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.

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