Thursday, October 1, 2009

Runner's High Article on Chiguru.

Learning network is a collective of various individuals and organizations interested in holistic education. The Learning Network explores various approaches towards holistic learning. This network helps learn about new perspectives and strengthen existing efforts. It is a resource for interested groups, educators and parents seeking meaningful approaches to education. Website:

Runner's High was featured in their Newsletter - "Chiguru". This is the first time Runner's High is being featured in a newsletter :)

You can read the newsletter here.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

September 4th Week

Sita School

This week it was a vacation for all the children at Sita School as part of the Dussehera celebrations. But, only the kids who were preparing for their 7th std open exams were coming to school till lunch. On Monday after they spent time with Kamala for their Math and Science subjects, I spent some time with the kids on the new project - We were going to animate a story they have in their english lesson. It was the story of 'The Hungry Wolf'. Veru briefly -  A hungry wolf goes to the village to get some meat, threatens a farmer and tries to eat the horse. The smart horse requests the wolf to eat its tail first, and gives the wolf a big kick :). The Wolf runs back into the forest. Kamala also sat in our computer science class, as we first got used to the various controls in the "Scratch" program (Its an easy to use tool, designed to introduce programming for children, designed by students of MIT - ). I referred to the game we had played - "computer" and "operator" and explained that we are going to give a similar set of instruction to make different objects do things for us. So, we first chose images, then we played around with different sounds and then decided on backgrounds for the different scenes. As the kids got used to the software, I showed a few things to them and then they did similar operations. I suggested that they do the last scene.

On Friday, I spent a lot more time with the kids on the computer project. We designed all the backgrounds and Jane also spent some time with us. She suggested that maybe the kids could do one of the backgrounds. So, the kids drew an awesome mango tree for the climax :) - Soon, both of them got very involved and before we knew it we had spent about 3 hours that morning with the animation. We timed the pop-up dialogues, drew the backgrounds, made the animation move, make sounds and also change scenes.

More photos here- Sita_school_computer_rains

In the computer room I found a huge scroll and I was curious to find out what it was. So, the kids unrolled it for me and explained that it was part of their history lesson. They had depicted the history of the freedom struggle in images and writing. Finally, the various images and writing were pasted on a long scroll made by the entire class. It was a very novel way of integrating art, literature and history.

More photos here- Sita_school_computer_rains

After our computer class, the kids were very enthusiastic to show me the lake. Our usual running route is actually a lake bed which used to be quite big many years back (when Jane and Jyothi had just moved). But, now it fills up lightly when there are heavy rains. It had rained pretty heavily the last few days, so in some parts the now defunct lake was even seven feet deep! So, I got my feet wet along with the kids. Being a city bred, all I could think was that this is really dirty and muddy water! It was a firm 'NO' from my end when the kids suggested that we swim in it!

More photos here- Sita_school_computer_rains

When we came back, Jane was waiting for the kids to give them some payasam (Porridge or Kheer) as it was one of the kid's birthday. He had given us chocolates earlier in the morning and it was very thoughtful of Jane to celebrate his Birthday amongst us, though the rest of the school was not there. 

The Calendars made by the Sita School kids are all ready for sale now!!

More photos here- Sita_school_calendar


Sixteen of the Ananya children were working hard for their puppet show this week. The rest of them had a vacation. The children have been working on this puppet show for weeks now. There was a lot of learning in the whole process and this was very much part of the education of the children. The children made all the puppets themselves with easily available material. They learned various concepts of physics, mathematics, anatomy and science and applied it successfully to the making of the show. Rohit, a creative consultant from Delhi did a workshop and guided the children over the entire duration. The event itself was on Sunday and was a black light theater. We decided not to do any running, karate or Math classes as the kids would be too tired already with the whole day gone into preparation for the big show. I did drop into the school on Wednesday and helped out a bit with the preparation. More importantly, I had a discussion with Poonam, the science teacher to plan and try out the series of activities we have been doing with the Sita School kids. Poonam was very excited and she had read the blog. We also discussed aspects about mentoring one of the older kids (I had taken up the role of a mentor for one of the elder kids who is planning to become independent.)

On Sunday, the children put on a brilliant show and the audience were totally impressed by the professionalism, story and the whole show! Rohit, the children, staff and whole of Ananya did a great job! We also had an Ananya stall at the event. The event itself was like a fair or mela for NGOs called "The Bangalore Cares Sneha Santhe" with more than 80 NGO and non-profit efforts in Bangalore taking part. I stayed back even after the Ananya show, to help children of the Spastics Society of Bangalore for their musical performance. I was totally impressed by the show they put on and really wanted to spend more time with them. I got the contacts of the folks there and decided to follow up on it.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

September 3rd Week

On Sep 13th, Sunday as part of Team Asha, two kids from Thulir finished their first half marathons and one of them finished his first 10K run. They all did really well. The rest of the Team Asha folks also did great at the Kaveri Trails. You can read more about it here.  You can read about the training for thulir kids here.

More photos here- Kaveri marathon

Sita School

On Monday, I reached Sita School at around 8:20 A.M. But, it had rained quite heavily the previous day and the trails were too slippery and muddy. We decided not to take a risk and not do the running in the morning. We did the prayers at 8:45 and it was decided that if it got more sunny and dry we could do the running. Jane had just come back from her trip to Pune and we discussed about a child who has not been coming to school for a while. The child has not been feeling well, lost his appetite etc. The children from around his house mentioned that he got scared about something and doesn't want to come to school. Jane mentioned that this had happened before and he has a fear for devils and the evil spirits. I decided to accompany Jane to his home, while one of the other volunteers, Sandy handled english instead of computer science for two groups. Before we left, the younger children wanted to show us a house they built in the morning (complete two storey house!)

More photos here- Sita_school_home

The child was happy to see us. But, the family background of the child was quite impverished. The father has not been supporting the family and has not been a constant presence of support. After the conversation with the family and the child, Jane and I had a discussion on fears and how to address fears of children. Would just rubbishing them actually help the child get over the fear? A more sensitive approach is required. At the same time reinforcing the child's fears by going for occult practices is not advisable at all! Most times this happens in the villages and this is a very strong community feeling that can't be challenged easily. Jane emphasised that we should help the child in believing in more postive aspects in life that can thwart the negative thoughts and overcome their fears.

After I returned from the village, I did computer science with the chetana group. The three girls were their usual enthusiastic stuff and we started of with something really interesting! I went over the 'Scratch' program for them and explained how it is similar to the game of 'computer-operator' we played last week. I explained how there is a scripts section and the controls can be used to make the animation act in a particular way. The children had a lot of fun changing the cartoon, adding sounds, trying to make different dialogues etc. I gave them a homework of trying to create their own story using scratch! Later I narrated the classroom experience to Jane and she felt it was very interesting. She wanted to use it to depict the story that nandana kids were doing as part of their english lessons. Anyways, while the rest of the school was closed the next week, the nandanda kids will be there in order to prepare for their 7th open exams.

