“At Canvas, our equipment, toys and teaching aids are selected keeping in mind a child’s need to touch, explore, and enjoy” – Hema Harchandani, MD & Founder, Canvas International School

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Hema Harchandani, MD & Founder, Canvas International School

Preschool education sets the foundation for a child’s grown up years. Young children are the most curious ones and they love to investigate and explore their world, and innovate without limitations. But their world today is quite different as they come face to face with advanced technologies via digital devices and are mostly with the nannies and caretakers as majorly, both parents work to earn a living.

Thus, the onus of developing a child into a responsible citizen and to address his queries in a mature way, becomes the primary responsibility of the teachers. Schools understand this and introduce innovative methodologies to help a child develop wings and not just learn to walk.

We interviewed one such modern pre-school’s Managing Director & Founder, Ms. Hema Harchandani, this week. She believes that learning at a young age should be more focused on developing a child’s overall personality, social and emotional skills. Read on as she discusses about the unique teaching strategies followed by Canvas International School, the PSED approach, and their principles and philosophies.

1. After working in the insurance and financial services sector for more than a decade, what inspired you to become an edupreneur?

I am the founder and managing director of Ingenious Eduscholars Pvt.Ltd. which runs the Canvas International brand of pre-schools. A commerce graduate from the University of Rajasthan, I built my career working in banking, life insurance, and financial services distribution sector.

Since my childhood, I always had a dream to start something on my own. I wanted to build something which would bring me closer to the children and build a strong foundation for the future of India. With this motto in mind, I chose the educational sector and founded Canvas International Pre-School in April 2016. I am working towards making Canvas a world-class educational institution.

At present, Canvas has 26 branches and 2000 children in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

2. Please share a brief introduction of Canvas International and let us know about your journey and vision.

Canvas is an exemplary pre-school that truly cares for the children and their positive growth. Children discover new and inspiring things each day and are guided on their own fantastic journeys and adventures.

Canvas follows the PSED (Physical, Social and Emotional Development) approach to children’s growth. The name Canvas itself has a uniqueness:

C stands for Creative Excellence – to bring out the creativity in a child. Each child is a unique creation and he or she needs to be nurtured in that way.

A stands for Acceptance – to accept the child as he is and take him on the path of a true world citizen.

N stands for Novelty – New concepts to bring various forms of education to the child.

V stands for Visual Impact – Children learn through visuals, so create an impact on the child’s behavior through the use of technological aids which are visual in nature like the 3D picture programs.

stands for Safety – Create a safe, secure and serene environment for the holistic growth of the child.

We wish to create a new world for our children. A world that allows them to explore the beauty, experience the joy around them while providing them comfort and warmth.

By combining both the ideas of nature and nurture, we wish to create an empty Canvas for kids to fill in with their wonderful imagination. We believe this self-expression will

mold their identity. By encouraging our students to be creative by singing, dancing and playing, we open their minds to a world of possibilities and hope for their success.

3. What are the main principles and philosophies you promote at the Canvas?

‘Playing learning and enjoying every minute’

Our educational philosophy has been influenced by the educational philosophy of three great educationists:

Maria Montessori

Dr. Maria Montessori had revolutionized the notion of early education through the establishment of ‘children’s houses’. We at Canvas, have done just that, our schools are like miniature doll houses, a place where everything is designed for the child – specific needs and where he is free to move around, play, dirty himself and help put things away.

Rabindranath Tagore

We have not cluttered our classrooms with furniture – no rigid tables and chairs for canvins, not only because they are not suitable for this age group, but because we believe in Rabindranath Tagore’s philosophy of education in the open, and giving children enough room and space to move around – hence our outdoor areas and open classrooms.

Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi as an educationist said that the children need to be taught with the head, heart, and hand- and we have done just that at Canvas. At Canvas, we believe in ‘learning by doing’ and hence our equipment, toys, and teaching aids are selected keeping in mind a child’s need to ‘touch, explore and enjoy’.

You name it and we have it at Canvas. At the heart of all the international standard equipment, is a curriculum that is child-friendly and revolves around a child’s needs.

