WHY Matters : The Peepal Grove School Chronicles

I joined The Peepal Grove School (TPGS) as a 6th Grader in 2007 and was immediately swept up by the hills, the scent of lemongrass and the light brown mud that I would later find on just about all my clothes for 7 years!

I loved the big Jamun trees at the entrance, and often found myself perched on the high branches reading and munching on juicy purple jamuns on sultry Sunday afternoons.

I remember that first history class very clearly. We were starting lessons by trying to understand why we were learning what we were learning in the first place. Was it because some grey-haired bureaucrat put it into the ICSE syllabus? Or were we learning it because it was important? Why was it important? Why did history matter? I learnt that day that those three letters—W, H and Y— put together were powerful tools of exploration and discovery.

They would stand by me in History and English and much to the agony of my teachers, in Science and Math. Years later the alphabets are with me. In everything I do and in everything I am.

The unique benefit that TPGS offered was that it was the kind of place where you could in fact ask the question “WHY” in a math class. I remember when I was first introduced to Pi (π), I was strongly unconvinced that the figure would remain constant no matter the size of the circle.

How could it be!? Assured that I wasn't in an environment where my question would be laughed off or reprimanded, I asked our teacher (maybe it was more like a challenge, to be honest!) to prove to us how this was possible. He smiled and took us on an adventure to the sports field, where we drew giant circles and little circles and all the circles in between. We measured them, saw the formula in action, and had an incredible time doing it. “Are you convinced now?”, the teacher asked. It was important to him that not a single child was learning for the sake of it.

The examples are countless. Bubble blowing competitions to learn about surface tension, farming to learn about organic fertilisers and soil health; interviewing nearby villagers about local ghost stories to learn storytelling; speaking to the village grandma to learn about mango pickles and the preservative nature of salt; listening to recordings of shelling and bombing to empathise with world war poets. These methods of Experiential Learning were our everyday in the school.

Today, I report on and write stories of the Supreme Court of India. While it requires a sound understanding of the law, it is driven by a curiosity for answers which I developed on those grounds of The Peepal Grove School. It comes from a love of words acquired by sitting endlessly on the square library pillows, engrossed in another world.

I owe much of my independence to my years in TPGS, where your character is tested and moulded every day. I made lifelong friendships with the people there, who grew up with me in this unique, wonderful, nurturing bubble. My love for nature strengthened in those hills, and even today, if I smell lemongrass, see a shining new leaf of a Pongamia tree, or a little Peepal sapling sprouting from cement cracks, I’m transported to my school, my home and my days of childhood.

-Gauri Kashyap (Class of 2014-Grade 12)

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