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.

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