In Grades 4 and 5, our B.D. Somani students experience what we refer to as Learning Without Walls, an opportunity for physical and environmental education that enhances many other areas of the curriculum.
Outdoor educational experiences like camps and treks contribute to personal growth and social awareness. They are an excellent opportunity for children to learn how to manage away from the familiarity of home, to practice life skills and to find new capabilities, interests and strengths. They learn to deal with the unexpected and make the best of it. Away from urban distractions, students experience nature in its purest form and appreciate the beauty in everything from star-filled skies to tiny bugs and even snakes!
In 2015 and 2016, our Grade 4 and 5 students went on their Learning Without Walls trips to the YMCA Camp in Nilshi, to the north of Lonavala. This year our Grades 4 and 5 students went to the Magic Bus Centre near Karjat on different weekends. Each class was accompanied by ten teachers and Miss Zoë and Miss Minal, who always join our sleep-away trips.
The itinerary included a variety of physically and intellectually challenging activities like rock wall climbing, low ropes courses, tent pitching, night walks and, of course, a campfire. They also planted vegetables, visited a village and school nearby. Grade 5 students also got to go on a strenuous half-day trek to Irshalgadh while Grade 4 did a slightly modified version. For the two nights away, students were accommodated in comfortable dormitory-style buildings. The staff at the camp are fully trained, experienced and qualified in outdoor education. The camp provided all meals – wholesome, healthy and plentiful Indian fare.
Our students enjoyed the physical challenges and team building activities the most. In the lead up to the trip, the classroom atmosphere was electric. They looked up the location of the camp on a map and calculated how much time it would take to get there. They had numerous questions about the trip for their teachers, and there were many peer discussions. For most of our Grade 4 students, it was their first time away from home and family, and the nervous excitement in the classrooms was palpable. Grade 5 students, old hands at sleep aways, knew what was to come but were just as thrilled.
Our LWW program integrates with our curriculum. Students share their experiences in writing, in any form of their choice (literacy), they looked up directions and pored over maps (Social Studies). Back at school farming experiences were reexamined during a lesson on the lifecycle of plants in school (Science). Grade 5 students explored dams, reservoirs and learned about how the construction of dams impacts the lives of the locals.
For Grade 5 students, this trip was excellent practice for their Kutch trip. From next year, to ensure they have different experiences, Grade 4 students will go to the Magic Bus Centre and Grade 5 to Nilshi.