This is a story that began in July 2016, when Dr. Balachandran came to conduct a session on how children can do research in Geography. Read more about it in our earlier post, ‘The joy of research’.
I clearly remember Mahima (a student) standing up in the introductory session and saying, “I have a topic, I care about but even if do the research, what will happen? How can I alone change the garbage situation in my area?” Similar sentiments could be sensed on many faces in the room. I remember telling these 9th graders that if they are passionate about solving these issues, they would definitely succeed in making a change. Like the thousand things that we speak of and hope for, but move on, I moved on; fortunately, Mahima and her friends didn’t.
In the International Geography Youth Summit (IGYS), a total of 9 students presented their primary research. They had gone and studied people’s belief systems regarding the issue and also how people thought it affected them. They spoke to experts to find out their opinions on the situation and what can be done about it. They also managed to inspire the community in their own way to act on the situation. All these groups received huge appreciation and applause from the panelists for their honest efforts and passion.
But the story didn’t end there. The exciting part, what I call as the side-effects of research, is here.
These students continue to work on their respective research topics even today. Mahima and her team continue to practice waste segregation at home and try to recycle as many things as possible – keeps them creatively happy as well. The team that studied the ‘drainage system’ have taken it a step ahead by spreading awareness among community members. Together, these students convinced the school management to try out methods of reducing and managing waste at their own school. After already impacting many families and inspiring a few more, Mahima and her friends now believe that they have the power and will to positively impact their surroundings. I see many strong leaders in the making.
The whole experience of doing the research and participating in IGYS has had many such interesting side-effects. The confidence level of these students has shot up immensely; they show initiative; the clear edge these students had over their classmates in presentation skills became evident during several classroom presentations- they knew exactly how many slides to use, how to engage the audience, how to use effective body language etc. They volunteered to mentor the next batch of students for the IGYS projects. Such amazing enthusiasm… and if one thinks about it, this life-changing journey began with a request to think beyond textbooks and to do original research.
One simple looking exercise had such long lasting impact. What else could be more motivating..!
– The blog piece has been written by Ms. Shikha Bohra, who works as the School Transformation lead at Mantra4Change.