4. Canvas follows a PSED approach, can you please brief our readers about this approach and about its uniqueness.

PSED stands for Personality, Social and Emotional Development.

  • Physical skills
  • Social skills
  • Emotional and moral skills
  • Language skills
  • Thinking skills

These are the skills that need to be developed and likewise, these are the subjects of a good preschool. Let’s take you on a tour of each skill.

  • Physical skills

Fine motor skill– which means the finger, thumb, and wrist muscles- we need to develop these to help the child with future writing.

Activities that help develop this skill

Tearing, sticking, cutting, doodling, block play, puzzles, play doh, buttoning, threading, and many others.

Gross motor skills- the ability to walk, balance, jump, skip, and hop etc. Very essential to building a strong and healthy body.

Activities that help develop this skill

Jungle gym, basketball, bat and ball, cars and scooter, balancing beams, throwing and catching activities. Running and jumping activities, and many more.

Is equipment available at Canvas for developing such skills?

Yes, of course, that is why we have been so selective and particular in our equipment selection.

  • Social skills

The ability to share, wait for one’s turn and think of other people’s feelings. To say good morning and thank you, to learn to use toys and other equipment without harming it, to learn to put things back where they belong after using it, are all part of the social skills.

How do we develop such skills at Canvas?

Through our free play activities – our songs, poems, stories, puppets, our role-play toys, and our dramatic corner like doll houses etc. and even during snack time, and sand and water play time.

  • Emotional and moral skills

Emotional skills – When these skills are developed, a child learns not to throw tantrums, he learns not to cry when left at school, he learns to think about other feelings, he learns not to shout, and he learns to listen.

Moral skills – Values like learning to take care of nature, learning to be truthful, learning to stand in a line etc. are all part of a child’s moral development.

Activities that help develop such skills

These skills are developed at Canvas through our free play activities, our songs, poems, stories, puppets, our role-play toys, our dramatic corner like doll houses etc. and even during snack time.

  • Language skills

Colour recognition, ability to recognize same and different ones, ability to follow a sequence, ability to find matching pictures and ability to recite name and remember, are all part of his language skills.

Activities that develop this skill

Picture matching and shape matching puzzles, sequence cards, and games. Picture talk, songs, stories, matching activities, etc.

At Canvas, this is done with puppets, special flash cards, picture talk, sand play games, water play games, puzzles, role play etc. and hence, a strong foundation is laid for future reading and language skills.

  • Thinking skills

Thinking skills are required for developing mathematical and logical skills which help the child in Maths and Science.

They can be developed with the Montessori equipment, sorters, puzzles, obstacle courses, matching activities, sequencing activities etc. At Canvas, they are developed by Montessori equipment like pink towers, blocks, smell and sound tablets, etc.

Activities like what comes after and before, what will happen now, are done through picture talk, sorting and grading.

Activities in the doll’s house and sand and water play areas also help develop this skill.

But how are these skills taught to the kids? Does one sit with one skill at a time?

No, sometimes many skills overlap, and two or more skills are covered in a single activity.

An untrained teacher would not know when and how to develop these skills and may end up confused and frustrate the children as well.

Well, Not at Canvas!

This is where our international training comes to the fore, our well-trained staff knows exactly what to do, when to do, for how long and with which equipment.

A well-planned daily programme and an hour by hour planning come to the teachers’ help.

Suggested reading: “We use AI, ML and AR to advance the frontier of learning by simulating real-world environments”— Mahesh Bhangriya, VP- Corporate Strategy, Career Point Group

5. What other unique practices and initiatives have you introduced at your preschool?

At Canvas, we believe in learning by doing and hence our equipment, toys and teaching aids are selected keeping in mind a child’s need to touch, explore, and enjoy.

