Thinks mathematics and many of us remember long, lectures on congruence, angles and theorems. When I was a student, many decades ago, a mathematics class typically consisted of one student standing at the board solving a problem and the rest of us at our desks doing the same. There was little excitement involved in learning maths, and the pre-dominant emotion I felt was one of fear.

Things couldn’t be more different at Shishuvan. The focus is on making subjects accessible, interesting and fun.


Standard IV teachers Dipali and Payal, walked me through their class room displays and their corridor displays.

“It’s very important for us to involve the children as much as possible in creating the display boards. The children create the research charts and bring pictures and objects in to  put up. When we started the topic of 2D & 3D objects, we first asked children to bring in everyday objects, packaging from the supermarket, etc that were  common 2D and 3D shapes. This helped them connect to the topic instantly.” shared Dipali.

The boards  outside are brightly decorated with everyday 2D and 3D shapes and objects. Riddles and rhymes encourage children to think about what the differences are between various shapes. A bunting of brightly coloured origami boxes made by the students, shows how the topic has been extended even in to their art classes.


The second Standard IV display covers the topic of India and her neighbours. One board looks at India’s rich heritage of culture and cuisine while another puzzles over  our national emblems One of the boards is also dedicated to the Learning web.

“A Learning Web shows how a topic is covered in different subjects. A learning web combined with an effective learning display is a very powerful tool.”

The Standard IV Learning web innovatively used a puzzle of the Indian map to share information.

” In the coming week, the students will be creating displays for the boards that cover the topics of Direct and Indirect Speech, they will illustrate book covers and write reviews of folktales from both India and abroad. We want to make sure that the boards are always evolving and there’s something new to look at.” shares Dipali.

“An effective display board helps in many ways. It stimulates enquiry, arouses curiosity, reinforces concepts and helps in assessment.” adds Payal.

The standard IV display boards certainly tick all the boxes.



Getting to know our neighbours

This year Shishuvan will be looking at the world around it with eyes wide open as things taken on a global perspective.

Across the school, teachers and students are busy learning about what life is like outside India. And in true Shishuvan style, the range is sweeping. Taking cues from their curriculum the children are exploring subjects like endangered animals, transportation and plants with a global lens fitted to their telescopes.

This week, the students of Standard IV were invited by the Consulate General of Sri Lanka to visit the embassy. This is the first time the Sri Lankan embassy has had students visit them on a field trip, and were very impressed with the decorum and discipline of the young Shishuvanites.

Jignasa Bham, IV standard teacher was one of the teachers who accompanied the students.

“The Consulate General and staff of the embassy were very warm and soft spoken, living up to the name Sri Lankans have of being kind and friendly. The embassy had gone to great lengths to prepare for the students’ visit. The staff patiently explained to the children about the culture, language, religious practices, cuisine and  festivals of the country.”

The students viewed an AV that showcased the music and dance heritage of the Emerald Isle and also looked at the major tourist attractions of the country. A photography exhibition and a display of vibrant, handcrafted wooden masks and traditional lamps completed the tour.

“Though this was a very different kind of field trip, the children really enjoyed themselves. They raised many questions that impressed the Embassy staff and listened intently to the answers given. The children all received a handbook about Sri Lanka at the end of the visit.” Jignasa shared.

Follow up activities are planned  in music, dance and art and craft.


My Dream Pet

By Janani Balaji

(Janani is a student of Std. II at Shishuvan. In her mother’s words, she is “a curious kid , the perfect why- why girl. As you can see from this essay, she is always spinning some magic in a fantasy world. A voracious  reader, she is often lost in the world of Ronald Dahl, Narnia, the pixies and brownies of Enid Blyton, and The Wimpy Kid series. The rest of the time, she and her brother and any other kids she can rope in are engaged in furious and elaborate pretend plays from pirates to mermaids and princesses! She loves Shishuvan and thinks it is ‘perfect’ for her.)

I would like to have a Unicorn as my pet.

I would like to have her as my pet because the Unicorn is my favourite animal. Come and meet her, her name is Ariel. She has shimmering white wings and a sparkling white body with pink hearts on it. She has a rainbow coloured horn on the top of her head. Her beautiful mane almost looks like candy floss. She is lean but strong.

When I pat her, she listens to me. I feed her washed grass mixed with sugar. I take her for a small flight everyday to keep her healthy. When I hold on to her back, she soars in to the blue clouds in to a magical world.  I can even play fetch with her. I throw a stick up in the air and she swoops on it and brings it back, in the blink of an eye.

I love Ariel very much and wish my dream pet could be true!

Watching my children grow at Shishuvan


By Archana Natraj

(Archana is a Shishuvan parent delighted about what her children are experiencing in school. Her daughter Janani Balaji is a student of Std. II and her son Ragavan Balaji is in Nursery.)

