Category Archives: Elementary Activities

’tis elementary, sirs and madams…

Thanks to the enthusiasm of the adults (Radha and Swathi) in the lower elementary environment, today I (and many other parents and at least one grandparent) got to see the magic worked on by the children. *ganderbumps*

 

a view of the elemenary environment

a view of the elemenary environment (from the west entrance)

The adults called it an ‘open day’ – and the lower elementary parents were invited and most made it.We were lucky,

The idea was that some 16 children would prepare and very seriously present a few structured activities based on a few key montessori materials, to a visiting group of parents – and oh, it was lovely. Really… They were all in the flow of the materials and the knowledge of some of the things that are so intuitive and fantastic  in a good montessori environment.

a view of the elementary environment (from the south)

Materials such as for  pegboard, checker board, clock of eras, bead chains, grammar box, logical analysis, montessori protractor, layers of the earth, chordates & non-chordates, you are here, golden bead material (dynamic) etc etc – were presented with such aplomb and poise by children who were between 6 and 8 years of age.

I expected the children to get bored after some 10 times of presenting the same materials to the adults, but apparently they didn’t mind that. Apparently, when one child was asked “oh, it must be tiring, won’t you want to take a break and come back a little while later?”  The child replied, “I am slightly tired but have more energy. When my energy is completely spent, I will take rest…”

There was also this primary child, who gave me a surprising lesson a few years back, and ah, this child has come to elementary  – and not surprisingly, he has retained his self and intelligence – it was lovely to see him in focussed action on the peg board – he was presenting an approach to LCM to us.

I can go on and on and on about every child, but…

a view of the elementary materials room

With another child an adult had an interesting interaction. This child was with the  ‘you are here’ material. This is a set of concentric oval shaped sheets, with increasing average radii, and the idea was to say that individuals are recursively part of bigger entities, and the context goes all the way to the universe (from home, street, city, nation, earth, solar system, milkyway galzxy and then on to the local group and…). The child kept asking ‘where are you now’ eliciting answers. But,, when she reached the solar system and asked where you are now, and adult (not a teacher, thankfully) couldn’t control himself and said perhaps in a rather uncalled for  jocular vein,  ‘I am in galaxy, on MG Road’ – the child was flummoxed for a second but recovered. I didn’t. That’s because, I am a Suppandi.

Sometimes, I feel that we adults inhabit different universes – and mostly our universes are intentionally limited by us to only a few realms of possibilities. Whereas some of us adults limit our universes to MG Road, the children soar high, being very ‘centered’ that they are, they reach impossibly fantastic heights…  They may even do some inter-universal travel in their life times…

Therein lies the hope, I suppose.

Also, I find it impossible that the idea (nay, a dream) called nammashaale is able to exist! Long live the dream. I frankly do not want to wake up…

(Thanks again, children! That was lovely!!)

a view of a part of the elementary library

star (& navel) gazing

Friday, the 19th of February, 2010 saw the elementary children in, well, their Ag, Au and Pt.

The school closed slightly early on friday – so that the upper elementary children could get back to the school later in the evening, eagerly looking forward to a night of star watching.

Now, many of these upper elementary children have been working on the ideas of the universe for quite a while. Also, the school seems to have acquired a brand new and a very fine (high resolution) astronomical telescope recently – the details of which I would find out later.

Oh well. The school had arranged for a sumptuous dinner of assorted thingies and also some fizzy beverages (or so a little bird told me, oh the horror) to help the children stay awake (I suppose) and contented. It was the first night of all these children staying in the school premises overnight and they seem to have had loads of fun – waking up and watching the skies and getting fascinated and falling asleep and pulling each other’s legs and playing, periodically and practically  the whole night.

There was a Stellarium based presentation of the skies and the constellations / stars / planets that  the children were suppose to see; the children marched up and down the new ErdKinder building drawing in the whole experience, the whole night, taking turns at the Telescope.

Of course, I had a blow by blow account lasting for an hour, about the events and things that happened that night, from my sleepy child. In my opinion, this indeed is the right time to instill that sense of awe, humility and possibilities of contemplation in the elementary children. I am glad and pleased that it happened. Thanks, nammashaale.

