Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Lalbagh Walk - Day 2

The second day was more exciting for me. We were to visit Lalbagh. More exciting for me was the prospect of meeting Mr. Vijay Thiruvadi. For the last 12 years plants have been my primary interest. But not many people share the interests. So to find another human being interested in plants and birds was by it self immensely exciting. When I heard Mr. Thiruvadi’s name for the first time, I expected a man in his mid forties. Please forgive me for the bias. But when I met him, I was pleasantly shocked, for he was a man in his early youth. His energy, verve, knowledge of plants, their history, the legends associated with each tree, everything about him communicated only youthful energy.

Ever since, I had begun my botanical research, I had this dream of seeing the ‘queen of flowering trees’, Amhertia nobilis. My high point of the walk was briefly cohabiting the space used by this very beautiful tree. It was a humbling experience to walk under the expansive canopy of the majestic silk cotton tree.

We also visited the Summer Palce of Tipu Sultan. A great monument preserved in a shoddy manner.

There was another high point to come. Our lunch at Mavalli Tiffin Restrooms (MTR). MTR still flaunts the very traditional look to it. The small home like rooms with desks for having food, fitted with old fashioned fans was a welcome break for the students who are used to the eatery chains of the modern world. The only aberration was a silently running AC. But excitation of the walk did not allow the learners to notice the AC. The food was delicious. Dosa doused in ghee, Holige, payasam, the irresistible ‘bisi-belebath’ followed by rasam rice and curd rice. I will remember this lunch for a long while. During the drive back home, I had a happy feeling that I knew my city better than before. I should thank Arun and Rupa for it.

Revisiting Bangalore

The tablet read:
“The great trigonometrical survey was situated 38 feet north of the baseline station”.
Observer: Capt. W.M. Campbell
R.E. 1875-1876
Lt.Col. W.S. Heaviside
R.E. 1887-88

To know that this location played an important and indispensable role in confirming that the Mt. Everest, one of the peaks of Himalayas, was the highest in the world itself was a humbling experience.

Welcome to the ‘Bangalore walks’. Arun and Rupa are facilitating many a souls revisit this beautiful erstwhile garden city, now an IT hub, and appreciate the rich and varied heritage of the city we live in – Bangalore.

The first four years of my life were spent in Bangalore. To me Bangalore has always been a loved location, for I carried the images of my beginning years rather vividly. I lived in a street called ‘Fruit Street’ near the present day Commercial Street. I still remember the narrow crowded alleys of this region. In a way, this walk as revitalised me to step out of Yelahanka and walk those narrow alleys. The feelings can go beyond simple mortal words of description.

But while standing in one of the towers built by Kempegowda, I could actually visualise him scanning the surroundings majestically. I could actually see the undulating geography clothed in shrubbery. We will never be able to say what Kempegowda’s notion of a city was. The reality is that this city has been cradled by multiple influences culminating in one of the most cosmopolitan city of the world.

Our next stop was in the Kadumalleswara temple. Just to be in a temple which was built by Venkoji, Chatrapathi Shivaji’s brother, a premise frequented by Kempegowda and his family is a great feeling. I did hear from one of my uncle that Lord Rama, along with Sita and Laxman also spent a few days in this location. Though there was no temple at that time, there was a linga that signified Lord Shiva.

We next walked down to visit the archaeological wonder ‘Dakshina Mukha Nandi Teertha”, the only Nandi to be sitting south facing. Through the open mouth of the Nandi water continuously falls on the Linga located a few feets below. The residents of Malleswara just managed to save this site from the clutches of greedy builders.
Following the spice route in Bangalore in the highly crowded Chikpet was in itself a wonderful experience. I was trying to find the meaning of Tharagupet. ‘Tharagu’ in Tamil means ‘brokering’. May be in olden days trade goods were exchanged and brokered around in this street. After a rather pleasant walk (despite a hot sun), we reached the Red Mount. A spacious place to eat decorated with traditional artistic creations. I was eating the Ragi Mudde after almost three years. All the food that was served had a traditional touch to it including the people. We said goodbye to Arun and Rupa at the Ulsoor Gate.

Mohua’s CASW Presentation

I have always looked forward to hearing from Mohua. One of those rare people who state their mind fearlessly. She spoke with her large world map in the background. Almost five foot by six foot in dimension. Dark coloured chart outlined with the five continents scripted in white. The idea was brilliant. To chart the routes of the explorers using pop-ups. A marriage between art, sea faring, geography, spices, culture, people……a great matrix for integration. I actually visualised myself being rolled around on those ancient ships in the high seas looking for new land, new people, new trade routes and new life altogether. She gave a crisp background to describe her scenario. With a sense of disappointment she put forward her key questions.

The key questions

What could have been done differently to get the children to apply principles of art and DT more effectively?Would assessing application of skills have led to more motivation on their part?

My Responses and Reflections
To me just the process of tracing the routes of different explorers would have presented the learners with wonderful learning opportunity. Learning would have definitely happened. The learners would have walked back with a greater understanding of world geography. They probably are better prepared now to understand the problems faced by explorers of that age.

I saw one problem immediately, with the lesson described by Mohua. It was a long-drawn exercise. Such exercises usually fizzle out due to scattering of focus. Activities always succeed, if they do not prolong beyond three 90 minute blocks (especially because we are dealing with age group 10-12 years.

