Monroe School fourth-graders get personal with Gandhi’s grandson
Zamaan Qureshi and Lily Hart get their questions ready for Professor Rajmahon Gandhi as parent Danica Carden listens in. | Photos by Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 3, 2012 10:42AM
Learning about Mahatma Gandhi, which has been part of the study for the 2011-12 school year of India for students at Monroe School, took on a special twist Friday for the school’s 81 fourth-graders.
Those Monroe students sat together in a classroom as some of them asked questions of Gandhi’s 77-year-old grandson, Rajmahon Gandhi during a 30-minute teleconference. Most of the questions were about the military conflict between India and Pakistan over the disputed Siachen Glacier region in Kashmir.
Rajmahon Gandhi is a research professor at the Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
“We were looking for a way to incorporate the study of India a little deeper,” said Danica Carden of the Monroe PTO. “Some of the parents read a book he wrote, so we sent an email, asking if he would be willing to do this. At first, we were told no by his assistant, but then they got back to us and said he wanted to do it.”
While most of the questions asked of Gandhi were about the disputed Siachen Glacier region, the broader lesson for students was about conflict.
“It’s about being good global citizens,” Carden said. “I think the kids were able to relate to a lot of what he said.”
Fourth-grader Jackson Hughes said he very much enjoyed having the opportunity to bring Gandhi’s grandson into his classroom via a phone call.
“It was cool that we got to hear about his normal life as a real person,” Jackson said.
Fellow fourth-grader Olivia Parrillo agreed.
“I was nervous at first about asking him a question, but he was really nice,” Olivia said. “He’s the grandson of someone who’s a legend around the world.”
Monroe Principal Dawn Benaitis said the teleconference with Gandhi was a wonderful experience for students.
“I’m a firm believer in meaningful learning,” she said. “This is an absolutely amazing experience for our students. It’s one of those things where they could have an ‘aha’ moment years from now and think back to something he said.”
Gandhi told the Monroe students how much he enjoyed talking with them. The question he had to think about the longest before answering was what his favorite quote from his grandfather is.
“My life is my message,” he said, adding his favorite memory of his grandfather was receiving a big, strong hug from him.
“Our students worked so hard on this,” Carden said. “We thought it was important to reach out to him, and it was a great experience for everyone.”