Learning via Puppetry: Meet Basant Kumar Sahu

Basant Kumar feels that children learn more efficiently through visuals and by interacting with their surroundings. And using puppets as medium for communication will help students develop their interactive and cognitive abilities.

The saying, “no matter how much we grow up, the child inside us never dies”, aptly fits Mr Basant Kumar Sahu. During his thirty-two years of astonishing journey, his inner child has always remained lively and it is very well reflected on his imaginative ideas of teaching.

‘A good teacher, like a good entertainer, first must hold his audience’s attention, and then he can teach his lesson’. Mr. Basant Kumar Sahu, acting head teacher at Upper Primary School at Sarsara in a district of Boudh, Odisha with his engrossing teaching style has captured attention of many students and has developed a keen interest of learning among his pupils.

Learning via Puppetry- Novel yet Effective!

Puppets can be an engaging and useful way to help students develop emotionally and grow their language and communication skills. This innovative method of teaching is employed by Mr. Basant Kumar. He has made learning more efficacious and engaging by using puppetry to create a captivating and fascinating environment for his students.

Mr. Basant has been working in the field of education since 1987. His interest towards teaching with aid of puppets developed during his training at Centre for Cultural Resources and Training at New Delhi in 1993. Subsequently, he joined courses on puppet learning in Hyderabad and Udaipur as well. After attending some programs and functions on puppetry, his curiosity in learning via puppets deepened.

Basant Kumar feels that children learn more efficiently through visuals and by interacting with their surroundings. And using puppets as medium for communication will help students develop their interactive and cognitive abilities. Thus, he puts forth the idea of puppet show in his classroom. He creates variety of puppets that include ‘finger puppets’, ‘string puppets’, ‘shadow puppets’ and also masks to perform different activities in the classroom. He makes all the puppets with very limited resources and basic techniques available like paper, cardboards, colored pens etc. He acts out scholastic plays and narrates multiple stories by making puppets as different characters and lends them voices to make an amiable atmosphere for students.

He organizes workshops on art and crafts where he teaches the unique art of designing puppets, and masks. He makes easy puppets of animals and birds with simple paper cutting and folding method and adds variety of colors to them. Also, he wears comical masks and interacts with students. Children also take part in such activities and enact plays with puppets and masks.

One of the most remarkable innovations put forward by Mr. Basant is the creation of ‘alphabet puppetry’. To increase the understanding of alphabets and formation of words among his pupils, Basant Kumar has come forth with the novel concept of ‘shadow alphabets.’ He teaches alphabets by demonstrating activities in the classroom. For instance, he makes alphabets using plywood, sticks and colorful chart papers and then creates a setup using white cloth, stands for providing base and support and with help of flash lights he casts shadow of alphabets on the white cloth. By creating an illusion of moving and interacting alphabets, he teaches his students about alphabets, morphology and syntax. The whole setup employs pocket friendly investment and use of minimal technology.

Humble Surroundings, Grand Winnings!

The school of Sarasara finds its roots in simplicity and natural surroundings. Children coming to the school do not have a very high standard of living and some are below poverty line too. They lack confidence and interactive skills. Mr. Basant’s style of educating these children has brought a positive change in the scenario of this school. The students have developed soft skills that include communication abilities, language skills and cognitive empathy.

Apart from teaching, Mr. Basant Kumar has recorded ten episodes on using puppets to enhance performance in classrooms and incorporating puppetry in daily subjects like English, Maths etc. These episodes were broadcasted on television by State Institute of Education and Technology, Odisha. He has also published his own book in Odia language explaining the methods to make puppets and utilizing them as tools in education. The book is distributed all over Odisha and has inspired many teachers around.

Age is just a number!

Although the definition of retirement clearly says withdrawal from one’s active work life, Mr. Basant Kumar post his retirement intends to disseminate his proficiency in the art of puppet making and using puppets for scholastic purposes by making modules and providing training to the teachers. Also, he will continue to work towards children.

His willingness to continue devoting his life to children post retirement is unparalleled. His commitment and dedication towards teaching represents that age is just a number. He wishes to remain a teacher life long, carrying forward the legacy of great Mr. APJ Abdul Kalam. 

Gratitude is the best Attitude!

“No one who achieves success does so without the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude”. It would not be an understatement to say that Mr. Basant Kumar is always grateful to all the people around him like his family members, friends and colleagues who have constantly encouraged and motivated him throughout his career. His students are his biggest inspiration. It is for his students that he works with such perseverance and dedication.

Mr. Sahu’s thankfulness for people around him highlights his humility and modesty. He is a down to earth person who isn’t boastful about his achievements.  

Appreciation and Accolades-

Employees like Mr. Basant Kumar are the epitome of professionalism. And his indispensible efforts towards nurturing of the young minds are well appreciated. In the year 2019, The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), New Delhi, awarded him for his creation of shadow alphabets and introducing a new method of teaching. Following year in 2020, he has been honoured with ‘National Award to Teacher’, one of the most prestigious accolades in the field of education by Ministry of Human Resource Development.

“Don’t work for recognition but do work worthy of recognition”. Mr. Basant Kumar, recipient of National Award to Teacher-2020, is one of those teachers who work with the sole aim of ameliorating the learning abilities of the economically backward children. He has worked consistently with great devotion towards his profession and students.

(With Vanya Sinha)

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About the author: Abhishek Ranjan

Abhishek Ranjan is the Founder and Director of SarkariSchool.IN

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