The Building Blocks program comprises seven kindergarten (K4-K5) schools throughout Bangalore, with an average of 75 students per school. Plans are underway to establish several more schools in the district. Named for flowers, the Azalea, Bluebells, Carnations, Daisy, Freesia, Gardenia and Edelweiss Schools are each strategically located near a slum neighborhood, facilitating regular school attendance and good parent-teacher rapport.
The schools are open 6 days a week from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. with a total enrollment of over 500 students. The overall goal is to give the slum children, ages 4 - 5, a well-rounded education with a sound foundation in the English language so they can enroll in an English-medium school after two years.
For the students, who mostly live in homes with no electricity, running water, or toilet, the school is not just about learning to read, write and count, but everything is a new learning experience! The children learn basic hygiene and brush their teeth for the first time, and for most, looking at colorful books or using crayons and paintbrushes is a novelty.
Learning acceptable social behaviors and developing life skills go hand in hand with academic learning at Building Blocks. Additionally, the curriculum is enhanced through using educational software which introduces them to technology.
Physical Education is an important part of the children’s daily routine. Excursions to educational or recreational sites such as the zoo, the airport, a museum, etc., provide new experiences and hands-on learning experiences.
A nutritious lunch is served at each of the schools daily, which could sometimes be their sole meal of the day. Monthly birthday parties celebrated with cake and entertainment are always a special treat for these kids whose parents are poor manual laborers struggling to provide basic food on the table.
Medical professionals volunteer their services to provide regular checkups on site to ensure that the children are given the medical attention and treatment needed.
A key aspect of the Building Blocks program’s success is its intensive teacher training sessions, inter-school teacher conferences and parent-teacher workshops. Building Blocks has gained recognition for its graduates’ above-average testing results, attracting the interest of schools in other cities that now send their teachers for training at Building Blocks.
Attending school at Building Blocks opens up a whole new world for the slum children. It gives them a step up from the poverty, illiteracy and bleak opportunities they were born into, and the well-rounded learning approach prepares them to be on par with other middle and upper-class children when they enter grade school. Family Development Services then works with other educational institutions, charities and individual donors to facilitate scholarships for primary school students as needed.
The Building Blocks educational program is made possible by the generosity of individuals, businesses, volunteers and dedicated staff – all helping dreams come true for more than 1250 slum children to date.