Member Spotlight

BACK TO BASICS - Build 21st century skills

By Meenakshi Dalmia

March 8, 2024

DLRC is mostly built with natural materials such as Recycled wood, mud, cow dung, and husk with thatched roofs. Open classrooms, open fields, bio toilets, and open amphitheater. This building style serves as a huge learning aid for students, parents, facilitators and all those who walk in through the black iron gates into the campus. Fresh air and ample sunlight greet us all and shower their abundance upon all.

People ask us: “Why are people on campus so happy all the time?” Well, building with natural materials offers a range of health, environmental, and economic benefits which I will highlight below:

  • Natural materials require less energy and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Natural materials such as wood, bamboo, straw, and clay are renewable resources. They are easily harvested, replenished, and available locally
  • Natural materials are biodegradable, without causing environmental harm.
  • Natural materials are aesthetically pleasing. They create a connection between the built environment and the natural surroundings.
  • Natural materials act as carbon sinks, sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
  • Using wood in construction can help offset carbon emissions and contribute to combating climate change.

Along with the hardware benefits, building with natural materials lend to having several software benefits too. BUT WHAT’S ALL THIS GOT TO DO WITH 21ST CENTURY SKILLS? Let’s see …

“21st century skills are tools that can be universally applied to enhance ways of thinking, learning, working and living in the world. The skills include critical thinking/reasoning, creativity/creative thinking, problem solving, metacognition, collaboration, communication and global citizenship.” (from the internet)

THE OPEN CLASSROOMS: All DLRC spaces are open which have affected its pedagogy and naturally lend to preparing the kids for 21st century skills.

Collaboration : The layout facilitates group work and discussions, fostering a sense of community and shared learning experiences for kids, facilitators, and the community at large. The absence of physical barriers can facilitate communication and the sharing of ideas, resources, and teaching strategies.

Flexibility and adaptability : the learning spaces can be easily rearranged to create different learning zones to accommodate various activities and methodologies. Open classrooms can be adapted for different teaching and learning needs. They can accommodate large group activities, individual study, or smaller breakout sessions, providing a diverse range of learning experiences. Such activities lend themselves to reflection and metacognition.

Communication : Open and frequent communication are a common aspect on campus between students and facilitators. It creates an open and approachable atmosphere that encourages questions and discussions, resulting in better social skills as well.

Creativity and innovation: Open environments inspire creativity and innovation. We all feel free to be, to do, and to think which leads to more creative problem-solving and exploration. This year Ganpati idols were made with an experimental and innovative material – mud, cowdung, and husk – taking innovation to the next level.

Global Citizenship: To be a global citizen we all need to first know ‘OWN PLACE”. The place based pedagogy and engaging with Nature are the first steps to becoming a conscientious and aware global citizen. The most important of all the 21st century skills – being one with mother earth to be stewards and keepers of earth.

So we recently acquired a sports ground right next to DLRC original campus and needed to build toilets. A very natural, simple, yet effective washroom facility was designed and created with a fair bit of inputs from the kids.
Looking at the मु एवं मल अपण , DLRC Believes in ASAP i.e. As Sustainable As Possible: What is Sustainable is quite debatable and starts with us setting foot into life and even the end of life rites…. The question isn’t dodged that easily. What we can do though is ask ourselves, what is the minimum required and what is accessible, how expensive is it ecologically? Using these thoughts we are building new solid and liquid nutrient rooms at the new ground. Using local bricks and mud mortar instead of using cement.

All community members are often involved in construction of our structures. Recently in the design lab lessons students of grade 1 and grade 6 & 7 learnt how to build a brick wall – i.e. they learnt how to prepare the mud, align the bricks, ready the mortar and place the bricks for maximum strength. Of course after dipping the bricks in water to see the bubbles and hear the hissing sound!

We are happy that our kids and facilitators all enjoyed the benefits of working with mud, because it is rich in minerals, is therapeutic and brings us closer to nature. Building with mud teaches children about traditional and sustainable building material. Mud plays a crucial role in ecosystems, supporting plant growth and providing habitat for various organisms.
And hence the place based and nature based pedagogy make us responsible global citizens.

We use mud for artistic Expressions too, from pottery to Ganpati to models. Kids get ample opportunities to work with this natural material.