As a parent, we strive to make the right choices for our child. Time and again, I remind myself of Khalil Gibran’s famous verses

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

Being a Shishuvan parent has made me truly realise how much more I need to imbibe from these verses.

I started out screaming about the bright yellow and green uniform. “Not Smart”, ”Needs a Tie?” …then I hear my daughter proudly telling her friend..see my uniform, so bright and happy.. we are sunflowers! I realised how much we are still enslaved by the British. Instead of being proud that we are the only school that wears Khadi popularised by Gandhiji, we still remain in awe of the West and want to wear a tie to look polished and acceptable.

I look at my daughter’s English notebook and see her page of adjectives…stunning, favourite, glamorous she lists and looks for more with zest ..she is not put off by a writing exercise that asks her to list adjectives, Shishuvan has set her off on a learning adventure by asking her to describe her dear Barbie doll with the best adjectives she can find!
To learn the five senses, Shishuvan has not resorted to a teacher putting down a list..instead they joyously make popcorn ..simply SEE it grow, SMELL in its yumminess, HEAR it popping , TOUCH their creation and then TASTE it . What better way to play and learn!

I questioned the discipline in the school as I heard the roaring noise of screaming kids, until I stopped to listen and hear the thousands of questions that were pouring out of their curious minds, without any fear, fuelling a beautiful session of learning. While I see other Nursery kids from other schools crying in the morning as we await the school bus, my little boy jumps up with a ‘Yay, it’s time for school!’

Free play is fun for Ragavan

Slowly but surely, I have learnt to see it is often us as parents who are so rigid in our views that we may stifle our children’s soaring minds by trying to direct their flight . From telling her how we knew our multiplication tables at her age to marvelling at how they conducted a survey of trees, classified and put tally marks with ease doing multiple subjects at once.
From telling her how we participated in competitions and wrote exams, to seeing how much responsibility she had shouldered with ease in remembering her slots to perform at the school fair. She kept asking…Is it time for my play now, even as she was in the middle of playing fun games at a stall.. and I marvelled this the same kid I have to tell “It’s time to get the bus” everyday?
From looking at the school from our days where we learnt many subjects and memorised content without any context, I see my kids learning every concept thoroughly and placed in context beautifully, in a no-stress, fun way. Then to add an icing to this cake, she is also being moulded as a responsible citizen and human being. She talks about the anti-bullying campaign to her cousins, describes the ‘Save the Tigers’ posters to our neighbour and the TetraPak Recycling we must do… as I look on in amazement.
As I get her report day card, I realise how I have grown from flipping to stop and look at her grades first. Now I slowly read the detailed story about my child at school written painstakingly by the teacher and I know Shishuvan really means it when it says ‘Every Child Counts’. Funnily enough, since I enrolled my kids at Shishuvan, the school’s magic has managed to reach out and been a teacher to me as well in many ways.

Thank You Shishuvan for standing your ground, in being different and believing in our children and letting them blossom in more ways than we have asked for.

The Naughtiest girl series

By Aman Dharod

(Aman, a student of Std IV, loves to read books and has contributed this review for the blog)

‘Naughtiest girl’ is the first in a series. It is written by Enid Blyton. The main character, Elizabeth Allen, is going to a boarding because she is a spoilt girl. The school’s name is Whyteleafe school. Every week the school has a meeting taken by the students. They share their problems there. They collect whatever money they have and get 2 pounds. Elizabeth decides to be very naughty and be sent home back from school. But what a surprise for her, she likes the school. To find out more, read the interesting series. My favourite character is Elizabeth as she is naughty and then turns out to be good.

Here are all the ten titles from the series:

A Lahori friend writes about Shishuvan’s Project Day

By Haroon Khalid

(Haroon who works as a writer and journalist in Lahore became a friend of Shishuvan in February 2012, when three of our students and two of our teachers visited Lahore, Pakistan, as part of the Exchange for Change programme facilitated by Routes 2 Roots and the Citizens Archive of Pakistan. He visited Shishuvan in the first week of August on his trip to Mumbai.)

After about 16 years of education, during a conference I discovered that Thokar Niaz Baig, the area that I live near in Lahore, Pakistan was for six months the capital of a defunct empire, just after Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839) took over Lahore. This came as a shock to me. I have been living here since the past 17 years, passing through this area several times a day. I like to believe that I have an avid interest in history and yet I was so ignorant about the history of my own locality.

The discovery opened a new chapter in my life after which I started exploring small villages and localities around Lahore, redefining for myself what it means to be a historian. And this is exactly what impressed me the most about Project Day at Shisuvan. The students were encouraged to go out in their localities and discover for themselves where they are located. This is something that I have never heard of in a school in Pakistan and believe strongly should be encouraged.