On Friday, Preeti and I reached the school along with a friend, Balaji. Balaji has been a long time asha volunteer and also coached the thulir kids for their long distance runs. This week we did an interesting workout (courtsey a book on 'new age games' borrowed from Jane :) ). We did a short run across the open fields to a green wide clearing outside the school. Then we split the kids into two teams. One of the teams would be the clock and the other team would race the clock (hence, I came up with the name - 'Racing the clock' :) ). So, the 'clock' team would form a wide circle and will keep passing the ball in a clockwise manner. Each pass from one member to the other is a 'tick'. Meanwhile, as soon as the clock starts, the first runner from the other team runs around the circle (or clock) and comes back to the starting point, thus passing a key to the next runner in the queue. When the whole team finishes running, we get the total no. of ticks. Later, the teams interchange roles and the second team's ticks are counted to see who could go faster. The kids had a lot of fun doing this. It was also quite tiring! We did our drills and went for prayers.

After prayers, Preeti started the session on nervous system. Jane, Preeti, Kamala and I had discussed how best to start the session and finally Jane proposed that we start with a small game to introduce the idea of reflexes. The kids already played this game which involved a keen observation of the other player's movements and responding to it. Thus, Preeti introduced the concept of voluntary or learned reflexes.

More photos here- Sita_school_nervous_system

Later Preeti introduced the idea of involuntary reflexes. She then discussed the concept of nerves and also addressed myths about 'cramping' (i.e. its related to muscles and not nerves). We played a few short videos on nerves and explained how the nervous system is constituted. Later, Preeti went into more detail and explained why some reflexes are voluntary and some are not. She demonstrated some of the involuntary reflexes like our reactions to knee raps etc.

More photos here- Sita_school_nervous_system

By the end of the session, we asked the children to document their understanding of the discussion and the nervous system. We also gave them a jumbled order of our sequence of reaction to a stimulation. One of the children found it very hard to understand. Even after Preeti went over it couple of times, she couldn't understand the whole sequence of response. Finally, she could reproduce the correct sequence, but we were not sure if shw understood it. We will have to provide other activities to see if she grasped the concepts. This would be something that Kamala would do in her classes.


On Wednesday, I didn't have an usual run and hence started later than usual for Ananya. But, I got struck in the monstrous Bangalore traffic. It was sickening and I was so very thankful that I didn't have to endure this every day like most office-goers! The children were engaged in a puppetry workshop and I decided to call off the class as I would get only few minutes with them.

On Thursday, Preeti and I reached in time and found that the heavy rains from the previous day had made the whole approach road slushy and slippery. We decided not to do the run outside of school. After the usual drills, we introduced a new workout - 'Racing the clock'. The game is described in the section above. The kids really loved the game and got very involved. But, the game soon took a competitive color. A few kids got too serious with the idea of counting and they started complaining about the larger circles that the opposite team made, not doing the relay run properly etc. But, overall they had a very good speed workout which was mostly 'fartlek' (non-regular fast and slow intervals). We played the game for quite sometime and later did the stretches. The Ananya kids have slowly warmed up for the stretches as they see it as a challenge and try to beat the count of seconds when holding on to stretches.

After breakfast, we had a short maths class (cut short for puppetry sessions). I used Arvind Gupta's website to plan activities for the class. The focus was on paper folding and identifying shapes and angles. We did paper folding to make a protractor. So, the kids could measure angles of 15, 30, 45, 60, 75, 90, 120 and 150 degrees without using a regular protractor quite accurately! The kids found this very interesting. Then we did an activity to see hands on that the angles of a triangle add up to 180 degs and the angles of a quadrilateral add up to 360 degs. They cut out any triangle of quadrilateral they wanted and then tore of only the corners of the shape and put them all together. In the case of a triangle, they got a straight line, giving 180 degs and the quadrilateral gave a circle with 360 degs! We ended the session with a simple paper toy - a rabbit which could flap its ears :)

Thulir experiences.

This season, as we got involved with more efforts in Bangalore, it was getting a bit difficult to visit Thulir on a regular basis and provide training for the children. Thankfully, Balaji stepped in and did a wonderful job as a coach.

Thulir is an Education Resource Center for children and young adults at Sittilingi which is a tribal village in Dharmapuri District, Tamil Nadu. It's a Tamil word that means, "tender shoot", also "to sprout". The goal of Thulir is to provide a place where children are in the presence of adults who can motivate them and provide support for learning, and can access basic learning resources that are not available to them in their homes or schools.  It is also a place where children can attend supplementary classes or prepare for exams away from crammed and noisy homes, and interact with visiting professionals from various walks of life to get exposure. Young adults are trained to create similar spaces for children in their own villages. As children grow into young adults, they can have access to vocational training courses and network with other such centers. Learn more about their efforts at:

Team Asha and Runner's High have been coaching the children over the last year for various events. They were monitored on a weekly basis from Bangalore. Detailed training schedules, guidance, injury prevention tips etc. were provided on a regular basis. There was a lot of support from the co-ordinators at Thulir - Anu and Krishna as well. Many children have completed marathons, half marathons and 10k runs in various events in Bangalore, Pondichery and Mysore.

This season three children trained for the Kaveri Trail Races. Balaji, an Asha volunteer spent considerable amount of time with the children to guide them through the training. Vinoo and Ezhumalai successfully completed their first half marathon in a good time of 1hr 54mins and 2hrs 02mins respectively! Sakthivel successfully completed his 10K in 1hr 02mins.

Here is a detailed account of Balaji's stay at Thulir with photos.

Here is Balaji's experience coaching the children:

August 3-9
Balaji reached Thulir on August 4th to help the Thulir Kids with their training plan for the KTM '09. After consulting with Anu and Krishna, we decided that Vinoo and Ezhumalai will run the half-marathon. Perumal could not participate because of his commitments in the newly started Basic Technology Course and Senthil was busy preparing for his final year of formal schooling. They warmed for the weekend long runs by doing a easy 5K run on Friday. On Saturday, they started their first long run of 10K. The boys were naturally fit to run the distance and did very well to finish the 10K in about one hour. On Sunday, they went for an easy run of 5K. Shakthivel, one of the students of the BT Course expressed interest in running with us. On Sunday, he appeared to run with us in an unusual attire - A lungi and a pair of ordinary slippers. Balaji was so impressed by his interest and enthusiasm that he allowed him to run about 3K with the group despite his unorthodox appearance.

August 10-16
Balaji had to leave Thulir in the second week to work on the Team Asha 8K run. He went for a trek with them on Monday and was given the glimpse of the boys' endurance and fitness! The students trained themselves for the rest of the week and Shakthivel also joined them.

August 17-23

Balaji joined them again later that week in time for their weekend long runs. They were scheduled to run 18K on Saturday and 8K on Sunday. Balaji, Vinoo and Senthil set out for the run on Saturday. Shakthivel joined them to run for 3K. They ran for 2 hours through the beautiful Bamboo forests. It was one of the longest runs for Vinoo and he enjoyed it thoroughly. On Sunday, it was a larger crowd for the run. Balaji, Senthil, Vinoo, Ezhumalai and Shakthivel started out to run. They were accompanied by two other students - Parameshwaran and Jayabal on bicycle. They did an easy run for about 4K and turned back. In the return run, they improvised by using the 'chain-running' technique. Runners run in a single file with the runner in the start being replaced by the runner in the last at regular intervals. The time interval was a little longer at the early stage and it was later reduced to zero in the last 1K encouraging runners to go faster. It was enjoyed by the boys and the cyclists assisted in co-ordinating the whole effort.

