Baltimore Middle-Schoolers Learning From Agastya's Example

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Students in Ms. Dianna Newton's sixth grade class at Friends School of Baltimore are learning from Agastya's example.  Last fall, students at this private school, about 75 kilometers north of Washington, D.C., watched the Spirit of Agastya documentary film, and were delighted - perhaps even a little envious - to see how Indian children were learning about science in a direct, hands-on way, using models and low-cost experiments. They were intrigued by the idea of experiential learning, and of children teaching other children.

Ms. Newton and her students were so impressed, they decided to raise funds for Agastya, as part of a yearlong class project on service-learning. The children held their first fundraiser last fall, and on March 14, held a bake sale to benefit Agastya; another such event is slated for April 17.

This spring, Ms. Newton's students will work together to design mini-lessons on various aspects of English composition. The lessons are designed to be taught in a peer-to-peer format as part of an after-school and summer program for promising middle school students in Baltimore City - children with high potential from low-income families. Here again, the Agastya model is making educational opportunities available to students who otherwise would have fewer chances to improve their skills.

Agastya's program came to Ms. Newton's attention last fall, when parents came to school to meet their children's teachers. She told parents that her teaching methods were shaped by the insights of the learning pyramid: that we retain only 10% of what we read and 20% of what we hear, but learn 95% of what we teach. One parent told her that he recognized the learning pyramid, having seen it on the Agastya website. They struck up a conversation that paved the way for a series of experiential learning projects for Ms. Newton's sixth-graders - projects based on the innovative peer-to-peer teaching strategies that were pioneered right here in India, at the Agastya International Foundation. This is further evidence that Agastya's work is having an impact beyond India. As a guest told the crowd at Agastya's recent conclave in Bangalore: soon Agastya will be seen not only as a gift to India, but as a gift to the world!


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