When I was a student in National High School in the early 1970s, our social studies teacher, Sri B Narasanna was very clear about his dislike of our textbooks. And he made it abundantly clear to us!

Nor were we fond of the textbook. In those days the textbooks even less attractive than the ones today.

In every class, he would read out the portion for that day, ask us to underline certain “important” parts. This done, he would ask us to put away our textbooks. We did this with great joy!

Then, he would tell us stories that brought out the topics of the textbook in vivid detail. In turn, he would have us

  • appalled (e.g.: the way the colonial British rule treated the Indian poor);
  • fascinated (e.g.: the way topography affects the southwest monsoon rainfall over India) He drew a cross-section of peninsular India; something I use even now in discussing the southwest monsoons in my workshops;
  • screaming with laughter (e.g.: the way the ‘widow remarriage act’ was enacted with the argument between the ‘traditionalists’ and the ‘progressives’); and
  • spellbound (e.g.: the entire Tale of Two Cities narrated in Kannada for a full month of social studies classes for us to understand the French Revolution).

We did not even have wall maps in our school!


These days, you are very lucky to have opportunities to ‘do projects.’ Alas, most of the time, you are told what topic to work on, you are assigned your team-mates, and you basically copy and paste from internet sources. Not always, mind you. Most of the time.

And the geography projects you carry out rarely, if ever, advance your understanding of exactly how geography is related to life. Also, you don’t get to do any research of your own (e.g.: interviewing people about a particular topic, traveling to and in the place you are studying, photographing places that help you tell your story, and, equally importantly, presenting your work to others and receiving feedback on it).

The International Geography Youth Summit (IGYS-2018)

[This blog article is being posted after the IGYS-2018 had concluded.]

From 20 to 22 July 2018, there was a unique kind of conference that was specifically aimed at school children just as yourselves. The conference was called the International Geography Youth Summit – 2018 (IGYS-2018).

About 160 school children from around Bengaluru and elsewhere, from different schools, presented research they  conducted in their own neighborhoods. They  selected the topics and adults  helped them with the research.

They all had one theme that they had to connect with: The Geographies of Our Daily Needs. Our daily needs go far beyond just food, fuel, and shelter. In their research, children  identified many daily needs that we all have. For example:

  • justice,
  • mental health,
  • clothing,
  • physical safety,
  • environmental cleanliness,
  • happiness, and so on.

On these topics, they  conducted research in their own neighborhoods. This means that they couldn’t just copy something from the internet and say this is our project! They used the internet only to help them tell the story of their own neighborhoods.

Research paper: “Case study of a child labourer” being presented by Manar Syed Asgar Class 9, Vidyanjali Academy for Learning, Bengaluru at IGYS-2018. Image: The Institute of Geographical Studies (TIGS), © 2018.

These are children just like you! They have the same kinds of assessments, exams, home work, etc. to deal with. Still, they carried out the research and presented it in public at the IGYS-2018. They didn’t know who would be in the audience and what kinds of questions they will have to address during the question-and-answer sessions. Some were nervous, some were thrilled with excitement, and some were totally bindaas about the whole thing!

The audiences were children from other schools, teachers, professional geographers (from India and USA), and many others.

Riotous learning

The IGYS-2018 was a total riot of fun and learning! This was the fourth time we had this conference and it was the most exciting, intelligent, thoughtful, and fun experience.

Group activities

Ask a geography question: This game reverses the usual GK (General Knowledge) quiz kind of geography, the ‘Geography Bee’ kind of game. Here, we gave participants the answer and they told us what geography question that answer is for. No points, no winners, no losers. Just a lot of loud, educational fun. For example:

Answer: NILE

Possible questions:

  • Which is the longest river in the world? (the most likely first question)
  • Which river made the Egyptian civilization flourish?
  • Which is the major river of Africa that flows to the north?
  • Which is the major river to flow through the Sahara desert?
  • Which river flows past the Egyptian pyramids?

“Ask a geography question” session in progress at IGYS-2018. Image: The Institute of Geographical Studies (TIGS), © 2018.

Singing geography: Many songs in Indian culture have geography connections in them. They may be film songs, folk songs, classical songs, children’s poems, etc. Which song do you know that has a geography connection in it? Many children (and adults) brought songs, sang them, and explained the geography connections in the songs.

Other examples you can check out on your own: mungāru maleyay, janaganamana (our national anthem is full of geography connections), vande mātaram (full of landscape references), huyyo huyyo maleyraaya (children’s poem), dennāna dennāna (from the film Rangitaranga full of geography connections in the lyrics and the scenery shown), and many more.

Physical geography in your textbook will come alive with this.

“Singing geography” session in progress at IGYS-2018. Image: The Institute of Geographical Studies (TIGS), © 2018.

For the full details on the IGYS-2018 and the program for the three days, visit

Featured image: Documentary – “Pollution in Adyar River, Chennai” by Leo Michaels and Kanishk Gokul
Class 10, Homeschooling, Chennai being presented at IGYS-2018. Image: The Institute of Geographical Studies (TIGS), © 2018.

An earlier version of this article appeared in the Deccan Herald Student Edition, 18 July 2018.


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