Haroon in conversation with Mahir and Karamvir, students of Std IX

For two days, the students engaged with various aspects regarding the locality of Matunga, where they are situated. Some talked about the sounds there, others about the communities and food. Younger children focused upon the local government system, interacting with the visitors, which were primarily parents. Unlike a lot of other school workshops and events I have attended, and been a part of as a student, this particular Project Day engaged every student, which means that all the parents had an incentive to attend.

Haroon listening to a presentation by Aditya, student of Std VIII

These two days also allowed me to interact with students from the schools who were genuinely intrigued by a Pakistani. Like all human beings, I am sure they also hold stereotypes about Pakistanis. In a lot of ways, I must have reinforced those. Perhaps my beard, which was not religious, was perceived as a typical Muslim male feature. On the other hand, the tattoo on my hand must have surprised a lot of them. I felt that there was a genuine interest in the students to learn about their neighbour, of which they know the least about. ‘What sort of cars do you have?’ ‘Do you have playstations?’ ‘Are there any malls?’ ‘How is the night life in Lahore?’ were the sort of questions I was getting from the young male students. A lot of them were surprised to hear that in a lot of ways Pakistan is like India.

Haroon engrossed in a presentation by Niral, student of Std VIII

There was one student whose response for me was the best. Sitting in the auditorium, Chintan, he and I were chatting to each other. “Can you guess where he is from?” Chintan asked him. “I think he is from Punjab,” he replied. That was Yug Vora, a fifth grader. When I asked him what city of Punjab, he named a few from East Punjab. I told him I am from Lahore, which didn’t really ring a bell. I told him I am from Pakistan. “Pakistan!” he said in a state of shock, with his eyes wide open. Chintan and I had a good laugh. After the shock, that child and I continued talking as if this conversation had never happened. Later in the day, I was standing in the school grounds with a friend when the child called out my name loudly and waved at me. He was leaving with his mother. I saw his mother bending over asking him about me. I wonder what he would have said.

Haroon jamming with the ‘Musinga’ group – Anuraag and high school students

The Project Day also allowed me to interact with the teachers at Shishuvan. However, as they were busy with the students, we didn’t get a lot of time. But by the limited interaction that we had, I could feel that there is a lot of curiosity about Pakistan. Being from where I am also got me protocol in the school. All the teachers and students were particularly kind to me, escorting me through the different classrooms and presentations. It was very flattering.

Haroon in conversation with Kavita, Neha and Kabita (a visitor from Nepal)

Coming back from Shishuvan, I have returned with a lot of memories, friends and experiences. I am highly impressed by the atmosphere of the school and the inquisitive spirit of the teachers and the students. Working with Pakistani schools and teachers I would benefit from the lessons learnt at Shishuvan.

The Pros and Cons of a Working Woman

by Kajal Sippy
(Kajal teacher the 3rd graders in Shishuvan. She also writes beautiful poems on nature, which she often sms-es to her fellow teachers bringing a smile to their face)

We have all heard about this statement such as “Why disguise the woman in you?”, or, while she is professional, she is not stiff, while she means business, she is not bullish, while she is in a corporate world, and she is the epitome of personality and grace. In spite of all these motivational statements, a never ending issue about whether a woman should work or not has always has been a debatable one.

The pros of a working woman are that she becomes a confident personality and a support to her family financially too. She is more adjustable and truly beholds an infinite treasure house of strength. She is the captain of the ship who leads the family through rough and smooth weather alike. She is a multi tasker and to view it with a humorous tinge, who has not had one of those days when you would find your cellphone in the cutlery drawer, the sugar bowl in the fridge and the keys – well god knows where?

But a working woman is definitely a supermom who, while preparing dinner or folding the laundry, can also take a call from her boss and discuss economic strategies, inflation with the same ease as she helps her child in his homework. So teachers, haven’t we too faced such situations at our own home front too? I sure have!

The problems are also manifold such as the lack of time she gives to her family members, the pressures at work and at home may also take toll on her health. It is also a fact that many a times her efforts are taken for granted. Many family commitments have to be kept on a pause mode due to deadlines at work. A wave of anger and tiredness does set in and she is most of the time caught in a whirlpool of emotions where her career pulls her from one side and the home front from the other. I personally do feel this seesaw of emotions many a times!

I personally raise a toast to the working women and off course; it is for each one to decide which side of debate they wish to be. As a working woman of today we can always pass on a positive energy and this positive message of:

Choose love!
Choose life!
Choose health!
Choose happiness!
Respect us and step aside dear men,
The world belongs to the working women!!!

