ASSET Summer Programme is a place for curious young minds to get to work!

This summer we got to witness a remarkable gathering of 164 of the brightest students from 37 cities representing more than 85 Indian schools at the ASSET Summer Programme! It was a wonderful experience to see these students learning and challenging each other during this 21-day programme.

As soon as we arrived at the Manipal Institute of Technology (MIT) campus, we felt at ease. Far away from the hustle of the city, surrounded by nature, and with hills forming the backdrop of this picturesque campus, it was the perfect place for a summer of fun and learning.

Academics at the ASSET Summer Programme

Students participated in new-age courses such as Storytelling, Emotional Intelligence, Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship as well as traditional ones like Mathematics, Life Sciences, Physics, Architecture and Engineering.

It was exciting to learn about how every course is carefully crafted for this programme. Each six goes through a course development process that takes more than 6 months from the time of conception to finally be ready for delivery in the programme.

Classroom experience at the ASSET Summer Programme

A classroom at ASP was nothing like your average classroom in a school. The instructors and teaching assistants worked hard to create a positive space where creativity flowed freely, and students felt comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas without fear of criticism. 

The academic team focused on process-based learning rather than content-based learning. We saw students put their theories into action as they dangled pendulums from the side of the building to understand the relationship between the length of the rope and amplitude of the swing and build a Rube Goldberg machine from scratch carefully handcrafting every screw, pulley and lever!

We could feel their energy as students constantly discussed everything from black holes to artificial intelligence from classrooms to meal tables to hostel rooms – they couldn’t get enough! There was something special about the atmosphere, students displayed a remarkable eagerness to learn and their curiosity and enthusiasm were extremely refreshing to us – a welcome change from the usual scenario where students can’t wait for school to end.

Akshaya Golla (from Silver Oaks International, Hyderabad) explained this difference to us, “In school teachers have a syllabus which they have to teach us, but at ASP we are driven by questions, and we are driven to find answers to those questions by ourselves. The teachers here are more like facilitators they never give us answers they help us find our answers.”

Learning at ASP was not limited to the classroom as instructors also accompanied students on field trips to add variety to their lesson plan. One interesting field trip was a visit to the temple square in the town of Udupi by the Storytelling class. Their assignment was to observe their environment and write about their observations.

With these minimal instructions, it was fascinating to see what the students’ outputs were. Some chose to write short fictional stories, some created character sketches capturing what their protagonist felt whereas others wrote haikus. 

In the end, the class learnt a valuable lesson – how people can look at the same scene and have different observations due to differences in perception. As budding storytellers, they discussed how this could affect their writing style and made them more aware of their own biases and perceptions. 

Arya Newasekar (from Oakridge International School – Einstein, Hyderabad) concludes perfectly by saying, “School should be like ASP, life would be so much better!”

But the programme’s appeal does not lie solely in the academics; the diversity in the classroom allows students to accept and appreciate diverse perspectives. In today’s world, the ability to listen, learn, and work with people who are different from you is an essential skill.

As Mrs Gupte (a parent from Mumbai) who has been sending her daughter to ASP for the past two years shared, “[Students] get to meet so many children from all over India which makes a lot of difference, and their personality changes even though that is not the primary objective of the programme.” 

Residential life at the ASSET Summer Programme

Students are also part of something called – Residential Community. Each community is lead by a Residential Coach (RC) and consists of 10-14 students who live together, eat meals together and participate in activities as a team. Students form a strong bond with their RC and with the other students in their community.

Krish Patel (from Jasudben ML School, Mumbai) shares about his RC, “In only about five days my residential coach found a way to bond with me and became like an elder brother to me. It made all of us comfortable and made ASP feel like a second home!”

There were also fun activities planned in the evening to keep the students engaged. The primary objective of these activities was to allow students to enhance their leadership skills and give them opportunities to improve their interpersonal communication while having a good time.

There was never a dull moment as Sanvi Khaitan (from Sanskriti The Gurukul, Guwahati) shares, “Apart from the courses, there has been a lot of teaching through the evening activities. We did a lot of painting; we also had DJ nights, theatre workshops, and talent nights.”

