Learning History through Activities

Not to know what happened before you were born is to remain forever a child”- Cicero

In 1943 the Nagpur University had constituted a sub-committee to enquire into the steady decline in the number of students opting for History at the university examinations and offer suggestions for making history attractive. The sub-committee had reported that the intellectual discipline and sense of perspective which help in the broadening of outlook are essential for the citizens of every country and that cannot be acquired if history is shunned by students. Regarding the question of how to make history attractive, the committee said that no subject of study requiring any sort of mental discipline and intellectual effort can be made attractive. (The Hindu dated 10-05-1943)

It is History which records all that has happened in the past and acts as an archive. Values such as patriotism, chivalry, altruism and awareness of one’s identity in time and space are gained by the study of history. Its study broadens one’s outlook and removes petty prejudices which we have against others due to linguistic, religious, racial or nationality differences. History teaches that war and blood shed does not solve problems or is an effective way to resolve conflicts. It also teaches that only in a plural, secular and liberal society can all round progress be achieved. More than anything else a child has to know where he/she stands in the large canvas called life with scores of characters playing their role, hence the need of studying history is inevitable.

But in today’s fast paced world where technology is the king, do learning of a subject like history has any relevance? Even among students, history is considered as a dry and boring subject, irrelevant to the present day needs where the primary aim of educating oneself is to get fit for a calling. Cramming of facts without understanding its significance merely for scoring marks or to pass an exam makes no sense and this is how history is learnt in schools at present. There is also repetition of historical topics at various levels which causes monotony. If at all students have to develop interest in history and it be made productive this should be at the school level as after 10th standard history is not taught except as electives.

Modifications in the syllabus and teaching methodology will go in a long way to stimulate interest among children to study history. At the middle school level history should be taught in the form of storytelling. It could be about a heroic personality or a social reformer; a scientist or a sportsperson. The story should have some moral to learn like how the characters in the story overcame hurdles and ultimately reached their goals. Quoting historical anecdotes liven up a history class as anecdotes have an element of curiosity and humour. For high-school students teaching of History need not be only about kings and warriors. It could be on any topic or event. Historical approach of learning helps students to grasp new subjects easily. For instance how the usage of coins and currency came into vogue. What new fruits and vegetables were introduced after the discovery of the new world and such allied topics? For home-work students could be asked to make a list of the currency used in various countries of the world at present and their rate corresponding to Indian rupee. Similarly they could be assigned work to find out the nutritious values of indigenous fruits and vegetables as compared to those newly discovered in the new world. Forming groups, students should be assigned projects like creating animation films on historical themes. This would encourage them to learn drawing/sketching and also to use various multi-media software. Another activity based lesson is to ask students to list out the names of various towns mentioned in history books (of areas nearby and accessible to the students to visit) and to list out the changes that has taken place over the years; be it in extent, population, vocations, condition of monuments, etc. Yet another activity which stimulates imagination among students and develops their writing skills is to ask write essays on topics like- How different things would had been if the English had not ruled India or if the Himalayas were situated in the northwestern part of India or if river Ganga had flown southwards instead of east.

 

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