I could still recollect with intense pleasure, the night, when I got a chance to look at the Crab Nebula. This was more than 2 decades back, when the cities (at least, Chennai) did not  have a huge number of weepy Na vapour lamps and assorted (and assaulting) light pollutants – there was practically no Internet too, then.

One January night, a pal of mine and I, had taken my good ol’ Rajdoot motorcycle  (‘Jagaddal’ it was affectionately called then by me, in an obvious reference to the nice Ritwik Ghatak film – Ajantrik – ‘non-mechanical’) went well beyond the city of Madras – spread a mat by the side of a hillock and spent the rest of the night, nebula gazing.

It was an intensely silent sight and that whole night we were contiunally gazing at the distant pasts, across millions of light years, may be at the times when on our earth Dinosaurs were happily roaming around… Even now I get ganderbumps, when I think of that night of Naasadiya Sukta dancing in my head…

That night, we did trip the light fantastic! And oh boy, how great that experience was…

-0-0-0-

Omphaloskepticism doesnt’ even begin to describe this post, of course!

theatre day, a treat that was…

Today, we had an yet another day of ‘plays’ by the wards of young Manjunath.

Manjunath of course, never fails to surprise us with his incredible  improvisations & narratives – and his  wards, meaning the children of NammaShaale, also never fail him, I suppose. They generally turn in stellar, unselfconscious performances.

This time also, it was the same, I am happy to say. The parents were also present in good numbers and did the usual parenty things at the event, just like yours truly. Life goes on.

Unlike the previous stagings at NammaShaale, this time, vertical groupings were experimented with. Children from lower elementary and higher elementary were made into three groups with mixed age bands – addressing the dynamics within various groups. This appears to have been successful, with children happily working with each other, establishing new friendships and acquaintances beyond their comfort zones and groups. Nice.

Each grouping staged a drama – the common and binding theme being development:

  •  the first one was about the development of the soul (or ‘spirituality,’ if you will),
  • the second one about the idea of development as ‘old order changeth, yielding place to the new’ kind – with a good ending
  • the third about the environment oriented ‘development debate’ and its pros and cons – again ending with a message of hope…

The first play was about the transformation of the invincible King Kaushika into Sage Vishwamitra. Apparently the child who was to have originally donned the central role of Vishwamitra could not make it to school today. But, another child valiantly volunteered,  and did a damn good job of it.

Sage Vishwamitra in a previous Avatar!

The visualization and staging of Sabala (D/O Kamadenu, AKA Nandini) that was creatively interpreted by two children prancing around was also sweet, as also the artful & creative rendering of the skirmish between Sage Vasishta and King Kaushika…

The next staging was a rendering of ‘And still, the turtle watched’ by Sheila MacGill-Callahan – which is a very nice & moving story about a turtle carved on a river bluff over a river in Delaware (USA) by lenape native americans; the story is about how the turtle watches with mounting sadness, the goings-on around him – a commentary on development.  Finally there was a happy ending – the turtle is able to reconnect with children, though from a different age and time. Even the great spirit Manitou would have been pleased to view the dramatization!

The third one was a dramatization of Lorax -an unusual story from that insufferable Dr. Seuss. When I first came across this book some eight years back or so, I was shocked to find the book not only readable, but also enjoyable and ‘reflectable’ – so much so that I actually bought a copy and read it to my daughter (you know how mindnumbing it is with children, wanting you to read books to them over and over a zilion times!) – it is a very nice (and hope giving) story about the dangers of mindless destruction of habitats in the name of development – and offering correctives. The Onceler and Lorax came alive as also the rest of the crew.

The background music and sound ‘effects’ were all provided by Manjunath as usual, including discrete prompting from the side. All children did very well, including the primary children and the erdkinder, who were the cheer-followers of the presenting teams. Good.

The interesting thing was that, even though the children in these vertical groupings were / are in different ‘developmental’ stages, Manjunath did a remarkable job of appropriately positioning the children, seamlessly weaving them into the stories and making everyone joyous in the process!

