The vegetables and plants in our school backyard which we had planted as part of the Socially Useful Productive Work (SUPW) programme had to be watered. It reminded us of the nursery rhyme, "Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water ..." Our school was on different terrains. The garden was at the lowest level while the water source was at the next higher level connected not by steps but mud slope which puts us at risk of slipping with the bucket. And it would have been much easier to connect a hose and water the plants but deny us a taste of hard physical work. Two boys would together carry the bucket each lending a hand and pass it over to the next two standing at a distance as if in a relay race. And in the process, some water would spill over and wet our dress.
We had brinjal, ladies finger, spinach, pumpkins, gourd, bitter gourd, tomatoes, green chillies, banana and my favourite tapioca and papaya all planted with guidance from teachers. The seeds and saplings were mostly brought by children from home. We learnt different planting methods- tapioca stem had to be planted in small mud heaps arranged in rows. It was delightful to see the plants, creepers on- ground and above seen in life science textbooks come alive. Sadly, this programme which took away the classroom boredom was discontinued after a few years due to some reason and replaced with in-class activities such as basket making and stitching.
The SUPW programme of 1980' at Arya Central School, Trivandrum was much ahead of the times with its approach to learning in the open and close to nature. Yet we always look for global role models to follow!
2019: The University of Glasgow sets up the International Green Academy to teach school children gardening skills, understand environmental justice, sustainability, food autonomy, climate awareness and action. Some children who had difficulties with traditional classroom education found farming a rewarding experience. John (16) said he enjoyed building the benches, plant beds and construct the garden site.