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Teaching generosity and empathy
Published on July 4, 2021
In Riverside, students are encouraged to participate in initiatives outside the walls of the school. They organize weekly activities in a retirement home, and take responsibility for the relationships that they begin there. The objective: to encourage mixing among generations and promote the involvement of children in the wider community.
Riverside is a school that epitomizes initiative, optimism and creativity.
Founded in 2001 by Kiran Bir Sethi and located in Ahmedabad in Gujarat, India, Riverside uses a curriculum that explicitly aims for a ‘Humane’ approach. While it might seem like an obvious starting point for a new school, this ideal was framed in part as a criticism: Sethi saw her five-year-old son being introduced to more restricted, old-fashioned learning and wished to re-frame his whole encounter with the classroom.
The resulting curriculum has now been exported around the world to form the basis for many successful projects, all showing the resourcefulness of its originator – Sethi is also a professional designer, and created a popular mobilization of teachers and designers called Design for Change. The Riverside approach is founded on a cluster of concepts called the ‘5 Es’ – namely Empathy, Ethics, Excellence, Elevation and Evolution. This is then put into practice in the day-to-day learning experience through four practical steps, ensuring the Riverside learners Feel, Imagine, Do and Share.
What does that look like? Visiting Riverside, one sees classes with unusual interactions and plenty of vitality. According to Kiran Bir Sethi, it is “a place of immersive experiences – somewhere where the whole act of teaching is co-created with children in a regular, iterative process.”