What do I say? AttaManjunath??

I am making the usual request of requesting the parents / others who clicked photos during the event, to share them if they could, with the rest of the community. I know that as usual, thundering silence will be the result, but what the heck.

One sad news though! There was a not so sweet surprise at the end of the theatre performance – there was no statutory distribution of laddoos from Anand Sweets or Kanti Sweets. I think the school should not take the non-junk campaign this far. It is too much. grrrr.  Cholestrol will set us free, dammit!

doubteronomy and numbers

This is a reflective piece written on ‘doubt’ by a NammaShaale parent and adult, Rama.  

Thanks Rama, and keep ’em articles/essays coming the blog way…

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

 Doubt

(Rama) 

I had been meaning to write for a long time now.  When I did mention the idea of writing to some they always said, “But where do you have the time!” and that’s just what I want to hear.  Anyways, here I go.  I plan to keep to it but let me see how long. 

Yesterday my sister and I watched the film Doubt.  As part of the post film discussions we realized that Doubt can be a powerful emotion. 

Doubt is a good thing I’m sure because much enquiry comes from doubt.  Men (and women) have once upon a time sinfully doubted if the earth was the center of the Universe. 

Only last week in class I gave bunch of 9 and 10 year olds the presentation of measuring the internal angles of triangles, quadrilaterals and polygons.  We measured the angles of an equilateral triangle and saw that they added up to 180 degrees.  Now, I was surely not going to give away the secret here but even if I did it would be completely “doubted”.  So the children saying, “I doubt if it would be so for an isosceles triangle or a scalene triangle!”, “what if the triangle had an obtuse angle?”, “what if it was a larger equilateral triangle?” set out to measure the angles of many, many triangles and other shapes as well.  The results are yet to be arrived at. 

But I have many times in the past seen on their faces the joy of discovery, the joy of clearing a doubt. 

The joy of seeing that the sum of internal angles of a triangle is always 180 degrees!  There are always a pi number of diameters in the circumference of a circle!  An inscribed square is always half a circumscribed square (I doubt if this works for all quadrilaterals, need to check out!) 

In an elementary class the discoveries go on to – multiples of 9 always add up to 9, the square of a decanomial is the sum of its cubes, hot air always rises; light always travels in straight lines; words that end with ‘c’ and are occupations or hobbies are always end with the suffix –cian, monocotyledonous plants always have parallel veins and flower parts in threes and multiples of three… I could add one everyday! 

The knowledge acquired is impressive but what matters to the child is the joy each of these discoveries gives him because he builds his very personality with these discoveries.  As Mario Montessori says, “When the elementary child is given a vision of the order of the universe he constructs the inner order of his personality through experiences in a structured world.  Inner order is necessary to be able to see meaning in one’s existence, to find one’s identity, to achieve independence, and to act in a meaningful way.” 

Last Saturday I spent some blissful hours doing a few higher algebra activities with the cubing material.  I was doing (x + 2) (x + 1) and I did see in the book that it should result in x2 + 3x + 2.  But I doubted it!  I did a good ten variations of x – 4, 7, 8… and saw that it worked always! Believe me it was most joyful!!! 

Doubts and disbeliefs are plenty but predictions and certainties are way more!  What can be more joyful than ¼ always being 0.25! (But in one of the presentations a child did say, “I doubt if this would be so in base 6…) 

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

Rama also happens to be the grand duchess of the school, in case you have doubts. Surprised? Please note that there is even a quote in the text, by the sonnyboy of la grande mademoiselle Montessori herself, to prove the point! QED.

ps: sorry about the laboured pfun on some ‘old testament’ stuff – in the title of the post…

elementary & primary: orientation sessions

As is the practice with NammaShaale, this year too, there were orientation sessions for the parents of elementary and primary children. On 4th of July  it was for the primary group and on 11th of July it was the turn of the elementary.