August 24-30
On Tuesday, Vinoo ran 200m splits for 8 laps. He looked strong after the 8 speed laps. Balaji felt that he could run the half-marathon in about 1 hour 45 minutes. Asked if he would be interested in training harder for a half-marathon at Auroville in Feb. 2010 and winning it, Vinoo humbly replied that he is happy just to run and enjoy the feeling without being bothered about the prizes. They went for another easy run that Thursday. The weekend running plan was 14K on Saturday and 7K on Sunday. On Saturday, Balaji, Vinoo and Ezhumalai set out to run the 14K. Shakthivel joined them for about 3K and returned back. By now, we decided to have Shakhivel on board for the KTM and he was to run a 10.5K, which will be his first taste of a running event. Shakthivel was comfortable with the shoes that we could arrange for him. On Sunday, Balaji, Vinoo, Ezhumalai and Shakthivel set out to run the 7K. As usual, they attracted plenty of on-lookers and funny comments. After sometime, a cycle carrying two persons went besides them. The person sitting behind enquired about them and their purpose for running. Balaji replied them in his sarcastic manner and offered invitation for him to run with them. The person commented that Vinoo does not look like a runner. Vinoo and Ezhumalai asked Balaji if he would allow them to go faster and overtake the cyclist. Well aware of their abilities, he agreed for it and asked the boys to embarrass the cyclists! The boys took off and sprinted past the cyclists making them feel ashamed for their comments. As Balaji neared them, he further commented to them that they are better off running with them than cycling. However, on the return when the boys wanted to try a similar stunt, Balaji refused to allow them to do the same as he felt that they would be stretching their muscles too far.

August 31-September 6
Early this week, Balaji left for Chennai and hence could participate in the training with the students. They trained on their own for the week. Balaji returned to Thulir later that week and because of some health complications could not run with them for their Sunday run. They did not run on Satuurday and hence ran a 10K that Sunday. Shakthivel was asked to take it easy and run less. Senthil, Ezhumalai and Vinoo and ran for over one hour. They were paced and guided by Senthil. All the three students looked fit to run the KTM the next week.

September 7 - 13
On Tuesday, Vinoo and Shakthivel went for an easy run of 5K and wound up their training for KTM. They left Thulir on Saturday morning and reached Bangalore in the afternoon. It was the first long distance trip for Shakthivel and was quite excited on reaching Bangalore. He found the bad odour a bit strange and also the huge drainage canal! They left for Mysore in the team ASHA bus from Bangalore and were all set for the KTM the next day.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

September 2nd Week

Sita School

On Monday, I had a friend visiting Sita School with me. We started the day with a nice easy run to the fields and did a speed workout with two laps (one fast and one slow) - it should be around 300m a lap. After that we ran down back to the school to finish the about 2.5 km loop.We did our foot drills and stretches after the run. We had prayers when Stanley was introduced to the school. We did computer classes with the kids after the prayer. Jane was not in school this week and it was quite amazing to see that the school did not depend on her 24/7 presence to move on - it worked as a system. In this week's computer class, I was getting closer to the idea of programming. We played a game of treasure hunt with two teams. One team would hide the treasure and the other team would get instructions from the first team from a starting point to reach the treasure. So, there was a 'computer' team and an 'operator' team. After the game session, we went to the computer room and played a few more games. This time, we moved one level up to play a game that improved skills in typing words. There would be clouds with names underneath moving on the screen and the user had to quickly type the word to make the cloud disappear. There were different themes for each game. We chose countries and as one of the kids was playing on the computer, Stanley kept the other kids engaged by using the globe to point out the country! It was a lot of fun and with Stanley there, the kids also got to learn more about some trivia and locations of countries. After class, couple of kids even came and discussed about certain questions they had in geography for e.g. the place in the world with a lot of bears, where all do they eat rice the most ? etc.

Friday was my birthday and I sensed something was happening even as I reached school :) - The kids, teachers and everyone I met at Sita School wished me a very happy birthday! My mom also was there with me for the trip to Sita school on my birthday. As we did our run, some of the kids held a duppatta and asked me to run under it like in a palanquin :)

More photos here- Sita_school_bday

After the run, we had prayers and the kids presented me with an elaborate stictched poster - i.e. each kid wrote/drew/painted a card for me (including the tiny tots, all kids in school!) and they put it all together to make a huge poster! I was totally overwhelmed - it was the nicest birthday present I had got in a long while :) - I thanked all the kids and everyone for the love and affection they showered on me. We then distributed chocolates for the kids.

More photos here- Sita_school_bday

After the prayer sessions, Preeti led the elder kids to the field to discuss about muscles. We first did a few stretches to isolate particular muscle groups and thus helped the kids identify them. Preeti then discussed how muscles are related to bones and what constitutes a muscle, how is it different from the nerves etc. After doing the stretching routine, we went into the computer room to watch a video on muscles. Again, the video was educational and we paused it in small spurts to engage the children in a discussion on what we saw. At the end of the session, we asked the kids to write down their understanding of the muscles and the discussions we had in the day. Meanwhile, Preeti, Kamala and I discussed what we should focus on in the next week's session - maybe the digestive system, excretionary system (sweat glands, kidneys etc.) or nutrition.

More photos here- Sita_school_bday

We spent the whole day in Sita school to help complete the work with the calendars. This also gave me the opportunity for me to be a part of the diary time on Fridays. Every week, just before school ends for the week, the children and staff gather around in a circle with their diaries. Each of them share one important aspect or happening that they liked or didn't like the most in school that week. One of the teachers spoke about how the kids had put up a wonderful show for the teachers day celebration. She was amazed by the initiative and creativity shown by the kids. Some of the kids spoke about the passing away of Zona and how it moved some children to tears. The really young ones showed a painting they had done and described what it was - for e.g. one of them did a portrait of his family. One other kid described the class on roman numerals and how interesting it was to learn about this number system. The Chandana group kids described the session on heart conducted by the Nandana group children for them.

More photos here- Sita_school_bday


On wednesday, I introduced 'constructions' in geometry for the kids. They had some minimal background already. Once everyone was ready with their geometry boxes, I introduced the concept of 'altitude' or height of a triangle. Then, we discussed congruency and what is the minimum set of properties thats required to decide if two triangles are congruent. Some kids didn't like this class very much and were vocal about it - they felt that it was like any other class and wanted something fun to do as well :)

On thursday, my mom also accompanied Preeti and me to School. Everyone got to know that Friday was my birthday and they all wished me as soon as I came :) - As though it was a birthday present for me, all the kids put on their best behavior and did the drills in an organized way on their own! (maybe, it was the presence of my mom :) ). All the kids wanted to do a run to the temple and back. So, we formed a few groups and set-off. We took a few photos along the way as well.

More photos here- Ananya_drills_mom

After the run, we did a session on geomtery. I wanted to make this class more interesting and gave them two stories about math - the first one was about Akbar and Birbal about making a line drawn on the ground short without touching it. The second story was a chinese folk tale on magic squares. The kids enjoyed the stories and it was easier to get them excited and attentive in class. We did more of the triangle congruency and some worksheet problems for kids who already were ahead in the understanding of triangle congruency.

