Today I had gone to visit the Fursungi Campus of Walnut School. The Fursungi campus is at a very peaceful and quiet location. It has farms on three sides and therefore a lovely green panoramic view. As there are hardly any buildings in the immediate vicinity, it’s very breezy, even during the peak summer months. On this monsoon day, it was absolutely beautiful!

The Walnut School Fursungi campus was looking absolutely beautiful on this monsoon day!

The kids had just finished their snacks early and had some time before they had to go back to their class. They looked happy and relaxed and were chatting with each other. I had an agenda – to meet up with the staff and do a ‘round’ and then I had a packed afternoon too, so technically there was not even a moment to spare. But looking at those kids, I just couldn’t move ahead. I absolutely HAD to chat with them a bit. So I changed my path and moved towards them instead.

The group consisted of some of our 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. As this was the first year of the Fursungi campus, all these students had come from some other school and in the third week of July, they had just completed a month in the school. This was the perfect time to ask them to compare their experience of this school to their old school – they were old enough to understand, it was new enough to remember and as a month had passed, they had understood what this school was all about too. And thus started the conversation. The kids unanimously agreed that they absolutely loved being in Walnut and wouldn’t like to go back to their old school or to any other school for that matter. But why? The answers were really interesting.

They of course loved the fact that they had no school bag. Piyali Waje of 5th said she was glad that she didn’t have to lug around heavy loads at all. They said they enjoyed changing classrooms after every period. Because of that activity, they didn’t get bored! Divya Wadnal liked the worksheets – the questions were nice and she enjoyed doing the exercises. They understood things very well because the presentations were simple. Anwita Belambe of 4th said that she really liked the teachers here, as they were very kind and friendly.

All these are actually features of our learning system, so I wasn’t surprised. These are the things that set us apart from the rest. These are the big things and we make sure that we do these with precision. But, we plan a lot of details too. So, I wanted to know what about the little things?

I didn’t even have to ask. As these smart kids saw that the big points were ticked off, one girl told me – that there are many more ‘very nice’ things in the school. What? Bhakti Magdum of 4th said that she loved the birthday card that she got. It had all her favourite things written down and a photo too.

Bhakti said she was going to keep it with her forever!

Then Piyush Joshi of 4th said, that in this school we get what we were promised. I had to really take a break to digest this coming from an 8 year old. What do mean by promise? He said it meant if the timetable said it was a drawing period, then they actually did drawing. Nakul Tajne of 4th then explained to me – If it was a dance period, they actually did dance. Hmm, well, what did happened in your earlier school? He said the teachers would just cancel the activities and they would convert it into an academic period. Many other students agreed with him and said they loved that this never happens in Walnut. They actually get to do all these activities and that’s why they were never to leave Walnut. Wow! It’s amazing how kids can evaluate and track things in their own way and be spot on.

That prompted one more child to say that they get to have a library period in Walnut. Again, I had to ask, didn’t you have it in your earlier school? No, he said. It was there on the timetable, but we never got to go into the library. Here, they get to hang out in the library with all the books. They have bean bags to sit on and they can just be comfortable and read the stories that they want to. Again, all other kids wholeheartedly agreed to this differentiation.

Then children summed up by adding – we are learning so many things at Walnut!

Aryan Shivarkar of 5th stated that they loved that there were so many grounds and so many sports activities and that they were learning so many things. Then another 8 year old girl stood up and said she also loved that the school was so clean and the surroundings were so nice! Bhargavi Taru and Ketaki Kulkarni said they liked that they had a proper cafeteria and that it was covered. In the earlier school they had to just go outside somewhere and eat and it wasn’t comfortable or nice. Most others agreed to these experiences as well.

Some kids added that at Walnut, they enjoy studying. It never happened before. They even love doing the quizzes at home and watching lectures at home. If they feel they have forgotten something, they can quickly log on and watch and then they are very prepared. They have exams next week and they are all very relaxed because they feel they are quite ready for them too.

In fact, they are so comfortable with academics that when I asked them their favourite subject, many had Math, Science and English and Social studies on the list, it wasn’t all just sports and art.

It was time to go back to their class. They told me they were looking forward to the competitions and they were going to beat the record of scholarship holders too. As they stood up to leave, they told me that they just loved everything and then happily trotted off to their classes.

These were ten minutes well spent! I was amazed at how sharp kids are and was very happy to know that they are all benefiting from our school. The fact that they can understand the subtleties at a young age is a pleasant surprise and an added bonus. I look forward to seeing these kids grow up, learn and be leaders.

With their smartness and our inputs we can make them unbeatable!

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