Following is a report filed by Jayashree Janardhan Ashok in respect of the elementary meeting on 11th. Though the scope of the meeting was to have been to bring out the various stages in the growth of the child and how the school and home can understand and assist the child – targetted primarily at parents who are kind of new to the Montessori mode of education, there seems to have been some ‘beyond the scope of the agenda’ interesting and impassioned discussions and sidetracks around the aspect of physical education.

I like impromptu discussions. I wish I had participated too. But, this time I have passed up the chance, not willingly, but I was not invited, luckily for you, I might add! 

Rashomon, that Akira Kurosawa classic, beckons. 🙂

Jayashree has presented her point-of-view, her take on how the meeting was and her views have been ‘pasted’ below verbatim from her email – with her express permission.

Thanks young Jayashree, for the write-up / report.

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The Role Of Physical Education

We had a very full and productive workshop by Rama with elementary parents last Saturday. Many aspects of elementary education were explored. It was wonderful initiative taken by Rama and the school in initiating such a dialogue so the school and parents are more in sync. Several questions and topics came up including task completion/following a passion project and the overall objective of balancing different work areas. Due to shortage of time we could not explore this topic fully but made very useful inroads. We then had a debate on the role of physical education primarily through questions raised by me – with active participation from Rama and several Namma Shaale parents. Reshma later brought up several questions on Math and Science education and Montessori approaches towards the same. We also explored several aspects of Montessori and the different stages of growth of the child.

I’m taking the liberty of continuing the dialogue yesterday on physical education. This is an important area and I’ve been exploring it for a few years now. I’d really like to request a longer dialogue on physical education. It will be wonderful if more people can post comments on this.

My primary intent is to really get all of us to take a hard look at how we view physical education. Perhaps not enough of us care about this. And hence this absence of physical education at Namma Shaale. Many of us view it as something dispensable – not “real” work. As parents who have chosen to put our children in a holistic education system – we must relook our positions. Several of the points I’m mentioning below are in response to yesterday’s dialogue. Here there are – and hopefully the context will be clear from the responses.

Yesterday’s discussion was surprising for me in many ways – while looking at physical ed – there seems to be a clear separation between education and physical ed. In my humble opinion there clearly seem to be several misconceptions about this –

1)Physical education in itself needs to be seen as integral to education not separate from it. Yesterday’s conversation clearly showed a lack of awareness around this. We kept separating work and physical ed. As lovers of science – one of the best science platforms is our own body. Learning to care of it is as much a science experiment as any. A sensitive physical education program can teach a lot about the human body. I’m sure you are aware of the many findings in science about the importance of a regular physical routine to stay healthy. Fitness and health are surely an important aspect of education. A human body needs to serve its owner for several years. And yet – we seem to simply pay inadequate attention to it. Most of our visions/goals in life cannot be met without physical health. I really would like us to recognize the role of health and physical education as integral to education – not something separate. It needs to be addressed in a systematic way – like other work areas.

2)Lack of physical education can really hurt the children long term. They “learn” and internalize sedentary life styles which can actually harm them in many ways and make the transition in adolescence and adulthood that much harder. Some of us grew up with little or no physical education. I’ve learnt things the hard way with plenty of health problems personally until I took a good hard look at myself. I really hope with the amount of information already available today our children don’t have to learn the hard way. It is much harder to change in adulthood something that we can learn so naturally in childhood. We should not let our own limitations become problems for the children long term. As adults – we need to offer the best to our children and let them develop good physical habits that will support their lives and dreams.

3)Our emotions also get regulated with physical education allowing us to contribute fully and freely in life’s situations. Physical ed trains the mind with many things including will power, participating fully, learning to win or lose, team spirit and many aspects of life. All of these are invaluable aspects of life/living.

4)As another Namma Shaale parent pointed out – it is a great way to learn team work and co-operation. As adults we will be working in team situations and it is important to learn this from early on. We seem to completely ignore this aspect of physical ed/sports. This is one of the reasons it is important for such team activity to take place within Namma Shaale – to help this community of children learn to work with each other.