The story of a story telling session! – by Sushree Mishra

(Sushree Mishra is a storyteller, author and educator who visited Shishuvan and conducted some fun sessions with students of Std. III and IV)

Story telling has always been a gratifying experience for me. Interaction with the audience infuses a new energy into the whole process. I always look forward to a story telling session. Each session teaches me something new. Preparing for it in itself is an experience to cherish! Which story to choose so that the audience enjoys it? Which method of storytelling to use? Should I read the story aloud? Should I use props? Which is the best way to narrate the story? How do I make it more engaging for the audience? And of course, the endless practice sessions in front of a mirror!

An opportunity for story telling came by when I was asked to narrate a story at Shishuvan. I decided to choose the latest story I have written, a story about a curious chameleon and its adventures in a jungle. I was excited about the sessions but at the same time I had pangs of anxiety. I am always apprehensive before sessions, but this time it was a little more, since it was my own story. Would the children like the story? Would they like the character, Girgit, a chameleon who was curious, naughty, and always ready to explore? Would the children feel the same excitement that I felt when I wrote the stories? There were many questions that were playing on my mind.

But interacting with children is always rewarding, so I entered the room at Shishuvan where my audience, young children with bright yellow tops and a group of teachers awaited me. I greeted them and said, ‘You all look so bright!’ I got an unexpected reply, ‘We are sunflowers.’ Everybody in the room smiled. Only children can do this, put a smile on your face when you least expect it. With that smile on, I started narrating the story. In the first scene of the story, the baby chameleon walks through the jungle to find a new friend. As a part of my narration, I said, ‘On her way in the jungle, Girgit saw an animal which was tall and had a long neck…’ Before I could complete my sentence, everybody knew which animal it was. (I am sure you have guessed it right!) I thought to myself, ‘I had rehearsed a few more sentences and expected a response a little later.’ This is what happens if you have an audience that is alert and listening intently to what you are saying. I continued describing other animals in the jungle that Girgit met, and indeed the children guessed all the names before my ‘rehearsed’ lines were over.

During the narration, I observed an assortment of expressions on the children’s faces. They could feel the emotions of Girgit. They were angry when someone was troubling Girgit, happy when Girgit’s tricks worked, and smiling when Girgit could not understand the obvious. The audience at Shishuvan would be a delight to any story teller!

Only if children can connect to the story, they enjoy it. I felt the children were connecting to Girgit. I continued the story. In the tenth scene, the chameleon enters into a tortoise’s shell to escape from an eagle. Then the old and wise tortoise advises the chameleon to hide from the eagle instead of running from it. Girgit learns to hide from the eagle by changing colour and blending in with the colour of the surroundings.

I saw many confused faces after I narrated this part. And the question-and-answer session started from then. One of them asked, ‘How can a chameleon hide in a tortoise’s shell? There is no space for the chameleon to go in.’ Another confused voice enquired, ‘How can the chameleon change coats so quickly?’ I did not have to answer that question. Another enthusiastic child resolved that query by saying, ‘Oh ho! The chameleon was very tiny. So it could change coats very quickly.’ I heaved a sigh of relief. Now it was my turn to answer the first question. We all arrived at a conclusion after a brief discussion that events like the chameleon talking, the chameleon changing colours are possible in the story as it is a fantasy. ‘Even I can enter a tortoise’s shell in a fantasy,’ I said. Having said this, I thought to myself, ‘just as Alice had entered the rabbit hole.’

In the end, I asked two questions, one of them being whether the children wanted to hide from someone. I felt I had opened a Pandora’s Box when the children started expressing how they would hide from their mothers and teachers. The reason was simple – mothers and teachers gave a lot of homework. I thought to myself, I wish I could do the same when I was young! But of course, sometimes, homework is important. If I hadn’t done my homework, which is rehearsing for the story, the story telling session would have been different. The other question was a little more interesting. I asked, ‘Does anyone want to suggest another end to the story? How would you have scared the eagle?’ One of the eager listeners of the story replied confidently, ‘I would call all the animals of the jungle and ask them to stand on top of each other. Then I would put a huge cloth over all of them and paint the cloth with colours so that it looks like a giant monster. I am sure the eagle would be scared.’ I was stunned. What a creative end to the story! Seemed more plausible then the end I had!

My learning from the session: I have to think about a few questions. ‘How CAN a chameleon enter a tortoise’s shell?’ Spontaneity is a vital ingredient for a story teller in addition to energy, voice modulation, adapting to the audience, action, expression and setting a stage for the story. Incorporating suggestions from your audience always makes the story better. Enjoy the story yourself and your audience will enjoy it too!

I had narrated a story about one Girgit who was curious and always wanted to explore, but when I left the room, I saw several Girgits in the class. I had connected to the children of Shishuvan through Girgit.

I started walking back from Shishuvan with a thought in my head, ‘After a long time, I see a school where children are happy!’