In India, at Riverside school, Professor Kunal Lalchandani offers his students a surprising exercise: they have to imagine themselves facing a tsunami. The goal is to save as many people as possible in a short time using imaginary boats. But not every people cannot be saved so, they have to think : which people will each team decide to save?
Each team develops its own strategy: the weakest first, everyone or no one, one from each specialty... This playful exercise encourages young people to collectively find a solution. An original way to develop responsiveness, reflection but also team spirit and empathy, while having fun.
"In Riverside, with so many activities, the kind of questioning, the kind of congloms that we do… We were all asked to think about things. We weren’t doing it without understanding the purpose behind it, without understanding the relevance behind it." Abilesha Murthi
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.”