A classroom without walls...

We often speak of having “a classroom without walls” at the Valley School. And truly, if you wander around on an ordinary day, you would likely overhear Lady Macbeth speaking in Science Centre quadrangle under the Honge tree, you might catch little Romans milling about in the Middle School courtyard discussing Caesar, and as you walk into the vicinity of Junior School you will no doubt find small children looking up at the trees, noticing the shapes of their leaves, the birds nestled in their branches, the insects…

But perhaps the very best illustration of what “a classroom without walls” can be is captured on our excursions. It is a real pleasure and a rare privilege to accompany a group of students with whom you have worked closely out into the world and watch how they absorb it. Peering over their shoulders into their note books as they busily sketch, write, scribble—lost in their particular journeys of self discovery and meaning making—you can see how each one is developing a unique perspective on the world.

I was deeply moved to see how Class 9 travelled to Kachch, with their carefully researched contexts and fresh sketch books, how they understood the lived realities and complex juxtaposition of a landscape of enormous extremes that they encountered there, and returned with spectacularly open minds and full hearts. What is real education? What is true development? What is the place of art in life? Once you have walked through the Banni grasslands, will you see water, colour, or Prosopis juliflora the same way again?

Each time we tumbled back into our jeep, as we reflected on what we had just encountered, making adobe bricks or rammed earth walls, learning bandhini or block printing, seeing how pastoralist communities harvest rainwater, how the Rann is a dissolving border that shapes the lives of nomadic communities in surprising ways, how fossils tell us the desert was once the bed of an ocean, how the ruins at Dholavira show us how Harappans lived 5000 years ago, how two entirely different ports coexist…

I marveled at how wide-eyed and wise my students are. How the world through their eyes is the most interesting world of all—full of brave paradoxes and HOPE!

Indus Chadha believes we cannot exist or be understood without stories and spends much of her time reading and writing them. She earned a BA in Women’s Studies and English Literature from Smith College and an MFA in Creative Writing from the School of the Arts at Columbia University.

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