In an attempt to help children reconnect with nature and fix the “imbalance between academic and life skills”, a Hyderabad-based startup has begun offering garden-based learning as a delivery tool for curriculum in schools. The founders of ‘Schoolcrop’ believe there is a school in every garden than having a garden in every school.
After working at an IT company in Singapore for 12 years, Krishna Reddy (35) returned to Hyderabad and started an urban farming venture ‘Homecrop’ in 2016 along with his friend Manvitha Reddy, Sai Krishna(35) and high-school teacher Ramakrishna Surampudi. However, he soon realised that farming as an activity on roof-tops and balconies was restricted to those who were enthusiastic and have sufficient time to commit themselves.
It is then that it dawned on him on the possibilities of taking garden-based learning to schools. “Gardening as a delivery tool for subjects is different from gardening as an activity in school. Schools do not have space for gardening. What we offer schools are gardens completely set up and grown by children and in the process, they learn their subject concepts,” said Krishna Reddy.
Schoolcrop implemented the model for a year in Delhi Public School, Kajaguda, and Krishna said a few other schools in the city had shown interest in the initiative.
Pointing out that ‘nature-deficit disorder’ was a reality today, Manvitha Reddy said farming not only helps children empathise with nature but also inculcate in them patience, care, persistence, and perseverance.
Though the Central Board of Secondary Education(CBSE) had issued a notification directing schools to have a nutrition-kitchen garden, it is still a far-fetched dream for several reasons.
“Schools still focus on preparing children for exams. It is the academic skills that they are keen to develop. At the same time, life skills cannot be taught. But, through gardening we can fix the imbalance between academic and life skills,” said 51-year-old Ramakrishna.
The students of Class 6 and 7 set up an edible garden with spinach, coriander, carrot, radish, chilli, brinjal, ladies finger, and tomatoes, etc over the last year successfully. “It was an experiment. We did not know if it would appeal to schools or excite the students. Now, we are confident,” said Krishna, who believes the initiative would revolutionise urban farming culture.
The ‘Schoolcrop’ team uses geotextile grow bags and ‘GrowBeds’ imported from Israel for soil-less farming. “From planning their garden inside the classroom to executing the same outside, children did everything on their own. We focused primarily on Mathematics at DPS. But the possibilities of expanding it further to social studies, science, music, languages, health and physical education, etc are available,” Krishna explained.
The startup has also partnered with Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad, to develop a mechanism to grade and assess students at the end of a session.
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