It is hard to forget one’s school days. While most schools are more or less the same regarding teaching methods, books, tests, final exams and grades for students to advance to the next level...some schools are much more different to what we would expect!
The Dongzhong Mid-Cave Primary School is located in a cave in the mountainous Miao village in China. Dongzhong itself means “in cave”.
As there was no money to construct a building, the local people started a school in a cave in 1984 with eight teachers and 186 students.
Students used to spend up to six hours daily to travel to and from the school in the pursuit of knowledge. After 23 years, the government closed the school when the villagers raised concerns. A government spokesperson said that the closure of the school was necessary because China was not a “society of cavemen”.
The floating school
Bangladesh is prone to floods. At least twice a year, the country experiences floods which disrupt daily life in the country. Millions of citizens suffer and remain without access to clean water, electricity, and other necessities. It also becomes almost impossible for students to attend schools. To solve this problem, a non-profit organisation called Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha built schools that float.
Each of these boat schools are equipped with computers, internet access and a small library. Power is provided through solar panels.
These schools remain functional and operate as normal even when there are floods in the country and all other services remain closed. These boat schools pick students up from docks and riversides, then dock somewhere so that class can begin. When the class is over, these boat schools return the students to their homes and another group of students are picked up. So far thousands of children have benefitted from these boat schools. The organisation has also built floating houses and healthcare centres.
The school without books
The West Philadelphia School of the Future does not require students to have books. Instead, students use computers. A note-taking app, OneNote, is used to teach mathematics. Each class has computerised smart boards instead of traditional dry-erase boards or blackboards. Digital lockers in the school open with the flash of an ID card. The school was opened in 2006.
The students and teachers faced several challenges soon after the school opened. Students were not yet technically ready to jump in the deep end of going digital. The teachers also had problems with incorporating the desired level of technology. The school is running successfully and students score high marks in mathematics and reading. The school begins at 9:00am and ends at 4:00pm like a normal work day instead of a typical school day.
Brooklyn Free School
My school, my rules! Yes, Brooklyn Free School is just amazing. There are no restrictions. There are no tests, homework, or grades and there is no curriculum. Students make the school rules. They are allowed to choose any class they want and may stay away from school if they want. Students can carry out independent studies. There are no restrictions if the students want to play, wander around, or just take a nap.
Students watch and discuss TV shows. They sit together and compare restaurants around the town before going to eat in those restaurants. Weekly meetings decide the procedure of how the school should operate, how it should be managed and how the students should be offered admissions. As the students run classes, the teachers only work as moderators. A student can call a meeting and discuss his ideas with the whole school. According to the principal, the school expects every student to find his or her own way.
The underground school
The Abo Elementary School is the first underground school in the United States. During the Cold War, the US and the Soviet Union came close to engaging in nuclear warfare. President John F Kennedy wanted to establish public and private structures that could serve as nuclear fallout shelters. The school has three big and heavy steel doors, weighing 800-kilograms each.
The authorities in New Mexico’s town Artesia felt that the town would be attacked due to its refinery and proximity to the White Sands Missile Range and Walker Air Force Base. So they decided to build an underground school-cum-shelter for the people. The school is also equipped with decontamination showers and the structure is capable of resisting radiation and withstanding a 20-megaton blast. The school was built with a morgue, a well, and its own ventilation system. The authorities also stockpiled food and medicines along with a heavy generator. Most of the students do not even know that they attend an elementary school in a bomb shelter. A playground was built on its roof.
School on wheels
A non-governmental organisation in Karachi, Pakistan, launched its first mobile school when it bought a bus in 1993 for the purpose. The foundation aims to educate children in slum areas in the port city of Karachi. Equipped with benches, desks and a large blackboard, the bus picks up children from different areas of the city. As many as 160 students study inside the bus in four shifts of two hours each. Each student is taught on an individual basis.
Train platform schools
A non-governmental organisation in India has put railway platforms to good use and established platform schools. The NGO provides education to the children living near train stations in slum areas. Inderjit Khurana, a teacher from Orissa, India, decided to educate children who could not attend school due to extreme poverty. These platform schools have motivated children begging in trains to work towards an education. The process of learning has been made fun with songs, dramas, field trips, flashcards, music, and puppetry. Children gather at different railway stations to learn to read and write. These children are allowed to leave the programme or resume whenever they like.
Want to learn some sorcery? Well! Witch School teaches witchcraft to those who have an interest in magic and witches worldwide. The school offers online courses and also has a campus where students can come and attend classes.
The school had to relocate its campus to Salem, Massachusetts from Roseville, Chicago due to severe criticism and protests from Christians in the area. Salem is the town where about 200 people accused of witchcraft faced trials and execution in 1692 and 1693. Salem was chosen because it has its own witch community and is generally “witch-friendly”.