A key aspect that sets RDF apart from other organizations running schools is our commitment to providing activities that focus on educating the students in a non-conventional manner. Beyond producing good exam scores, RDF strives to instill in students the analytical skills, creative thinking, and confidence that will help them become exemplary leaders both within RDF and throughout their life after.
Students at Matendla School have conceptualized and created the concept of a fortnightly newsletter called ‘Paksha Patrika’. This unique ‘Wall Magazine’ carries articles of interest, jokes, stories, art work researched and created by students. It allows students to develop their thinking skills and communication skills and its great fun too.
This is a form of open house in which the students present various activities and projects in a carnival-type setting. Students showcase learning games, perform songs and demonstrate science experiments. It provides an opportunity for the students to share what they are learning with their families, the village community, or visitors to the school. The Balanadam is not only fun for the students but also instills in them a sense of pride in their studies and accomplishments.
This is a student run mail system that allows for reading and writing practice in a fun, non-academic fashion. Each class has a postal code by which mail is sorted and delivered to the recipients by student postmasters.
The Honesty Box functions as a lost and found. On any given day it may contain the end of a pencil, a notebook, or a ten rupee coin. The ideas instilled in the students are that even the littlest things are worth something to someone and that an honest approach to these small things lays the foundation for honesty in all one’s dealings.
The Career Box is in essence a brainstorming box for children to leave questions and ideas about their future career options. A specific teacher is in charge of looking through the box and providing career counseling services and guidance.
Students are allowed to write down any question that comes to mind and drop it into the Question Box. The topics are limitless and students use the opportunity to think creatively and analytically about the world around them. Teachers then take charge of researching the answers and report back to the students at morning assemblies. Example questions are “Who created the world?” and “Why is the sky blue?”
Each day a new Sudoku puzzle is written on a chalkboard that is publicly displayed in the school. Students come by throughout the day to copy down the puzzle and try their hand at solving it. By the end of the day it has been filled in and they can check their success. The Sudoku puzzles are a great chance for students to voluntarily involve themselves in a fun and educational activity outside of classes.
Drawing Tutorial Board
A teacher will provide step-by-step instructions for drawing a new figure every day. These figures usually start by using a Telugu letter or another known symbol. In three to four steps, lines and shapes are added to the initial symbol until the drawing clearly represents a figure such as a bumblebee or a dog. The Drawing Tutorial Board provides an unintimidating way for every student to be artistic.
In an effort to increase the opportunities for student leaders to improve their skills and to encourage involvement in the school, Student Committees have been formed. These committees are responsible for various aspects of running the school and include mess, discipline, neatness, library, computer, farm, games, photoblog, cultural, and education.
RDF Matendla School has started a unique concept of the Word Wall. Every week new words are put up along with synonyms and their meanings on the wall in the high school corridor. Students and teachers have to create sentences using all the words on the Word Wall. This is a new and interesting way to improve their vocabulary and writing skills. During the daily General English class, the sentences are discussed between students and teachers and they are even discussed during assembly time once a week. The word wall has already spread its influence with students using the words in the English notes as well. This concept has been in practice in the primary school for two years now. Its tremendous success made the teachers try it out in higher classes as well.
RDF has strong Student Committees set up to support various areas to manage school administration and operations. In order to build self reliance in students, schools formed Grievance Committees. There is 1 student representative elected from each class. Any areas of concern with individual students, teachers, in the school or larger community are brought to their attention. A meeting is held once a month with the teacher in charge and solutions are discussed and implemented by consensus.
Junior Teachers in RDF schools actually teach! These are students selected by the teachers and students based on their subject of interest. If teachers are absent or in training, it’s the junior teachers who are at the helm of affairs. It’s a great way to develop leadership qualities in students.
Khan Academy has taken the world by storm and it’s taken a hold in RDF schools too. With the encouragement and funding from Value Labs CEO, Mr. Arjun Rao, a proper lab was established in Kalleda in January 2013. The technical infrastructure was sponsored by Value Labs, a projector by Mr. Ram Mohan Rao and computers by Nasscom Foundation. Students of classes 3 – 9 spend 2 period a week to do the online tutorials and improve their reading skills and Math conceptual skills. We hope to replicate a Khan Academy lab in all schools by 2015.
Every RDF school has a Village Committee, comprised of parents from each school. The committee is an integral part of the school structure and inputs are taken from committee members on crucial development matters in the school. All key decisions are made only after reaching a consensus with the village committee and then directed to the Head Office and the Board. The committee helps in all areas ranging from fee structure, academics, student diet and also collecting donations. It’s one of the ways in which RDF aims to maintain strong relations with the communities it operates in.