More photos here- Ananya_drills_mom

At Prakriya, we did our drills and this time I wanted all kids to not play games straight away. There were of course some kids who just didn't come out. After the drills, we didn't do our usual run outside the school. Instead, I formed multiple teams and used the tracks to do a relay run. But, once the relay started there is no way of telling who came first etc. as we just did it for time rather than the whole team finishing etc. It was a good fartlek (fast and slow stretches at varying times) workout. Many kids (especially those with NIOS stream and some of them who are not confident about their running) were reluctant to take part. I encouraged them and joined their team to do the run. My mom also joined us and did a few sprints. That really impressed the kids and all of them started running. But, by the end of it the fitness levels of the children were evident as only a few could hold till the end of the 20 minutes time period. We then dispersed to play games. The speed workout was quite tiring and it was evident in their game as the kids flagged a bit. It would really help to have the running workouts in the morning or later in the evening, distinct from the games period. This is something we have been stressing to the school about.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

September 1st Week

Sita School

In the first week of September, I had to leave to Chennai for a planned trip to vist my new born neice, Shreya. Hence, I missed the Monday session with the kids. But, we all met up on Friday. We did a short run on Friday and did our usual stretches and drills. After the workout on friday, all of us worked on the Calendars. We started printing the images and it took a long while as we finished the printing over the weekend. We had a lot of interaction with the children, trying to make the rather tedious activity fun and entertaining. Working on activities such as this is also an important aspect of building a relationship with the children as we work as peers.

One important happening this week was the passing away of Zona. Zona was a German Shepherd who was about 11 years old. He grew up in Sita School and was an integral part of the family. He was suffering from a disorder that made it impossible to take in food and he would keep vomiting it out. He was sufferring for quite long and became very ill. It was decided to put him down and Zona passed away on Friday morning. The kids and everyone in the school gathered around Zona's grave and offered flowers. They sang and prayed for him. A few kids also wept for Zona.


I was back from Chennai on Thursday morning and I reached Ananya in time for our run and math class. We did a run to the temple and back. After the run we had stretches and foot drills. In the following geometry class, we went over the answers from the previous worksheet. I also gave them a story about a math concept on binary system. Jane had given me a book on stories related to various concepts on Math. It really got their attention and made them think on the problem with a lot of interest and curiosity. The story was about a little girl who dupes a vain king by asking him for a grain of rice. But, she wants it to be doubled every day for a month. So, the no. of grains increase exponentially, but the king doesn't look through the trick.


We met the Prakriya kids after two weeks of their exams. They looked quite tired with the exams and wanted to play games. So, we decided to do a run with only the kids who were interested. We got only six kids who were interested in doing the run. Nevertheless, we did the run and I came back to play with the kids. I made it a point to join the girls this time. They always went on their own to play throw ball. Soon, a few boys also joined us. We had good fun playing throw ball.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

August 5th week

Sita School

On Monday after our usual run through the new found scenic route, we did our stretches and foot drills. I have realized that for a couple of kids the canvas shoes was not doing any good. We have to replace the shoes with a wider better make. We later did the computer classes with the children. I introduced a new activity, going outdoors. I asked them to map the path from the computer lab to Sita School's kitchen. They used the compass to get directions and counted steps in each direction to arrive at a sequence of instructions to get from one point to the other. For one of the groups, I also introduced a variation in the activity, with one person closing her eyes (or blindfolded) and the others giving directions to help the person arrive at a point in the shortest time possible. We later played a few games that helped improve their typing speeds and also their vocalbulary.

On Friday after our run, we spent almost all the day in helping with the printing of the calendars. Meanwhile, Preeti and Kamala had a discussion to review kamala's write-up in Kannada to be sent to the organization supporting a fellowship for her. They also discussed the plan going forwards and what has been achieved so far etc. The calendar work was quite exhausting and involves all the elder children. Sita school helps the children write the 7th standard open exams and helps to mainstream them in the 8th or provide vocational skills to help children become socio-economically independent. The money to support children in their further education or vocational skills after sita school is raised from selling these calendars. They have been doing calendars for more than 30 years now. Asha has partenered recently to help create awareness about Asha through Sita School calendars and also better sell the calendars. The printing is a manual process and required a lot of skill. One person had to swipe the ink through the screen on to the handmade paper and only Anjali could do it properly. The rest of us (childrem, teachers and volunteers) had different roles in the pipeline as we placed, dried and checked for smudges etc.

More photos here- Sita_school_calendars_teamasha_trip

On Saturday, we had organized a team asha run at Sita School. We all got together at Cubbon park and car pooled from there. It was a lot of fun and all the runners got a chance to learn more about an Asha supported effort. The children did a great job running with the gang and also helping them out. We had a tasty breakfast and got a tour around the school. There is a more detailed report in my post in the team asha blog

More photos here- Sita_school_calendars_teamasha_trip


We did a speed workout with the kids and did the train workout with two trains. The train workout is a very good team building exercise as it keeps the really fast ones patient and encourages the runners who are slower. The focus is not as much on the individual going fast as its not easy to draw a comparision, but on the team together moving at a faster pace. But, there are also some disadvantages if not monitored appropriately. If one kid goes too fast and breaks the train, it can disintegrate! We learned that with the Ananya kids! After the stretches and foot drills, we did the geometry class with the children. I had prepared worksheets for the kids and Preeti helped make a lot of copies as well. I explored the material available in the cupboard of resource material in Ananya. I found a lot of tangram sets and decided to use them. While one group worked on the worksheets, I went over some reiteration of concepts and helped the other group through questions from earlier. Then I introduced the tangram sets and asked them to identify various shapes and types of triangles. Then we did a few puzzles from the tangram set. This way, all children were occupied and in the end the worksheets (this was quite long than the usual 4-5 questions I give) were done by all children.

More photos here- Ananya_geometry_class

Sunday, August 23, 2009

August 4th week

Sita School

On Monday we had no running or the computer classes as I was busy with the Calendar work. There is a lot of behind the scenes work with the calendar and I realized it was not an easy task! While we got the dates for the calendars done as screens for printing, we still had to assemble the images made by the children to make the other screens. This involved a lot of work after the images are done by the children. Anjali, Jane's daughter spent considerable amount of time from her schedule in doing this. It took me almost the whole day to just do some clean up on a few images (after the images are put together on a sheet to create  a theme, they are traced and then scanned. Once, scanned the dirt and spots etc. have to be cleaned up minutely in photoshop)

On Friday, Preeti could not make it to the session because of an emergency. So, it was Imo, Kamala and me. We had to work on the Skeletal system. Kamala did a good job of the introduction to the skeletal system in Kannada and had very nice interactive session with the kids. Later, we went outside the classroom to do an activity. While standing in a circle, the children had to identify the joints in the body from top to bottom. Every time they identified a joint, they would move it to ascertain the range of motion, the directions in which it can move and also relate it to the type of joint. We also discussed interesting factoids like how does a python's jaw open up to swallow animals as big as a calf, how many bones are there in the little toe of our feet etc. After the activity outside, we went inside the class room to watch a video on the skeletal system. There the children learned other interesting facts like the number of bones in the human body, what they are made of etc. At the end of the session, as a kind of immediate assessment, we played a game. I would whisper a kind of daily activity in one of the child's ears and the child would do a mime of the activity. The other children had to identify the activity and also name the joints involved in that activity. We asked the children to write down their understanding of the skeletal system at the end of the class.

