SHIKSHAMITRA is a process for learning to live better. It is a space where one

learns to keep well and to help others keep well too. Shikshamitra has an address.

However, it goes beyond this – permeating into the lives of many, influencing

one’s choices in life and ways of life. To be associated with Shikshamitra is to assume

the responsibility of trying to live better. It is a continuous attempt to search for

activities that inspire life and build trust, or, it is an attempt to keep away from

anything to the contrary. Shikshamitra is a means toward becoming aware of

how much one can be and knowing exactly what one’s limitations are.

July 17, 2009

Changing Roles from Student to Teacher

The photo above is from two years ago, taken after an art class at our school.

Boloram is an older student who has been with Shikshamitra for several years now. He works hard at his studies and is serious about moving ahead. He is part of the afterschool bookbinding course and is quite an enthusiastic art student! Recently Boloram was asked to be in charge of the art classes for the younger students who now attend in the morning. He took his job seriously and came up with his own plan based on an art lesson he had participated in at our school and at a different school we were helping develop more creative classes at.

On the day of his class, he had small paper cutouts prepared – dove-shapes and wing-shapes – for each of the students. He asked his students to design and decorate their doves and wings using the various materials ( paint, crayons, etc.) he provided them with. He finished off the session by putting the pieces together, stapling on the wings and attaching a hanging loop.

Then, Boloram made a beautiful tree on the back of the door, also out of paper scraps, and he helped the children hang their birds in the tree. And as this photo shows, he fashioned a pretty cool bird's nest out of some string that was stuffed away in a corner as well!

Three cheers for Boloram's innovation and budding leadership skills!

July 13, 2009

The Math Class that Ended Up in Circles!

It was a Friday Math class. We were discussing exam results – not a very interesting topic. Toward the end of the session, I decided to change the mood a bit, have some "fun" to balance out the "exam" flavor.

A few days back, the children had been asked to cut some circles from paper, so with this preparation already done, I took one of the circles and folded it into one-eighth segments (fractions). I made some cuts along the two radial edges. I then unfolded the circle to reveal a very nice, fully symmetrical pattern. The children and Biswajit started to try the exercise using their own circles and many different patterns came out. Sometimes the students were encouraged to refold the circles back and make a few more cuts to bring out the designs. Gradually, we saw some very intricate designs develop. Soon they all started to use their second circles, as the first ones had no more space to cut out from. Next, out came their third ones, fourth ones, etc... The circles had now become a very prized possession for those who had diligently cut them out beforehand.

The children were obviously pleased with their designs and wanted to display them so they brought down a large sheet of paper that had been sitting around, and pasted their patterned circles all over it. They wanted to hang it right at the front entrance to our school and I let them!

After seeing this poster of patterned circles, the younger children naturally became interested and the activity was repeated in their own class, with some help from Biswajit. Some of them did even smaller sectors to begin with.

The next day, some children from Praajak came to Shikshamitra to watch a movie. As the domino effect took root, it seemed that they also wanted to try their hand at cutting patterns into the circles. With them, we also did some patterns on the long strips of paper that were left over from cutting out the circles. A few of the teachers also joined in and we found that some of the strip designs could be worn as bracelets. At the end of the day, every one of the Praajak children left the school with one of these bracelets around their wrists.

Soooo, how is this related to math? you ask?
Well, it was a good way to introduce and explain fractions to begin with; and the concepts of rotation (circular design) and translation (strip pattern) also came into play.

- Swati

July 05, 2009

New Movements

Following a very hot summer vacation, Shikshamitra reopened on 12th June to move into its fifth year. Over the past four years, many of the older students have been exposed to various forms of art but unfortunately, there has been very little scope for physical activities. We were excited to be able to plan out a two-day workshop on theater activities with Jahar Das, who performed with a renowned theater group called Naandikar for many years.

During the two days (18-19 June), Jahar led students through various activities; the main emphasis being on reducing the childrens' inhibitions about moving their bodies. The session began with self introductions where each child was asked to mention his or her name, pronouncing it clearly. Rahul had to repeat his name a couple of times till he said it clearly: R-A-H-U-L and not R-A-U-L , as he has a habit of saying. The names with consonant clusters like Shantanu, Priyanka, Pradip were also given special attention.

The children were also exposed to some basic rhythms (Taal) and Sargam from Indian Music. Jahar had the children practice them repeatedly. He also showed them how they can invent their own music by using various daily objects, such as a steel plate and a spoon, a glass tumbler, a plastic bowl – and integrate these with the music of any regular rhythm instruments. On the first day, Jahar asked the children to enact a small skit without words: Bikey posed as a person reading a newspaper and Pradip was washing his clothes under a running tap. When Pradip forgot to indicate that he was turning off the tap, Jahar immediately pointed this out. He explained to the children that paying attention to the details is an important component of drama. On the second day, they did a skit with words. After doing some rhythm and Sargam exercises, the children were taught a modern dance with an English song.

The workshop was really fun and challenging for the children – so much so that they have asked Jahar to come to school regularly to do more drama classes. We are all happy that he has agreed to take a session once every week from July so that we can finally offer Shikshamitra students a chance to see how their bodies and minds can work together!

- Malasree