Some of the suggestions that I had in mind were:
-Give credits/points to greater diversity and numbers of pop-ups per group.
-As a preview of the activity, a movie on any one of the explorers would have warmed up the class to the activity in a better frame.
-A visit to a monument or a museum where artefacts from the esplorers’ time is exhibited.
-Have conversations with the learners to trace their roots, and identify if any explorer had at some point visited their native places.
-Looking at plants brought in by explorers.

Mr Amarnathan beautifully tied the thread by summarising Mohua’s presentation and analysis of the group. To me it was a brief travel to the explorer’s time line.



“I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma”.
Eartha Kitt

The legendary and versatile Eartha Kitt who distinguished herself in film, theater, cabaret, music and on television for more than 75 years since the mid 1920s had this to say about the way she viewed life and learning.
I have always tried to spark my learners to learn by creating curiosity. By that way I believe the learning process continues as long as the learner is alive. My brief interface with young people has also guided me with the fact that learning is maximum when the initiative is the learners’ rather than the teachers’. I am also guided by the global trend where the skills for survival and excellence have acquired greater importance than the theoretical/academic dimension of any subject. One of the key skills that all young people will have to master is to succinctly present their learning/ideas to a group of people. Oral and multi-media supported presentations will play an indispensable role in finding avenues of employment in future. My CASW presentation is of one such presentation that my learner made to his peers.

My Student Work – a back ground and context

Every year I initiate my Class 11 learners to Biology, with a series of thematic PowerPoint presentations. This year also, the first month was dominated with my presentations. At the end of the first month, I had given each student a topic in their curriculum and asked them to prepare a well-researched presentation for their peers. They were given more than a month’s time for this. The learners had the access to the library and Internet resources of the school. The Two-week presentation time is usually called the “seminar series”. It is a formal occasion. The criteria for assessment were spelt out.

The student work that I am presented to our CASW group was titled:”Evolution of Kingdom Animalia”. This was one of the many presentations. I chose this work for analysis as I felt that the topic was a difficult topic and the student has made one of the best PowerPoint presentations that I had ever witnessed. I was thoroughly convinced that the work is a good enough to be a benchmark for other learners to vie with.

The Key Questions

Having convinced myself about the quality of the presentation I raised the following key questions to the group:




My Presentation and Collaborative Analysis

My presentation for CASW session was programmed for about 12 minutes. This was followed by a five-minute session for clarifying questions. This was followed by five minutes for writing our thoughts on the key questions. This was a silent and reflective time. I was surprised to find myself raising some questions. Questions, which I had not asked before. I found myself writing the following sentences:

-I should see more such presentations across the school, different schools and around the world to gain better idea.
-A bit more elaboration of key terms in the student presentation would have made more sense to the audience.
-This presentation is not self-explanatory (but I also said to myself that a PowerPoint presentation is always a cue for the presenter than for the audience)
-Why did I not video graph the presentation?

After the five-minutes to jot down our thoughts, the group began its confabulation on the key questions. I found it very difficult not to look at the group while this discussion was happening. Meanwhile I had forced myself to turn away from the discussion and note down some points raised by the participants. I felt immensely happy inward from some positive comments made by the participants on the student work and my teaching-learning method:

-Methods excellent
-Guidelines clear
-Concept of benchmarks for presentations itself nice
-Learning outcomes well-laid
-Visually impressive and professionally done
-Looking at teacher’s presentation has big effect

Some questions and comments of critique brought forward by the group were the following:
Bibliography and author credit lacking for the usage of photographs. Ensure bibliography and copyright.
-Look at several benchmarks and evaluate.
-Do we have any national and international benchmark at all?
-Can we agree on one benchmark?
-Start locally and then try and widen the search.
-Video graph of the presentation would have added authenticity to the entire benchmarking concept itself.
-Recording a session even better benchmark.
-What are the yardsticks to make sure that there is no plagiarism?

Some Collaborative Strategies
-Setting a school benchmark should be the first step.
-We need different benchmark for A, B and C grade.
-Look at several benchmarks and evaluate.
-Finding a space to launch our student PowerPoint presentations on a website will encourage learners to come up with better quality.

My Reflections
This presentation had happened in August 2005. I was immensely happy, not only with the lay out of the presentation but also the verbal commentary of the learner accompanied with the presentation. Since that time, I had been living with a heady feeling that the presentation would match any such peer-reviewed work. Even on the day of my meeting with the CASW group, I walked in with the same pleasant feeling. At the end of the analysis, I still was living with a pleasant feeling, though with a little disappointment. Disappointment because my feeling of benchmark actually did not measure up to a benchmark. Pleasant feeling because, I am in the midst of a group of individuals, who have taken a lot of care to encourage me and point out some fundamental needs of the work that would make it a benchmark creation. This they did without breaking my confidence or taking away the credit of the phenomenal effort of my learner. I immensely value this guidance from the group.

Arriving at the key questions was not easy. I had a key question in my mind. When I met Ms. Kini to deliberate on the key question, a few words were added and deleted to give a slightly different meaning. By the time I met Ms. Kannan, the question had further evolved. Thus, till the time I made the presentation, the key question key evolving. I was very happy for the process. I then remembered my Principal at The School-KFI saying: “Ask the right questions and you will have the right answers”.