More photos here- Sita_school_skeletal_system_joints_bones


The children had dispersed for vacation the whole of this week and there was an ongoing workshop in Ananaya for teachers. I attended the whole of Thursday's session at the workshop. Prakriya school had its exams and holidays for the next few weeks and hence no games was allowed in the school. The teacher training workshop in Ananya was a lot of fun and I learned quite a few things. The session I attended was more on organizational skills and motivating oneself as an organization. It helped to build a collective vision for Ananya and define your role in it. We also came up with a plan to contribute more to Ananya in our respective roles.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

August 3rd Week

 Sita School

On Monday we did our run and also did a speed workout in the open fields. we did a fast loop and a slow loop to get interval training for the children. Some of the kids were getting quite comfortable with the runs and given the right guidance can surely do longer runs. After the runs, stretching and foot drills, we all moved in the class room for a project. Marco was back from his trip to humpi and this was his last day at Sita School before he leaves. So, we canceled the computer classes for the session on Sun dials. He went through a step-by-step procedure to make a rudimentary equatorial sun dial. It was quite an experience and I joined the kids in doing it from scratch. It touched upon various concepts - geometry, trigonometry, science and geography. I made copies of the write-ups he made so that I could use it in my interaction with children of other schools. I was thinking of getting the Ananya kids excited about a real life application of geometry.

More photos here- Sita_school_sundial_session

On Wednesday, we came to know that the Team Asha 4K/8K run was cancelled. We had to make the decision because of the unprecedented fear in the city and the reluctance of the schools. Moreover, in a grand event with many kids paricipating we would be putting everybody at risk. Once, we indefinitely postponed the event, we had to inform the children who had been preparing for many weeks for this event. We had a discussion with the kids about the swine flu and the event cancellation. They all took it in the right spirit. On Friday, at Sita School they had their independence day celebration as well. It was not an over the top nationalistic festival, rather it was more reflective. In the morning, during prayer time, the children had decorated with the tricolor flags and many kids even dressed up in the tricolor theme! After the run and prayers, we had a session on the heart with the elder children. Imo had built a model and had a few videos that we had to show the children. The kid who was absent in the previous class first described her understanding of the double circulatory system and she got it right. Preeti went over the structure and functionality of the heart. She discussed the four chambers, the arteries and veins that connect to the heart and the function of valves. Imo had built a cardboard model to show how valves work (by rolling a marble through the chambers, you can show that there are only particular paths that the marble can take, with the valves opening in one direction only). We also used the paper cutout to introduce the various terms and the children went through the exercise of naming and describing the functionalities. We did lots of repition to get an assessment of their understanding. Later, a more descriptive video with special animation was screened to further the understanding of the children. We had a general question and answer session and the kids had to write down their understanding of the session to be reviewed later by me.

More photos here- Sita_school_hear_ind_day

I also got a chance to observe the kids drawing images for the Sita School and Asha calendars for 2010. The theme for this year was health and physical activity in the school. It was really heart warming and amazing to see how the kids put in pictures what we do at the school.

More photos here- Sita_school_hear_ind_day


On Thursday, I informed the children about the Team Asha 4K/8K event cancellation. It would be tougher for the Ananya kids because this is the second time their karate demo got cancelled - The first time, Valley school refused to host the kids for a demo during the Team Asha 4K/8K running event. Amazingly, the kids were full of high spirits and comforted us in return! I promised them that we still would get an audience on Saturday and the kids can put up a show for us. We did a run to the temple and back and all the kids did stretching as well. As the days went by more and more kids are taking the stretching routines seriously. With some sort of competition introduced - for e.g. holding a brace and doing the abdominal strenthening routines to a count, helped get more kids attempt it.

On wednesday, the kids requested that the geometry class leave early as they had to practice dance for a performance. We decided to not do the geometry class and watched the kids rehearse. While, most of the dance moves were observed from movies or self taught, their enthusiasm was electric and there definitely was an interest to learn dance. A few volunteers living nearby had helped them choreograph and prepare for the performance. They have not had consistent training in dance and this is something that can be addressed.

More photos here- Ananya_run_dance
On thursday we split the class into two groups. One group used the compass to map the route from the classroom (computer lab) to the kitchen, while the other group did a worksheet on geometry. Without one of us going with the kids, some kids didn't take the activity seriously. But, they did plot the path and the idea was to get them to think of angles and geometry in map making as well.

On Saturday, we got all the runners training with Runner's High and Team Asha to run at Ananya. It was quite a day with heavy rains and blocked roads in the morning. But, we all finally did make it to Ananya. We did a 4K run to the main road and back. Many kids kept pace with the rather fast runners and ran 8K as well!

More photos here- Ananya_ind_day_run

After the run, the kids put up a karate demo show for an audience of about 40 odd people. The concentration and organized effort of the kids was amazing! Everyone were impressed by their skills and appreciated the effort. Then we had some tea , bananas and biscuits.

More photos here- Ananya_ind_day_run

Later, the kids put up a small puppet show to present what Ananya was about. The kids had come up with the dialogues and the whole plot for the puppet play!

More photos here- Ananya_ind_day_run
Many of us stayed back to play more games and had lunch at Ananya. It was a lot of fun and the kids got to present their skills and learning to an enthusiastic audience!

More photos here- Ananya_ind_day_run

Balu, an Asha volunteer wrote more about the events of the day in his post in the team asha blog 

Sunday, August 9, 2009

August 2nd Week

Sita School

We found a new scenic route through the back side of the school for the Monday run. It was a very nice route that went through grass lands and eucalyptus groves. There was a big bund running across the flat lands and the kids got on top of it during the run and we all ran down the bund in full speed! The kids also jumped to get minsenkai (raw tamarind) from the tree. It was really nice to see every kid come and share her bounty with the teachers and me :) - This route was much better than the road to the school as there was a lot of open space and I also found an unused field (left barren in the off season of farming) where we could do the speed workouts. Zona and Koyla (The Sahi family dogs at Sita School) also started coming along with us for the runs! After the run and prayers, I did computer classes for the children. I wanted to introduce the concept of algorithms or programming, but without the fancy words and terminologies. We started with a discussion on cooking and I enquired if they knew how to make tea. Then I requested them to give me a description of the step by step process. As they gave me the steps in a sequence, I wrote them down on a black board. Later, we discussed other aspects of daily life that could be broken down into a sequence of steps. We also did decision making - when the sequence could take two different paths based on a decision - for e.g. Taking a bus from Silvepura to the city - We could take the Shivaji nagar bus or the market bus. Then we played a few games that could improve their typing skills and improve the ease at which they could handle the mouse or keyboard. I did similar exercises with all the three groups with variations and used a lot of english than Kannada in my interaction. Jane mentioned that if I plan the class ahead, we could introduce the words in the english classes before the computer sessions on Mondays.

