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All aboard the Kutch train

In Grade 5, our students learn about ancient civilisations as part of their Social Studies curriculum. To enhance their learning experience, this unit of learning includes a field trip to Dholavira in Kutch, one of the sites of the ancient Indus Valley Civilisation discovered by archaeologists in the 1960s. Field trips are an important and interactive learning opportunity; a shared social experience that allows students to encounter and explore first hand what they have learned in the classroom.

The trip to Kutch took place in January this year – an activity packed 6-day experience that gave our 5th graders an opportunity to engage in first-hand research in an authentic setting. The children were accompanied by ten teachers, Miss Minal and Miss Zoë, who is a dab hand at train travel in India.

To ensure that our students get the most out of the experience we include a number of other activities. Every day of the trip was an opportunity for students to engage in a different experience, from visiting salt pans on the coast to tie-and-dye workshops with local artisans to learning how to build a brick wall. Even the overnight journey to Kutch was an experience in itself as most of our students had never travelled long distance by train or stayed away from home and their families for more than a couple of days.

On the 16th evening, students arrived at the assembly point, eyes shining with excitement. Each of them had already been given a journal to document their experiences, activities and reflections throughout the trip. After an interesting night on the train, we arrived at Bhachau station bright and early and headed off to Kariadham to freshen up. Our home for two days was the Flamingo Resort which is close to the Indus Valley site at Dholavira.

On the first day, we visited the archaeological site and the students explored every nook and corner of the ancient town. They visited the Fossil Park and saw petrified wood and fossils.

The next day started before dawn. We left at 5:45 am for the White Desert. The bus dropped us at the parking area, and we walked for a kilometre and a half to Khadir Bet under a beautiful starlit sky without torches or artificial light. The Rann stretches across northern Kutch and Khadir Bet is off the tourist stretch, making for a more personal experience. The walk with the cool breeze blowing in our face was unforgettable and the pollution-free sunrise spectacular.

Students revisited Dholavira for further exploration and some live sketching at the site. They also visited local artisans who live in traditional Kutchi Bhunga (houses) before returning to the resort.

Later that day we set off for KHAMIR (Kutch Heritage Centre for Art, Music and Information), 13 km away from Bhuj.

The next day, students participated in several workshops conducted by local artisans at KHAMIR. At the Tie-and-Dye workshop, students were each given a piece of cloth which they could tie in any way they wished, and then they were taught how to dye it.

At the Block Printing workshop, they were taught to print cloth with blocks of intricately carved wood using natural dyes.

They also learnt how waste can be repurposed into wealth at the Recycled Plastic Weaving workshop. Khamir cleans, sorts and segregates used plastic by colour and quality. Cleaned plastic is cut into long strips by women from villages near Kukma. Plastic strips of different colours are then woven into durable textiles. Nylon is used for the warp, and plastic forms the weft, creating a thick, dense material that is made into mats, backpacks or cushions.

Finally, they learned embroidery and pottery using local clay and ended their packed day with dinner and a film on the history and natural features of Kutch.

The next day we left for Hunnarshala after breakfast. At Hunnarshala, our students learnt how to make bricks and construct adobe, wattle and daub walls using natural, local materials. They all participated in pugging (kneading mud by foot) in preparation for brick making and then using the mud to make adobe bricks. They also learnt about the different types of soil and were taught a simple way to test the soil to find out whether it is sand or clay or gravel or a mixture with different proportions of sand, clay or gravel.

At the end of a long day, we returned to Khamir for shopping, dinner and to pack for the flight back home the next day.

On the last day of our trip, we visited the salt pans at Jogninar near Bhadreshwar and saw how salt is harvested. The students had the opportunity to interact with the children of the salt pan workers and local fishermen studying at the Sagar Shala schools run by Yusuf Meherally Centre and the students of Vallabh Vidyalaya, a Hindi medium school for children of migrant labourers working in Kutch.

This six-day trip was an enriching experience for our fifth graders. Each of them took away a deeply personal experience whether retracing the footsteps of the citizens of the Indus Valley or interacting with the children of the salt pan workers or learning to create with their hearts and their hands.

This trip taught our students to appreciate the lives and hardship faced by the artisans they met. They connected with school children from radically different backgrounds, and yet who welcomed them with warm smiles and song.

They have a better understanding of the world around them that extends beyond the walls of the classroom, another step forward in their journey to becoming citizens of the world they inhabit.

 

 

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