Friday, 9 September 2016

The Joy of Research

‘Yesterday, my view of geography and how to teach it changed. It is actually so interesting and relevant every day.’ 
Imagine the goose-bumps you would get when a social sciences teacher comes up to tell you this..! When a teacher’s view of the subject improvises, the impact can be seen on literally hundreds of students in the years to come. I am deeply indebted to Dr. Chandra Shekhar Balachandran (Founder & Director, TIGS) for conducting a workshop on ‘How to Conduct Research in Geography’ at one of our partner schools. Though the target audience for the workshop was the students and the idea was to present them with the opportunity of “International Geography Youth Summit” (IGYS), this is the mindset shift that happened in one of the four teachers, who attended. 

Moving on to the students now, during the workshop itself, I witnessed the passion for research shine into students’ eyes. They were seeing what they could do, the things they could find; more importantly it was one of the rare occasions when they were told to put efforts in things that really mattered to them. I clearly remember Sai Mahima from that day and how she spoke about the problem of garbage in her community. She saw it everywhere, she said. She actually went ahead to think if her research could create an impact.  When 15 year olds of a community start thinking this way, something good is bound to happen there.

A few days later, students started coming to me with the general problem of being unable to ‘choose their topics’. These extremely bright and interested students were genuinely struggling with choosing what they wanted to study. I feel, in our Indian Education System, the liberty to choose comes too late. Even when it comes, the impact of the decision is usually huge due to a plethora of ‘reasons’ like the economic condition etc. and hence, students don’t end up being the completely independent decision makers. Hence, it wasn’t exactly surprising when the students struggled at this point. We had a discussion and a round of elimination of topics with the teams and viola, there has been no looking back. 

One team has chosen to study the drainage system in their team mate’s community. There are open drains in Headmaster’s Layout and he faces frequent problems; another decided to study how an industry is interacting with the environment in the Bommasandra Industrial area and Sai Mahima’s group is obviously working on the effects that garbage has on the people in her community.

Each day these 9 students (from the 3 teams) come to me with new findings, struggles and ideas. Their resolve to conduct and find solutions to their research problems is intensifying with each passing day. Sometimes, their faces now reflect the ‘joy of finding things out’. After all, it is the insatiable curiosity that bells the learning cat. I feel extremely privileged to be able to witness this in these nine souls. As for the teacher, I can only imagine the magnitude of positive impact that she is now going to create for generations of students to come.

The blog piece has been written by Ms. Shikha Bohra, who works as the School Transformation lead at Mantra4Change.  


  1. Thank you for sharing this very important experience! As a language teacher, I understand the uplifting feeling we get when our students' lives are clearly transformed by something we do in class!

  2. Thank you for the encouraging write-up, Ms Bohra.

    We must have a session (perhaps on 24th?) where we get all the children together and get them to reflect on their experience of the whole process. This will be a great tool for us to learn also. For them, once they reflect out aloud, they will never forget the experience!

    For the immediate present, can you encourage 1 boy and 1 girl from the group to offer a few brief thoughts on their experience up to the end of the conference, at the valedictory function when we will have an open-forum discussion among participants?

    Thanks to you all at Mantra, the teachers, and everyone else for uncovering these young geographers.

    1. That sounds like a great idea, sir. We will definitely do that. :)