Theatre sessions through an app? Or how about meeting for an online book club session? With children having settled into an online class routine through their schools over the last few months, extracurricular activities aren’t far behind.
When the lockdown to curb COVID-19 started in March, Crea-Shakti was working with children for theatre in around 70 schools across south India, says founder and chief mentor Dushyanth Gunashekar.
“This number almost instantaneously reduced as schools themselves were grappling with how to begin classes online. For the last two years, we had been working on our drama-based learning app, Crea Play, which then began to evolve from being an app focussed on content for multidisciplinary learners,” he said.
Crea Play now has daily live classes, which use theatre to improve creativity, communication, writing and acting. Mr. Gunasekar says around 4,000 students have signed up. “It was initially a challenge for us — how do you take to the children something like theatre which essentially is not digital? We brainstormed and realised that the focus had to be on ensuring that the children had a platform to explore themselves, learn and most importantly, have fun at a time like this,” he said.
For teachers, taking art classes online has meant they have had to take another look at their curriculum to tailor it to the virtual medium and schedule classes in such a way that students don’t feel burdened.
“Several children have online classes at school throughout the week and it became important for me to ensure that they don’t feel overworked when they attend my piano class,” says Shameer Mohamed, a piano instructor from the city. He had never taken classes online before. His initial apprehensions have now given way to comfort. “Parents have told me how the students look forward to these music sessions. This is a welcome break for them,” he said.
Tvarita, a city-based performing arts centre, has seen more parents sign their children up for dance classes during the last six months, which the organisation has been conducting online. “Parents are trying to keep kids at home engaged and online dance classes are perfect for that. A good number of parents are also using the opportunity to expose their children to different activities and see what they take to and what they might be interested in, in the long run,” said Tvarita co-founders T.M. Sridevi and Deepthi Ravichandran.
For schools that have a full calendar during a regular academic year with regard to extracurricular activities, the focus is not just on hosting these classes online but also on events to encourage more participation. Students from SEED Academy had their first virtual book club session a week ago.
“We’ve had sessions in the past and decided to take them online for children above the age of 8. The kids were thrilled to have an opportunity to read and discuss a book,” says Vani Sastri, co-founder and managing director. The school has taken music, art and theatre online and Ms. Sastri says the feedback from parents has been overwhelmingly positive.
“We have always focused on holistic development, and giving children avenues to explore their creative side has been a high priority for us over the last six months,” she said.
Bhavan’s Rajaji Vidyashram took its annual inter-school cultural event ‘Astra’ online and had over 200 participants from 32 schools in the city. A talent show ‘Vel’s Talensia’ for children of ages 2 to 8 is now going on, hosted by Vel’s International Preschool. The participants have been encouraged to showcase their talents through videos which can be uploaded online.