More photos here- Sita_school_blood_circulation

On Friday, we did an easy run along the new route and later had a class with the elder children on 'Blood circulation'. Imo had prepared nice cutouts and props for the class. Preeti briefed the children about the concepts to be addressed in the class and the premise of double circulation in the body. She did a great job in keeping the whole discussion simple and to the point. This was a difficult concept to explain and required a lot of clarification and repition. The children used the props to explain the circulatory system. We laid down the cut outs for the heart, lungs and muscles on the ground. The children had to use the various arrow mark cutouts to show the interaction between the organs. Then, they used blue and red colored paper strips to indicate - oxygenated blood and blood carrying Carbon-di-oxide. As they described the circulatory system, they placed the appropriate paper strips to trace the path of the blood stream. We did these 3-4 times and then each child demonstrated their understanding by going through the routine for all of us. This was an example of immediate assessment on the child's understanding. We also gave them a homework for the week, asking them to do the explanation for the child who was not present for the session. The next week she would present it to the rest of the class. This would give us a good understanding of how well the children who explained it to her understood the concepts and also how well she understood the concepts.

More photos here- Sita_school_blood_circulation


We did geometry with the kids on Wednesday and Thursday. I first brushed topics we covered in the past with a few problems I gave them. To understand angles, I brought in the concept of angles between the hands on a clock. So, starting from easier ones like 3'o'clock to tougher ones like 10:10 we gave different problems to solve for the kids. I also organized the class into informal groups. I started giving activities that kept some of the children occupied while, I helped the other children in more detailed explanation of concepts. So, I gave a few problems and an activity to do different kind of shapes with match sticks (we made it challenging by posing rules - no. of match sticks, different shapes etc.) - for e.g. I asked them to do an isosceles triangle with the least no. of sticks as possible etc. We introduced a new term - 'rhombus' and I went over different types of quadrilaterals. As homework, I asked them to create any shape or design they wanted with matchsticks and stick it on their notebooks or paper. They were also supposed to count the no. of triangles in each of the shapes.

We went on the temple route for the run - its a nice scenic route and the children prefer this route to the other ones as it has less traffic and has lot more trees along the way. There is a pond near the temple where we turn around and all kids like to get the colorful fishes there in plastic covers. They would bring it back to school and put it in the tank where they keep fishes! I suspect that the fishes motivate the children to prefer this longer route for the Thursday morning runs :)


On thursday afternoon, we went a little earlier to meet up with the teachers and the founder-trustee of the school, Seetha. We discussed the possibility of providing a completely organic breakfast for the Independence day run - the Team Asha 4K/8K at Prakriya. The teachers were worried about the reaction of the parents and how best to create awareness about organic food to draw a connection to ecological sensitivity. Later, I had separate discussions with the main coordination team, running through the plan for the different aspects of the run. We finally had go ahead for the younger kids to cheer all the runners! But, they would not do any posters etc. as they had no time for that. Later, I had a discussion with all teachers and encouraged them strongly to also take part in the run - It was important for teachers to be part of the run as a team - The children would love to see thier teachers interact with them in a different context - I spoke to them about Jane and how inspiring it was to see her participate in the run with the other children. We did get a few teachers who wanted to take part. But, we also had a few teachers who were not convinced about it :)

Then we did the run with the kids. The talk about the race in Prakriya excited the kids and many of them wanted to do the 4K course that day. While, there was still the kids who wanted to do their usual games and not take part in the running at all. Many kids also got to see a GPS for the first time. I explained what it does and how we use it for measuring distance. We had a fun run that day. A few kids went out too fast and struggled a bit at the turnaround point. I ran back with them and explained how to pace themselves for the run. We also discussed about nutrition, hydration etc. on the run.

More photos here- Prakriya_run

Sunday, August 2, 2009

August 1st Week

Sita School

On Monday we did a short run. We also changed the schedule a bit. Instead of doing the prayer and then the run, Jane suggested that we do the run first and then the prayer gathering. This helped calm the kids down and ready for their classes in the day. In the computer classes we did a graph plot of the results from the experiments we did last friday on lung capacities. We also spent some time in reviewing the homework from last time. The children do see the use of a computer for recording and presenting data now. The next plan was to use it as a 'programming' interface. Vanya (Jane's daughter who teaches Math in the school) suggested the use of 'Scratch'. I have come across 'Scratch' in thulir and found it as a simple and very interesting way to learn programming. It's an easy to use, understand and interpret interface that lets you design your own games, stories, plays etc. I was a bit worried if the kids would be ready for programming. I was finally settled with the time intervals. I understood the time-table better and could finish classes in time :)

I had noticed that all kids (both boys and girls) have stitching classes on Friday after our sessions with them. Here is a photo of what Naina (Jane's grand daughter) did in her class with waste cloth

On Friday, our team met again - Imo, Preeti, Kamala and me. Marco a visitor to Sita School also joined in for the fun :) . Marco is a scientist and visits IISC, Bangalore. He designed the whole Sundial systems in Sita School. Over the years many schools and children have visited Sita School to just learn about the Sun dials. We did our running workout and the younger kids dispersed for their regular classes. The elder kids - Nandana and Chetana groups joined us for the class on health after the run. Preeti explained the concept of pulse rate and how we measure pulse rate in Kannada. Many interesting aspects where discussed - which arm, why near the wrist and where else can we sense the pulse rate easily? etc. We did the experiment in two groups. Firstly, we measure the resting pulse rate (by counting pulse for a minute) and then do a fast speed workout to get our heartrates up. Then the pulse rate is measured in 1 minute intervals for a min each. We all joined the kids to measure our pulse rates as well. The pulse rates were all recorded and we could see the change in pulse rate between the different stages - Resting, After activity (at different time intervals) and Recovery. We then watched a video that depicted a teadmill test which was quite similar to what we did, but had electrodes connected to the runner's body to measure the heart rate. It showed a smilar curve in terms of numbers. We then discussed how the pulse rate is connected with the heart rate. At the end of the day, we asked the children to write down their understanding and learning. I was assigned to review it on the next Monday. After the pulse rate experiment, Preeti, a few teachers from Indus International (they were trainees who had come for an educational trip) and I got a session on Sun dials by Marco. It was quite amazing to learn that the sun dials were quite accurate and that it involved a lot of skills and concepts from various fields - science, astronomy, geometry, trigonometry etc.