5)There is PLENTY of literature of the benefits of a good physical ed program on the other aspects of education. Yesterday we dismissed this contribution with “work also produces calmness.” Of course while this is also true – it need not undermine the contribution of physical ed towards producing a balanced child. We need to be careful before dismissing it as “not necessary for a calm child”. Every science article I have read completely disputes this. While work also contributes to calmness – when there is so much restless energy – a good physical outlet will help channelize children’s “flight” and excess energy in the right direction. Every Montessori school I am aware of has this completely integrated. In fact physical ed is even available in card formats! Why are we looking at this as “work also contributes calmness so we don’t need any physical education?” This seems like an unnecessary restraint. Why cant we have both when the benefits of physical education are so obvious?

6)Some of the arguments were that there is too much “work” and not enough time for physical education. Are our children “so busy” between the ages of 6-12 that they have no time to learn about the benefits of physical ed? As busy adults – what can we expect from them? Ignore their bodies till they get a harsh wake up call from their doctors?

I urge you to ponder over these questions. My intentions are really for more children to learn to use their bodies and stay fit and healthy. I hope you will consider this. I hope Namma Shaale will hire a sports teachers of a regular basis and have at least 30 mins of physical activities every day including some team based activity. This will help the children A LOT.

Warm wishes,

-Jayashree

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— discussions on this, welcome; other parents’ reports too  —

elementary children in their elements

For the past couple of weeks the elementary children have been working on the periodic table and the elements – and for their part, the erdkinder have been ‘owning’ a few elements each and have been digging out some interesting stuff – apart from understanding the rationale of the arrangementt in terms of orbitals – s-p-d-f , valance, the works.

So, Rama thought it would be a good idea to conduct a quiz (with a slide projector and a powerpoint slide deck to boot) –  for a subset of the elementary students – and so it was. Today was the Q day and I could see some uncalled-for tension in the faces of a few children right from the morning; apparently there were some rumours flying all over about a certain bearded guy, who shall remain nameless, who is going to be the science QuizMaster from hell. I also got curious about this chap and was wondering who this gent would be, with much trepidation.

Luckily for that guy and the children, the quiz was conducted by young Rama who divided the elementary class into to groups and conquered, being a  divide et empress – sorry about this laboured pun, but then – don’t you know that the quiz master’s decision is final and…

It went off like any other typical quiz, excited chatter, guffaws of laughter, hushed silence, squandered opportunities, random guesses resulting in wins, real knowledge, ‘others getting easy questions’, mirth, sorrow, relief  and what not. On the whole, the children and quiz master and the scorer(who was quite Mercyless)  enjoyed it – lots of ruckus, ayyo-din and all that. Luckily there were no accusations of the QM being on the take!

The erdkinder made some useful contributions by blurting out the answers only a few times and by injecting constant backchatter – and generally lobbying for negative marks (for the tense participating teams, that is) and much else. Thanks erdkinder, where will we be without you…

All in all, it was elementary, Mr Mendeleev. What else!

I think in the days to come, there shall be more such quizzes and we are all looking forward (and backward) towards having more fun and learning.

One question: How come the periodic table of elements is called a periodic table in spite of the fact that there are more groups (some 18 of them) than periods (only 7 in number) in this table – shouldn’t it be fondly called a Groupiodic table? Any guesses? Or would you want the QM’s decision to be ‘final’ again?

visit: ballet performance

I have heard legends about Yana Lewis – her grace, inventiveness, Indophilism and joie de vivre! (she also happens to be a disciple of the legendary late BKS Iyengar, the grand-guru of Yoga, having been trained by him in-extenso)

Yana is committed to the promotion of classical ballet and has been conducting training / expositions of the art form for years, now. The Bangalore entity of her foundation has been training young students on ballet for a while now, and today and tomorrow (27th June) the entity is showcasing their talents with a many-part performance at Soffia School. (Hope I got the number of Fs correct in the name of the school)

NammaShaale upper-elementary children and erdkinder went for the performance today and were spell-bound by the nearly 2 hours of magic. Considering the excited reactions (read: going on and on and on…) of the children, even some 3 hours after the performance, I think the ballet performance must have been grand & soul-uplifting.

