Published: 16th May 2019
Gurgaon's Heritage Xperiential Learning School is teaching students reasoning and logical reasoning with art. Here's How
The Heritage Xperiential Learning School in Gurgaon, affiliated to CBSE, has been applying the art-integrated approach for over 15 years and has been a strong proponent of the arts
The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) recently announced that "all disciplines being pursued by students at all stages require creative thinking and problem-solving abilities. Therefore, when art is integrated with education, it helps the child apply art-based enquiry, investigation and exploration, critical thinking and creativity for a deeper understanding of the concepts or topics."
But the Heritage Xperiential Learning School in Gurgaon has been at it for the past 15 years. The CBSE-affiliated school has been a strong proponent of everything related to arts — music, theatre, dance, painting, sculpting, designing and more — as a crucial element for the overall development of a child. To celebrate the inclusion of arts and to encourage other schools and parents to engage in an art inclusive curriculum, HXLS also holds a grand scale festival called 'Kala Parv' every year.
We spoke to Namrita Nagra, Head, Visual Arts, HXLS and some students to know more about the academy's approach towards making art a part of mainstream education, about Kala Parv and how other schools can also adopt the art-integrated curriculum. Here's what transpired:
Why do you think an art integrated curriculum is the need of the hour?
There is a growing awareness among teachers, parents and workplaces that standardised tests, which judge the capabilities of students, are just one-dimensional and education systems need to develop the 21st-century skills required for children to successfully negotiate dynamic and uncertain demands of today’s workforce. The future we need to envision for each child is of her/him becoming a conscientious world citizen, a learner for life and a creative, connected and collaborative problem solver. At our school, we strive to enable the children to learn to look at the world from many different perspectives, through the language and nuances of different subjects integrated together and through the context of real-world interests, needs and challenges. From giving them the eyes to observe, curiosity, discernment, authentic expression, a strong sense of aesthetics, an appreciation of diverse cultures, spaces and design, the arts open up the beauty and joy within and outside. Children can effectively explore and master expression in several media through a carefully crafted curriculum, rooted in art.
Your school has been following an arts-integrated curriculum for the last 15 years. How do you incorporate it in the regular course?
At HXLS, art thrives in its visual and performing forms, encompassing a diverse range of activities and modes of expression. We believe in providing students with an art education that gives them an opportunity to understand their legacy and combine it with a vision of the future. In addition to helping students nurture a passion for specific arts and crafts, we inculcate aesthetic appreciation and creativity within them resulting in a refinement of the senses and a desire to conserve one's heritage and environment. More importantly, the curriculum is designed so as to integrate with other subjects in addition to the development of artistic skills and life skills such as empathy, problem-solving, decision-making, etc.
Students are not merely exposed to different forms of art ranging from folk to contemporary along with their cultural and historical significance but also able to demonstrate their skills in or aptitude for a variety of tools, techniques and materials.
How education and art go hand-in-hand: HXLS has been a strong proponent of everything related to arts — music, theatre, dance, painting, sculpting, designing and more
While in the Junior Programme they experience the sheer joy of handling colour and paper or other materials. Here, the main focus is on the child’s expression, their small stories. When young children allow adults to be a part of their world, it is an expression of trust in the adult. From the Middle Programme onward they become active participants in activities related to the visual arts such as the organisation of events like Kala Parv, our annual art festival. This helps them gain practical knowledge of management, procurement and organisation as well as skills such as problem-solving or public presentation that dovetail into other subjects. Our Performing Arts programme is equally vibrant.
What difference will the CBSE directive bring? What recommendations would HXLS give to schools that have to now adopt an arts-integrated curriculum?
It is a good initiative that CBSE is focusing on. There should be a defined strategy and means to check if schools are following it and integrating it in the main curriculum. I suggest that there should be proper training for schools (teachers, leadership, students) to integrate art in the curriculum. The focus should be more on the process and the journey than to create a perfect end product. Experiencing failure is part of the journey, which students should learn to handle gracefully, this helps in becoming stronger socially and emotionally, not to give up, and finding solutions/alternative plans, etc. which help in the development of important life skills.
What inspired you to come up with Kala Parv?
In 2005, we realised that the unprecedented work pressure, increasing consumerism and traffic problems had led to erratic schedules and the excruciatingly long working hours due to which the residents of Delhi NCR couldn’t take their children to art exhibitions, theatre or music performances. The Heritage School decided to do something about this, and so the school management decided to create a centre for the promotion of both visual and performing arts in the city.
What is it all about?
Since its inception, Kala Parv has been a grand celebration of fine arts and performing arts in the NCR region. This year, the celebration was extended to all forms of expression that help children use their skills and talents to express. In fine arts, students showcased their understanding of the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Era, in performing arts they showcased their talent in music and theatre, and in sports their athleticism in various forms. In the spirit of experiential learning, we also decided to involve the students in organising a fashion exhibition, a project which would help them to learn the theory and practice of fashion studies in a vibrant environment along with development of life skills like teamwork, leadership, ideation, emotional balance, self - analysis, critical thinking and so on.
Anahita Matta, Grade 12, Heritage Xperiential Learning School
Anahita Matta with her designs
What we learn through the art projects in our school helps us understand the history, culture, and motivations of the artists from various time periods and we are able to understand the world in a more in-depth, holistic manner. The entire experience of our student groups coming together to explore, ideate, transform and create is truly outstanding. This time at Kala Parv, we explored 'Impressionism' - a movement in the 1860s which was characterised by artists who captured light and movement in their paintings. Actually, Impressionism is more than just that, it is also about how we express our thoughts, feelings, desires and emotions. The art pieces displayed at Kala Parv 2019 were all based on this theme and it gave students a platform to fully express themselves.
Joshya Nandal, Grade 12, Heritage Xperiential Learning School
Joshya Nandal with her designs
Art is an important part of education and essential for the overall development of our personalities. For instance, the dresses that we created for our fashion studies project, that was displayed at Kala Parv 2019, were inspired by impressionism and created from unconventional materials. These outfits create a contrast between our reality, which is growing darker and drearier by the minute, and our fantasies, which are bright and colourful. The newspaper dress we created symbolises our dull and tedious reality and the monochromatic colour emphasises our monotonous daily routines.