  1. At Canvas, we have newsletters that keep parents in touch with what’s happening in their child’s classroom.
  2. At Canvas, we believe in the meaning of the word kindergarten which is children’s garden. Here, we feel children are the flowers who need to be cultivated, watered and cared for and at Canvas, this is done by the parents, teachers and the school environment.
  3. No classrooms, but playrooms.
  4. No blackboards, but scribble boards.
  5. Child-friendly and age-appropriate curriculum.
  6. Teaching aids and equipment are child-friendly.
  7. Curriculum revolves around a child’s needs. A developmentally appropriate day-long curriculum is offered.
  8. Kids are not expected to sit for long periods of time. They have a combination of quiet and active activities.
  9. Kids do not wander aimlessly. Every act is meaningful and logical.
  10. Children have access to various activities throughout the day.
  11. Fun rooms are decorated with children’s work.
  12. Through free play activities, social, emotional, moral, physical, languages skills are developed.
  13. Teachers are given international training.
  14. A well-planned daily programme and hour by hour planning for the teachers.
  15. At Canvas, we follow the philosophy of whole child development.
  16. Interactive learning is facilitated with entertaining toys and games, stories and aids.
  17. Learning is fun at Canvas with my size games, toys, and equipment.
  18. Different themes every month for play group and nursery.
  19. Themes are selected according to age-appropriate needs of the children and are based on educational movies to known to unknown.
  20. Concepts are taught through stories with a buddy as the main character.
  21. Field trips and celebrations are organized for activity learning.
  22. ‘I see, I learn, I do, I remember’, at Canvas, we believe in this maxim.
  23. Apart from being an international school – Canvas is the only school that is absolutely child-centred, which means the curriculum is developmentally correct – keeping in mind the age of the child.
  24. Moreover, while most schools are either Montessori or play way – CANVAS has the advantage of following the best of Montessori, play way, Gurukul and Steiner, because it is a combination of the best methods from all around the world. It ensures all – round development of the child. Plus, it develops all the important skills in the child – physical, social, emotional and moral, language and thinking skills, this ensures that your child gets the best foundation for the road of life long learning.

6. What’s your take on the use of technology in early childhood classrooms?

We believe media and digital devices are an integral part of our world today. The benefits of these devices, if used moderately and appropriately, can be great. But, research has shown that face-to-face time with family, friends, and teachers plays a pivotal and even more important role in promoting children’s learning and healthy development.

Regarding the use of technology in the classroom, many teachers adopt technical devices in their early childhood classrooms, helping them to support each child’s learning development more easily. Technology plays a positive role in children’s development and learning.

7. Which emerging and creative technologies Canvas International School is used to make the learning environment easier for children and to enhance their skills naturally?

Only one : “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”

At Canvas, we absolutely believe in this maxim and hence, we show the children concrete examples, pictures etc. The children are taken on field trips for related topics like the fire station, florists, Zoo, Dentists etc.

For festivals and colours, we have festival celebrations and colour days, so for colour red there will be a red day in which the teacher will decorate the classroom with red items. Red items will be served for food, children will be told to come dressed in something red and they will eat something red and will take a red take away, for the letter ‘t’ there will be a ‘t’ party and so on……..

At Canvas, we believe in ‘learning by doing’ and hence our equipment, toys and teaching aids are selected keeping in mind a child’s need to ‘touch, explore and enjoy’.

8. What kind of training and support does a franchise get after partnering with Canvas International School?

Franchise gets training and support at every step in their journey to become a successful educationist. Our service model ensures that our franchisees should feel special.

We work with our franchisees on the seven elements as mentioned below.

  • S- speed and time
  • P- personal touch
  • E- expectations up to the mark
  • C- courtesy and competency
  • I- information on time
  • A- attitude and customer liaison
  • L- long term relationship

9. A quick round of questions to be answered in 50 words:

1. 5 emerging trends in early childhood education.

  • Families are opting for double income, so a child spends more time at school. So, education is becoming important.
  • Nuclear families lead to children being left with a caretaker, hence schools play an important role in their development.
  • Time spent on gadgets and electronic needs is increasing rampantly, hence schools focussing on basics like enhancing motor skills and other social skills are gaining traction.
  • Early childhood education requires parents and teachers spending equal time with children.

2. A piece of advice to the budding female entrepreneurs.

  • Follow your dreams. Make every rupee and every minute that you spend in building the business count.
  • You have limited resources, so get the best out of each resource.

3. Where do you see Canvas International School in the next five years?

In the next 5 years, we want to have 10000 children enrolled with us.

We want to build infrastructure in rural India. We want to maintain parity between urban and rural India.

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