More photos here- Sita_school_pulse_rate_sundials


 My geometry classes had become two in a week at Ananya. Many kids were interested and became regulars for the class. A lot of things changed as I made the class more interactive and fun. I had a long chat with Poonam (the science teacher at Ananya who has been there from the beginning) - She suggested that I break down the group and give various activities and interact with one group at a time. Meanwhile, Vanya, Jane and Gautham gave me wonderful resource material and suggestions to help make math interesting and easier to understand. We used scrap paper to do different kinds of folds to understand angles. Later, I added a paper - flapper toy (thanks to Arvind gupta's website on toys) to make it more fun.We did a few fun games and activities to learn about acute, obtuse and right angles. We also used graph paper and mirrors to understand congruency of shapes. I tried introudcing the concept of directions and using angles in depicting directions (for e.g 3 deg east off North etc - to do this activity, we used a compass and the kids tried mapping their path from the computer lab to the kitchen :) - The material I used a lot was SMP (a british program to make math more interesting) used by CFL and Sita school at times. I got the material copied for my future reference :)

Running in Ananya was also getting a bit more organized. I told the kids that there is no compulsion for them to join, but they need to get a bit more serious if they do join. We did the drills on Thursday and later we did a new kind of workout. We did some speed drills (interval training). We organized the kids into four groups and kicked off a relay. But, based on my instructions, the team kept changing (so fast that the kids could hardly owe allegiance to a single team easily :)) - This was a hard workout because, even as the kid finished her leg she would join the group by moving to the last position and the person in the first position starts as she gets the key from the runner. By the end of the run the kids were all tired and for the first time the Ananya kids had spent their energy :) - The kids had got very strong with the distances and a 4Km run was a breeze, so we decided to concentrate more on interval training. It was anyways only a week away for the Team Asha run. Many kids had already started enquiring about it :)


We did longer than usual distance at Prakriya. The Team asha run had a minimum of 4kms and the kids were not used to a real long run. So, we decided to do a long run on that day. After the run, I went out with Somu to figure out the course for the Team Asha run. The kids had a good time and went back to playing their games after the run. They did their stretches and drills as well before their run. I still stick to giving the option to kids to play games and not run. We have a steady group of people who do prefer to run and then play. After the run we had discussions with student group leaders and the teachers to organize the run for Team Asha on August 15th. There were multiple aspects that needed consideration - the plan was to involve the middle school also to cheer the runners and provide AID station support.  It would have been really nice to have all the kids do their own posters, beat drums, yell, scream or whistle for the runners :) - It could have brough the adrenaline levels and ethusiasm for running up. I laid down the plan for the teacher co-ordinators and discussed various aspects of organizing the run - food, course, AID station support, medics, parking, stalls etc. We even planned to have a karate demo by the Ananya kids for all the runners!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

July 4th Week

Sita School

On Monday we did our usual run to the convent school gate and back. I noticed that one of the kids was finding it tough with the shoes. The canvas shoes is not working for her. We really need to get a different pair that she can handle. After the run, the kids had a computer class with me. I do computers for Nandana, Chetana and Chandana groups. Chetana is a younger group and I go a bit slower with them. We discussed about typing software and played a few games related to improving their typing skills. We also did some spreadsheets and graph plots - which was an overview of their last homework. The school had been recently white washed. Anjali (Jane's daughter) had her day off and she was paiting the school. Soon, the children took over and started doing the painting as well.
On Friday, we started doing activity based interaction with children for the health program. Imogen sahi, Jane's daughter in law is a science teacher from UK and had done extensive work in the field of sustainable scrap science i.e. doing science activities using easily available material at home or school. So, Imo joined our team and we started to roll! We had discussed the plans on Monday and decided that we will do an experiment related to measuring lung capacity on Friday, as per the plan. Preeti gave an overview of lungs, the concept of lung capacity, how it can be improved etc. Then she described the experiment to the children and explained in simple terms about how we will measure the lung capacity. We had a bucket full of water and a 2 litre coke bottle with its bottom cut-off. We did a scale for capacity from the cap down to the end of the bottle. We filled the bottle fully and inverted quickly into the bucket. A tube would go through the bottom of the plactic bottle inside the bucket. When air is blown through the other end of the pipe, the air displaces water and you can measure the volume displaced. Thus, we found the normal capacity (breathing in normally and blowing into the pipe) and the full capacity (breathing in as much as you could and then blowing into the pipe) for every child. They recorded their observations in a chart. After this session, the children sat down and wrote down their understanding of the concepts and experiment.
More photos here- Sita_school_lungs_experiment_painting

I peeped into one of the rooms to see what the younger children were upto. They were doing a 'mystical' bird. They had to imagine and create their own mystical bird with different colors, beak(s), wings etc. After painting it, they would also write about it in Kannada and present it to the rest of the school in one of the morning gatherings.

More photos here- Sita_school_lungs_experiment_painting


I discussed with Shashi and Manjula (an Asha volunteer who teaches karate regularly at Ananya) about how to get the children to be more focussed and get some discipline. Shashi was very helpful and gave me a lot of tips - first and foremost she asked me to lay down some ground rules that everyone in the class would respect. There can be children who get distracted, but they cannot distract others in the class. So, this time I made some rules clear to the children and I think I got a bit stern with them. But, in the end they all did their workout and had fun doing it too. We did the train workout with 3 different trains. One important aspect of this workout is that kids of varying abilities are grouped together and the sense of achievement is collective and not comparative. All the children including the youngest, aged 8 years did about 3-4 kms that day! After the run, we did stretches and some foot drills.

More photos here- Ananya_Prakriya_kids_running_stretching

Preeti and I discussed the idea of doing the health related sessions. But, then we had to get the children's confidence first and also get the science teacher involved. In Ananya the teachers come in at 10:30 and we finish running by 8:15 after starting at 7 A.M. So, there were a lot of logistics to be sorted out. Meanwhile, I was helping out with Mathematics as well on the same day between 9:30 and 10:30. Surely, 40+ children was too huge a group to do conceptual activities related to running.

After the run, we continued with Geometry. This time I tried making it more interactive and did concepts like parallel lines and a traversal. I used various analogies to explain the relationship between angles. We also did supplementary angles etc. The interest levels of children in the math class was higher and it was also easier for me to interact with them. This was mainly because, they were a smaller group and once the class became interesting and challenging for them, I didn't have to try hard to keep them involved. They always had the option of skipping class as well.


It was quite an eventful day at Prakriya! We came into see freshly laid chalk for Kabbadi. Somu had organized this for the day and was hoping that we could do a shorter run so that the kids could play kabbadi. The children were thoroughly disappointed and even wanted to run for both the periods rather than play Kabbadi. The children wanted me to negotiate on their behalf to get their games periods. But, it was gone :) - Slowly, the children started to relate to us. We are also sure that they have a wonderful relationship with the PE teachers. But, its always a constant tussle for the games period that was scarcely available. Quite a few kids did start enjoying the running and fewer children opted to play instead of run in the first period. I chatted up with a few kids on the run and realized that a few girls were conscious about their weight and looks - they kept talking about losing weight. I encouraged them to be fit and healthy, to see running as a fitness and fun activity. But, I also warned them to not starve themselves. Everyone is beautiful in our own way and we cannot let the world make us insecure about ourselves.

