Multidisciplinary stories and a multidisciplinary approach to teaching

By Nivedita Ram

Storytelling is a major component of the Montessori curriculum. When I tell a story, each student’s interest is caught in a particular area and they do further experiments to satisfy their curiosity. 

The National Education Policy 2020 emphasizes the need for experiential and holistic learning: interactions with the wider society, learning from scientists, artisans and other professionals and experts. Stories from the PARI website are invaluable to this endeavor.

I chose two PARI stories to begin with, because they suit a multidisciplinary approach to learning – in this case, there are no boundaries between the subject’s geography, biology and history. To bring two such stories into our curriculum, I condensed and re-formatted them into cards (available in English, Hindi and Kannada here). Once school begins in-person, I will cut and laminate these cards for any student to find them in their classroom. 

The first story I picked was, Home with the Harvest by K. Sunil, a Soliga Adivasi who documents his daily life, in Kaniyanapura, a tribal hamlet in Bandipur, Karnataka. This story might interest a student who is curious and wants to know more about different biomes and the flora, fauna and people who populate each area. The language is simple yet descriptive of his lifestyle, the photographs are picturesque and self-explanatory, appealing to all ages. It’s a great glimpse into Karnataka’s agricultural communities. 

Swimming to migrate in Odisha is the other photo-essay by Dilip Mohanty that I created into cards. It follows buffaloes who swim across the local river in Odisha’s Jagatsinghpur district every day during the summer, and the community of milkmen who support them along the way. Children learning about domestication of animals, pastoralists and their migration patterns, might find this interesting. It’s also apt for those who want to learn more about how young animals are protected and cared for.

Sonika Rana and Geetha Aravind (both educators at PEP Schoolv2, a Montessori school in Bengaluru) have translated these cards in Hindi and Kannada respectively, using vocabulary appropriate for early learners. Making stories accessible to students in multiple tongues reflects an environment where local languages are part and parcel of the culture of learning. We create a space where children learn the parts of the seed in English, make sesame seed laddoos according to instructions given in Hindi and learn more about the Neem Tree (Bevina Mara) from a Kannada booklet. The bilingual design of the text gives children the freedom to read and understand on their own without depending on the adult for explanations.

The whole process is fluid and follows the child. If the universe is the fabric of our knowledge, then human culture, its inventions and expressions are the warp and weft. This is beautifully illustrated by the wealth of real life stories and photo essays on the PARI website.

About the teacher

Nivedita Ram is a scientist and Montessor teacher and trainer. She believes that learning is most effective when students are able to follow their interests, connecting concepts learned in the classroom to their experiences and interactions in the world outside. Her background in research and education enable her to work with children, educators, schools and NGOs helping them to enrich their curricula through experiential learning and real life stories.

PARI Education has reached over 87 organisations across India.

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