I am very happy for the NammaShaale children and slightly jealous of the adults, who could go for the performance and get their moods and spirits uplifted.

(NammaShaale got wind of this event and could get the invitation, zillion thanks to the timely tip-off & recommendation from Subash and Ira – NammaShaale parents – and of course thanks are due to Rama too, who made the visit possible and gladly ferried the children up and down)

PS: It is a small, small world! Thanks to young ‘Sipayi’ I got to know that Dewang Bhanushali is a director of the The Lewis Foundation of Classical Ballet  a few weeks back – I used to know this Dewang, and recollect the poise and the grace of his movements, when I was with Hughes Software, more than a decade back… It is so nice to see young folks aciduously pursue their interests and reach significant levels of excellence.  Dewang is a trustee of the Lewis Foundation which has trained the young ballerinas & ballerinos, who showcased their skills and grace. May Dewang’s tribe increase!

PPS: Remind us to show that excellent ballet documentary ‘Ballets Russes’ and clippings from the performance of the legendary Svetlena Zacharova, to our children, will you?

warli paintings, elementary, truly…

Now, my constant complaint about the attempts of folks to draw Warli-like  murals is that, they almost always get the physics hehind them absolutely incorrect. Even now, this is true of a chic restaurant on Church Street, Bangalore – which continues to display splendidly useless and unreal warli-like paintings/murals.

Sometime towards the end of the previous academic year, my consternation reached such abysmally low & basal levels that, I spent some half-an-hour ranting against bad science in drawings (and films), to the hapless erdkinder who were probably mildly amused…

However, the original aboriginal paintings have no such flaw. The original drawings have their own grammar, form and a nice content,  and they respect science, physiology and symbols – and have a fairly simple graphic vocabulary.

In this context, I got to see a couple of paintings of warli-like stuff, done by an Elementary child in NammaShaale. I was gratified, and all my negativism vanished. They are quite reasonable, though with a different non-canonical colour schema, including background – and they have life.

They are here:

This must be one of the first trials...

This must be one of the first trials...

graduated to the redmud background...

graduated to the redmud background...

one more - the bottom half of the second scan - thanks to smaller bed size of my scanner...

one more - the bottom half of the second scan - thanks to the smaller bed size of my scanner...

More information on warli paintings here: http://india.gov.in/knowindia/warlifolkpaintings.php

(Incidentally, NammaShaale logogram is a warli inspired one)

school closes for summer, and…

It was a major flurry of activities and a frenzy of movements in NammaShaale, today!

primary colours

primary colours

The colourful (their dresses and themselves) children were moving around all over the place, but there were definitely methods behind the madness, as Shakespeare would have admitted.

You can't make me give up my chair!

You can't make me give up my chair!

For the children in the primary,  it was like any other normal day of joy filled work –  with the circle time seeing them lustily singing their major repertoire of songs – for one last time before they take over the summer holdays…

the queen with the plebians

the queen with the plebians

For the elementary children, it was a busy day. They had to complete whatever pending work they had, and the cleaning – the  cleaning up and clearing of the various pieces of art, work etc etc that they had done during the term, and organize everything. And then the excited ritual of asking  ‘what are you going to do in the holdays, ya?’ There was also this huge exchange of books amidst the children – our child took some 16 books for distribution and brought back an equivalent number, probably from various sources. I love this!

Amidst all this, they even managed to watch the delectable Pippi On the Run – the 1977 english version of the 1970 swedish original. This interesting series of stories based on the young girl Pippi Longstocking, full of beans, were written by Astrid Lindgren. Recommended – both books and the film.

Finally, after many a slipped deadline, and after a harrowing ‘science test,’ our erdkinder finally managed to complete their vegetable patches. They each had to dig a pit of 3 ft x 3 ft x.75 ft – a box like pit with about 3 inches of mud bund/wall all around it. and fill it up with three layers – each layer of which contained 1 inch thick leaves, rotten manure, soil sublayers – in all making up some 9 inches of matter, with a little bit of moisture – which will turn into rich humus filled soil, thanks to the constant work of termites and soil micro organisms, in the next couple of months… They have covered their pits with sheets of newspapers, so that moisture will be retained in the pits. By the way, there are two major uses of newspapers that I have found to be interesting – and am not at all talking about the news value of them etc, they are:

  1. They make a fine mulch (Times of India is good only for this, that too, without those execrable glossy pages, which are not easily compostable; unfortunately, the best mulch would be ‘The Newyork Times’ – but I should not be greedy.
  2. They are useful to clean glass. (The Economic Times is great – but only for this purpose)
amused lower elementary children...

amused lower elementary children...

