We arrived in Shimshal at the start of April. The valley lay covered in the greys of winter. While blossom had started in Hunza, Shimshal was still surviving through the last of winter.
The first month was a challenge as always – a new village, cold temperatures, set up of the residence and the struggle of life without running water. While we settled in the valley and at the IEI residence along with our volunteers from across Pakistan, we began work on the School Development Program at the Government Middle School Shimshal. Our volunteers were adjusted in the school schedule and together we started on the School Development Plan that Team IEI had worked hard to design since November. While we chalked out and worked through academics we also worked to integrate our students through creative learning activities that blend well with what they are studying in their regular classes as part of the defined curriculum.
Outside school, the traditional wakhi hallroom at our 2 room home was having a hard time accomodating students who came to us to study English, Urdu, Math and Science in the evenings. These students came from both the Government and the Diamond Jubilee School in the valley. We had a full schedule during school hours and had to rush to make lunch before our evening classes started. The thirst for knowledge we witnessed in the students everyday did not reflect in their participation or performance in academics inside school.
Our experience of working in the remote mountain valleys to make learning an innovative, relatable and engaging experience for students drives us to focus on understanding the problems and challenges children in these remote valleys face when it comes to education. We live with our students sharing the lifestyle of their home valleys and see the contrast of behaviors our students exhibit in and outside school. Inside, they are timid and under confident almost always speaking in low tones or not speaking at all, lost in thoughts or unimpressed. When you meet them outside on say a potato field, they are confident and want to teach you what they know well. They belong to sustainable communities, even though they dont know what the words mean these children are in many ways prepared for the challenges our world faces yet so unprepared for the capitalism and competition that waits outside these protective mountain boundaries. It helps us, as a Team, understand the urgent need and importance of making education relatable for these children.
With IEI Volunteer Programs we are working on a holistic learning model, finding the balance between learning and growth for the children we work with. Our work in the art and education area since 2016 has allowed us to delve deeper into the world of educational research, theory and development while implementing our ideas with primary to secondary grade students in public and community schools. This has allowed us to experience first hand the response from children towards learning through cross curricular approaches in an activity based model. For us the blend of academics and creative art continues to stand out as an effective tool to integrate pupils, from these remote and mostly isolated mountain valleys, in the school. With these experiences as our guide in the last one year we have worked hard to design an art curriculum that is blended with the academic learning at our public schools.
So by the end of April in Shimshal, while the weather was still cold, with the surprise of a light snowfall here and there, the water still frozen and the first signs of spring were only just appearing we conducted our first art activity of the year.
As the students gathered in the cold corridor of the new school building at the Government Middle School, artist and Director Art and Spaces Rehmat Kareem engaged them in a discussion on Geometry. The conversation started from the geometry that exists around us and went on to discuss the geometry that exists within our anatomies to the one that we see from outer space.
Designed to spark a discussion and develop an understanding and a new view point of the geometry that exists in our life while developing design thinking, this activity brought forward a variety of concepts that were undiscussed but understood by students as they worked with the Artist, marked their canvas on the wall, divided it in geometric shapes and picked their paint palettes.
Honoring the World Jazz Day we put on some Jazz Music for our students as they worked on their creative pieces.
What we saw was brilliant. We heard words like “design” and “pattern” indicating that students were able to link the two with geometry. We saw students doing basic measurements to mark and design their murals and work together as teams to develop and finish their pieces.
When we have better internet connections we’d love to share views shared by the students about the activity in video form but until then the best ones we heard were “I thought of geometry only as a boring math question until today.” “I can see it around me now.” “I can measure and make a geometrical shape. I think we made our school corridor look beautiful with geometry today.”
Understanding of Basic Geometry
Group works using Mixed Media
Level 1 of 3 [Basic, Advanced]
LOs: Discussion: Geometry as it exists in our life – Changing Perceptions, Use of Mixed Media for creative self expression within a defined surface, Teamwork.
Subject Areas: Science, Math, Art, Design
Grade Levels: 4-8
Designed and Conducted by IEI Director Art & Spaces Rehmat Karim.
Government Middle School Shimshal