope of wisdom and intellect.
This learning begins at a very young age. Babies have been found to identify humour as early as in the third month of their life. It boosts self-confidence, builds resilience, and develops critical analytic skills. Celebrating "International Joke Day" on 1st July, one must attempt to bring humour into the school life of students, constructing a positive atmosphere for learning. Not only does it improve memory retention, but also increases trustworthiness and dependability. While education is a serious matter, a balance between enjoyment and instruction results in a much more conducive environment for the learner.
Another consequence of encouraging humour is the management of stress and anger issues, preventing them from manifesting into severe conditions. Hosting a funny day wearing mismatched socks, sharing personal anecdotes, encouraging witty literature, or creating a bulletin board for students' jokes and comics are simple ways of incorporating humour into school life.
Bringing learning further outside classrooms, students can be trained to manage waste responsibly and care for the environment, everywhere they go. In India, the month of July is welcomed with the celebration of "Van Mahotsav", the forest festival. Students should not only uphold the tree-planting tradition but also be made aware of the current climatic conditions and the carbon footprint that their actions leave behind.
Exploring the Japanese practice of Shinrin-Yoku, i.e., forest bathing, simply spending time in nature also provides a soothing effect on our wellbeing. It involves immersing oneself in natural surroundings that appeal to all the human senses. This lowers blood pressure, negative hormones like the stress-causing cortisol, and increases happiness and gratitude. The key to a successful session is mindfulness, which when introduced in early childhood would help effectively monitor emotions in adolescent and adult life. They would be more adept at facing challenges and solving problems without being irrationally driven by their emotions, they would gain self- control and show decreased anxiety and disruptive behavior. Being one with nature has several beneficial effects at any stage of life, and initiating it early on would only have exponential results.
Coincidentally, "International Plastic Bag Free Day" also passes in the first week, on 3rd July. Following simple measures, schools can manage waste in efficient ways, starting small yet creating an enormous impact on the coming generation.
The first step to putting this plan into action is to try not to produce waste at all. Refilling printer cartridges rather than purchasing new ones, reusing old envelopes, creating vermicomposting bins, etc. are ideas we are widely familiar with, however, fail to employ. Other things that often go unnoticed include the containers food is served in or students' lunch boxes. If non-toxic materials like bamboo, glass, etc. are not viable options, materials like bioplastic, made of corn
rather than petroleum are acceptable biodegradable alternatives to plastic. The more widespread their usage can be made, the less harm to the environment we will be leaving behind.
Furthermore, sensitivity to nature and sustainable living also has an immense impact on the learners' cognitive development. Practice minimalism makes them more conscious of their consumerist nature. This reduces the chances of depressive episodes and promotes a stress-free life, facilitating a purposeful journey ahead. Once the learners are familiar with waste management practices, they would employ them in their homes as well, giving the school a greater purpose to fulfil.
The learning that students acquire during their years at school thus secures the foundation for their life ahead. To ensure that the knowledge they obtain is functional throughout their lives, one must ensure that it is not only relevant but also holistic. As the 15th of July approaches, on "Youth Skills Day", schools must examine their policy toward vocational education, technical and entrepreneurial skills, and equipping the learners with the know-how to aid in future employment. This is something that the National Education Policy 2020 also touches upon, for the all-around development and nurturing of the generations to come.
India is rich in its culture of arts and handicrafts, something that is gradually being lost with the advent of technology. In order to acknowledge the dignity of labour and preserve the grace of traditional artisanship, vocational schooling must be incorporated into mainstream education. If exposure is provided at a younger age, students would be used to hands-on work and would secure a base of employment, in a rapidly uncertain world.
In addition to serving as a source of income, vocational training also provides a sense of self- sustainability and independence, giving the learner a renewed sense of self-worth. It would encourage creativity, which is essential to progress and grow in today's world.
However, this does not imply that technical skills are not essential as well. Rather than technology being the evil, we must be capable enough to use it as a resource, than it using us. To prevent misapplication of it, students must be taught at a young age, ways to benefit from its usage. Only if technology acts as an asset to them, can they be an asset to society. Technology may just be the answer to saving our heritage, in terms of accessibility of raw materials for artisans, direct connections to the market, awareness of consumers' needs, etc.
Yet, learning is not something that should be limited to nurturing oneself and one's own future only. The learner must experience the joy of giving from within, as an empathetic response rather than from the mindset of doing someone a favour. This way, they would voluntarily support the underprivileged later in life as well, creating a larger impact. However, one must understand that there are multiple ways of providing this support. Well-known methods include taking part in outreach programmes, engaging in community service, participating in fundraisers and volunteering with NGOs. However, students must also realise the impact they can have on a person in distress, by actively listening and simply sharing time with them.
Therefore, the ultimate goal of education is to make students productive, functional and contributive members of the society and environment. To mobilize such a generation, one must
take all measures to ensure the holistic development of the learner. Schools are an impactful ecosystem in their lives and possess the power to mould their impressionable minds. If tapped into, there is no doubt that the world can be made a better place.
Dr. Geetanjali Kumar