It was a warm summer afternoon in early June 2015 when I arrived at the lab at Gocharan to see a small group of children crowded around the pond at the front of the lab. A few of them broke away from the group and rushed towards me, dragging me down the little footpath that led up to the lab so that I could see what had piqued their interest. It was a ‘goshaap’ – a water lizard / monitor, belly up in the water and quite dead.
The dead ‘goshaap’ in the pond – June 2015 [Photo: Suneeta]
We had been seeing it the past couple of weeks and while I was concerned when I saw it climbing up and moving around the trees on the pond banks, the children were completely unfazed. It wasn’t the first time they had seen a ‘goshaap’ and it wasn’t going to be the last…. Sure enough, a few days later, there was another one!
Look carefully and you will see the ‘goshaap’ behind the tree
Yet, what made the difference to their response was the kind of resources available to them and their access to those resources. For Area 0 was the flagship lab of the TED Prize School in the Cloud Project, and was the largest of them all with 11 computers in a unique hexagonal, beehive like, structure. And since it was a community-based lab there was absolutely no constraints in terms of time or the activities the children chose to engage in. With their very limited English (the lab was just a few months old at that time) most children (with the exception of Dev, Tridip and a few others) spent their time playing games and listening to music.
Game Over! The next one gets his turn… Gocharan June 2015 [Photo: Suneeta]
But as ‘Granny in residence’ and physically present, this was too good an opportunity to pass up. So I deliberately speculated aloud – ” I wonder what this is called in English? Is it poisonous?” The children didn’t know and weren’t sure but they did have access to the internet and many of them rushed in, as children whose curiosity has been piqued are wont to do, so that they could check it out.
Searching for information on snakes – Gocharan June 2015
And over the next several days, I was treated to pictures and excited sharing about the difference between snakes and water monitors and how to distinguish between poisonous and nonpoisonous ones. I was even shown and told about the Katraj Snake Park in my hometown, Pune, at the other end of the country….
More about snakes!
Their interest lasted several days and we saw a lot of snakes and lizards related information cropping up before other interests took over again. But it was a beginning. Over the next few months I felt a quiet contentment as I observed several children following through on their interests.
Undeterred or possibly overjoyed by the absence of formal classes to interfere with their interests, I found Sulagna teaching herself origami and passing on that interest to several other children, Tridip explore Google Maps & Photoshop, and Chetan refine his sketching skills.
Interest in Origami spreads over the months… Gocharan – July to August 2015 [Photos: Suneeta]
It is at its best when it can all come together….