Every minute of the programme was structured and planned including the weekends.

Gaurika Mehrotra (from Sishu Griha Montessori and High School, Bangalore) was scared of being homesick and shares, “Actually I am a very emotional person, I have never stayed away from home for so long and I thought I was really going to miss my home a lot… but they keep you so busy all the time so you don’t have time to miss your parents. The day is very structured and scheduled, but you never feel like you’re getting too much of it, you never feel bored – every day is like a very different day.”

There was even a Sports Day held at the Marena sports facility located close to the MIT campus. Students were divided into groups and played for the coveted title of the “Best ASP Sports Team” competing in badminton, futsal, basketball as well as a variety of outdoor games like the parade, various relay races, and balloon stomping etc. The day was filled with fun activities that culminated in a friendly water balloon fight!


Saying goodbye and promising to return!

21 days flew by and as students said their goodbyes many had tears in their eyes. They raved about everything from their dorm rooms to the food and the new friendships formed. The success of the programme can be attributed to the ASP team paying attention to the smallest details for, e.g. the cafeteria – where there was never any repetition with menu items from a variety of regions and careful attention given to students with dietary restrictions.

Mr Sharma’s son had a severe gluten allergy and was quite concerned about his health. He shared his feedback after the programme saying, “Gluten-free food was our main concern which was dealt with very well. Chef Mr Vijay provided a personal touch wherever possible. We are indeed grateful to him and you all.”

The residence became a home-away-from-home for students and they learnt to maintain their rooms immaculately. When we visited the hostel, we saw the rooms reflecting the behaviours of students at home. Without speaking to individual students, we could see which children belonged to homes where they cleaned up after themselves versus homes where someone else cleaned up after them. However, that’s the beauty of peer learning because by the end of 21 days students learnt life skills like tidiness, personal grooming and punctuality from each other – skills that years of nagging (from parents) couldn’t accomplish!

With so many lessons packed into three weeks, the ASSET Summer Programme indeed was the #BestSummerEver not only for the students but for everyone involved.

Konark Jain a residential coach (an undergraduate student at St. Xavier’s Mumbai) told us, “ASP was not only an academic learning programme for kids but also for us where we learnt to deal with new situations every day. The foundation of the programme i.e. active supervision and risk management will always stay with me.”

Konark was extremely loved by his students a fact that was evident by the love he received in return from parents when they came on the last day to take their children back. He was surprised by all the gifts he received and wondered how he would carry them back on his flight home! 

21 days felt like a long period of separation and parents were overwhelmed with tears in their eyes as they saw their children after so long.

Mr and Mrs Dharod (parents from Hyderabad) share, “To confess, we did have apprehensions about ASSET before enrolling on account of the environment, facilities, overall atmosphere as well as ASSET team’s temperament with the kids. More so, since Arya attends such a personalized school environment; and had also gone to the Les Elfes Summer Camp at Verbier, Switzerland last year! But in hindsight, we have absolutely no regrets and were glad that we decided to send Arya, despite he having to miss School and his final assessments. Arya is, in fact, looking forward to his next year at ASP and was shortlisting courses he would like to take!” 

Parents waited as children refused to leave saying their final goodbyes to their friends – making promises to return the following year for ASP 2019. 

We spoke to the ASP team, and they were just as overwhelmed because each team member had interacted with, shared inside jokes with, and made memories with all the students. It is wonderful to see a team that loves and enjoys their work so much. Their enthusiasm creates a positive atmosphere for students and in return, they are motivated to work because the transformation in students inspires them to keep delivering this programme year-after-year. 

The ASSET Summer Programme is exclusively for academically gifted students from class 7, 8 and 9. The entry to it is subject to a student’s score on the ASSET Talent Search test. Only the brightest students i.e. the ones in the top percentile receive an invitation to participate. You can see the programme in action and read more at www.assetsummerprogramme.com.

Medha Agarwal

Medha Agarwal

I write about my passions - Education, Technology, and Entrepreneurship, in the Endless Pursuit of Usefulness.
Medha Agarwal