More photos here- Ananya_Prakriya_kids_running_stretching

Interestingly enough, after we started playing Kabbadi, the kids slowly got drawn into the game. Folks, realized that size didn't matter. Agility and some common sense did! It was a revelation to see the youngest and smallest girl turn out the star of the day! In a single raid she almost got the entire opposition made of some real big guys out! This got many more girls and kids interested. Soon there was a crowd watching and more kids wanting to join. Of course, at the end of the day there was a general feeling of dejection amongst the die-hard soccer, basketball and other games enthusiasts about lost games periods :)

Prakriya school is different from many mainstream schools though, it has a lot of aspects from the mainstream system it has to adhere to (and that I don't like :) ). The school has a very open culture and teachers are not 'feared', they are respected. The children are inquisitive and creative (even if its excuses for not running :) ). They have their own vegetable garden and take care of it. Some of the children have made a human manure toilet as a project, a tree house and even video documentaries on water as a project! Without any doubt the school does lay a strong emphasis on sustainable living and to percieve the world in a more sensitive manner. Ruthless competition is not a value to be promoted and community living is stressed in many ways.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

July 3rd Week

Sita School

On monday we distributed the much awaited bata canvas shoes and socks. The kids were really excited about the shoes and almost all of them were wearing it for the first time. So, they spent time in the stitching class to sew their name on the canvas shoes that day. Here is more on the shoes -

More photos here- Sita_school_shoe_distribution

After the run and some time spent on shoe dsitribution, I spent time with the elder kids in the computer science periods. We discussed about graphs and how to plot them in a computer (using MS Excel). We took some real life data like the heights of the children (they had already done that for their Math class) and plotted various kinds of graphs. I also gave them a few activities to do - for e.g. survey the age of everyone in the school and pool it into buckets to create a histogram (though we didn't use technical words, the kids understood the concept). The children do a lot of data collection - weight, height etc. over the years. My intention was to help children understand the practical role of a computer and how it makes regular understood tasks easier. We also approached the concept of average in the class.

The time spent in Sita School was rich in learning for me. While, I might have contributed in some indirect way to the school, I feel that being in the school made me understand the world around me better. There are many instances, but I will try to describe a few. The children are grouped according to their ability levels and not strictly by age. The children in each group discuss and arrive at a name for their group. The names wee beautiful - nandana, chandana, chetana for the elder children. The younger children too get a chance to choose a name. A very interesting observation was also how the children interacted within themsleves even when teachers were absent. I played many games with them and their sense of righteousness and care for other kids was evident. One of the children is afflicted with cerebral palsy and her speech is not completely clear. I have not seen any of the children make fun, intimidate or isolate her. The younger children address her as 'Akka' and respect her. The girl is brilliant and grasps concepts very well. When the children wrote about their experiences  for the day (they do it every day), she wrote that she was very happy to have us in the school and run with everyone as a group.

Prayer in Sita School is also quite a revelation. Every day the prayer song is different - there are sanskrit shlokas, buddhist namas, christian prayers and prayers from a multitude of religions. They also keep adding to their collection of prayer songs. After prayer, they have a short period of meditation and then they discuss/announce any happening/events/visits in school. Sometimes, one of the kids present her/his work to the rest of the school - which could be a song, painting etc. At the end, they have a very cute song describing themselves as a 'ragi' ball and how they roll out to class :)

More photos here- Sita_school_prayers

I also sat through many classes of other teachers. I spent time in Jane's class to understand how english is taught. There were games, use of flash cards and a stress on understanding, pronounciation and meaning of new words in the vocalbulary. There definitely needs to be reiteration. But, it should happen in multiple ways and not just rote learning. In Divya's class, I observed how art and language were combined. Children were drawing story boards or comic strips with Kannada dialogues. They would later also enact it. I spent some time in the classroom of the younger children, where I observed how a form of the 'memory' game was played to comprehend english alphabets with sounds and real life objects/images.

On Friday we did the train workout with the children. This was quite a good workout to do as a group. It also works on the lung capacity with spurts of fast running. The entire group walks as a train and the last person shoots up to the first position. As soon as the person reaches the pole position, the last person in the queue now starts. The children really enjoyed the workout and started issuing tickets to the person passing them :) - After a while they were all cheering the person running upfront. Jane joins us in all running workouts and it was quite nice to see her being part of even the hard workouts.

More photos here- Sita_school_train_workout

After the workout, we played parts of the 'Human Body' DVD from the National Geographic series. We focussed on the lungs and what happens to the body when we exercise or run. Preeti did a great job with the explanation in Kannda and we had a nice discussion as well. We did ask the children to write down what they learned from the session. We felt that not many kids understood the concept of 'double circulation' or the exchange of oxygen/carbon-di-oxide in the lungs. Our next step in the plan was to focus on each area - lungs, heart etc.


On Wednesday I reached the school for the Math class at 9:30 A.M. The children were full of energy and I found it very tough to get their attention. This was quite a disappointing day for me and I fell low in confidence. I didn't want to yell at the children and at the same time was helpless as children took over the class :) - While, some children were interested in learning more, others were clearly distracted and not in a mood to do math. This happened especially because some kids had missed classes and found it hard to understand. Meanwhile, I was trying to take everyone with me in the class.

On Thursday we reached late and the kids had already started the run with a few other Asha volunteers. They had a good run and when everyone came back, we did lot of stretching and foot drills. Many kids joined us with this. After this, we watched a short movie on the 'Human Body' and Preeti explained about what happened in the movie in Kannada. We did much better with the movie as we could get everyone's attention. They also had interesting questions about building muscle etc.

One other thing I observed in Ananya is that the kids do a lot of work in the campus on their own. Of course, they take care of their personal hygiene on their own - wash their clothes, clean toilets, their rooms etc. But, they also take care of the campus - help a lot in the kitchen, help maintain the campus with repairs etc. Do a lot of gardening and growing vegetables etc., do groceries and one of the kids even maintains the accounts for the school.

More photos here- Ananya_run_1

I went and cheered the kids in one more hockey game and in this one, there was absolutely no one other than me to cheer them :) - They lost quite badly again, but the margin was lower. The children were used to a different kind of surface and this was not a surface they were used to. But, it was interesting to observe the team discussion with the Dream-a-dream volunteer. The stress was on what to focus on - not winning, but to play better and enjoy playing.

More photos here- Ananya_dream_a_dream_hockey_game_2


We again started with a trivia question and the kids seem to like the idea of a quiz and try to answer it. There was a bit of a commotion at the start and I told them that every minute they lose in it would be them losing their game time and they assembled quickly. We also played a short game to see if they could think collectively. They were huddled around me as a group and I told them they got to shout out  a number without two people saying the same number. They failed with multiple trials and they finally understood that they could do it in a sequence and pay attention to what the other person has to say. We did the running drills and then did some speed drills. The kids were in bad shape in terms of fitness and capacity. There were a few kids who were more inclined to athletics and games. But, a good number of them were averse to exercise. I pushed them a bit to go faster (they do one fast lap for about 40-50 metres and then a slow lap for 40-50 metres) - The children were impatient and just wanted to get done with it - Thus, they ended up going out too fast and burned themselves out. We dropped the idea of spending any time discussing or relating concepts of health, body etc. to running and physical activity. There are many reasons for this - The time given to us was very minimal. Yes, technically the school administration was ok with us taking both the games period - But, that is not the intention of this whole program. We didn't want to force kids into something at the expense of something they love! So, we balanced it out with only one period of about 40-45 mins of interaction with us. The Physical education teachers were very cooperative and nice to us - but, I don't think they were convinced or knew what to expect from the program. Meanwhile, it was impossible to get the science or any other teacher to be part of this program. So, at least at this point we decided to just focus on getting the children in a routine for running. We did some stretches after the running and also did the foot drills. At the end of the session, I played some soccer with the kids. One positive development was that the school did provide us with lime juice, given the really odd time - it was quite dehydrating on the kids and I had requested for it. They were supposed to have these periods right after lunch and we could somehow move it to two periods before lunch at 11:50 A.M.