We are planning to use a combination of ‘square foot gardening’ and the agricultural scientist Nammazhwar’s ‘sandwich’ method to grow vegetables/greens. This will happen during the next term – we will use only open-pollinated ‘naati’ seeds – and of course no artificial pesticides, fungicides, weedicides and fertilizers.. Wish us green thumbs please!

Yesterday, the erdkinder air-layered one of their future trees each, and by the time they get back to the regular school post summer, the ‘treelings’ will be ready for propagation / planting – they will own one tree each.

We plan to work with the erdkinder for a few more weeks – more or less trying to significantly complete the ‘syllabus’ for the 10th Std exams (f0r the few children who would be taking it during the summer of 2010); and I don’t know what’s wrong with these children, they all want to come and learn. I do not remember to have been so enthusiastic about learning & school, that too during holidays. Whatever happened to the good ol’ ritualistic hating of schools, teachers and education, thanks much to Pink Floyd. And, to think that I thought they were sick and tired of us…

you stare, we photo shy

you stare, we photo shy

For the adults AKA teachers, it is going to be a really busy time in the next couple of months, planning at a very micro level, for each and every child -identifying individual learning levels and factors, mapping it to benchmarks, identifying the possibilities of improvement and how best to encourage the children to learn more, further on, remedial work, calendar etc etc. There would also be additional training and booster doese, so that the child’s interests continue to stay supreme. There are assorted other things such as inventory of materials and stationery, things to be repaired, new stuff to be ordered and get delivered, the works…

Considering everything, I think the holiday plans of the teachers are jinxed. But being a dabbler and a crafty guy, I plan to decamp without notice.

And, for a change, all of you parents and teachers – you can also contribute to the blog, if not to the school? I am tired of reading the blog, I might as well maintiain a private diary, yeah?

Happy holidays, continue to keep in touch, brush your teeth every night.  See you all in the next academic year. Well, most of you.

(And, if you don’t want to receive the update mailers or if you don’t want to be associated with the NammaShaale community anymore, for any reason – please inform me so that I can take your email id off the list. I have no intention of spamming you.)

visit: belum (underground cave system), kurnool dist, AP

This Belum was humbling, at many levels.

The parents of the upper elementary children, would have noticed in the recent past that, there has been a major spurt in the interest of children about caves, their geology, the works. Reason: a good amount of work (montessoriese for ‘studying, persevering, developing skills / knowledge / self’}, had been done, a lot of materials had been presented, children had branched off in various directions, synthesizing their knowledge from various sources. The ‘practical’ experiments included subjecting lime stone & marble to reasonable concentrations of acids (all under watchful and wary eyes the adults, ofcourse) to show the effect of wear/erosion when the stones/minerals are/were subject to the fascinating primordial forces… Fhe formation of stalactites and stalagmites… The magic worked by water flows thusly creating caves…

They had also viewed the excellent episode on caves (#7) of the “planet earth’ series and held animated discussions about the episode, later.

So, the adult in the environment (we will just call her Rama, any resemblance to any livid or dude person is purely coincidental) was keen that the children close their activities with a visit to a real cave system. The hunt began, Rama visited the Belum  (kind of scouting trip) and was completely bowled over by it. Subsequently, whatever we discussed just about anything, would end up veering over to Belum and the wonder that it is etc etc – and I almost cave up on Rama. Ha. But now I understand her sentiments…

So, a visit to Belum was planned – but then. there were so many details to be looked into, so many loose ends needed to be tied up – what with the ‘availability’ of children on weekends and a good 300 km distance that separated NammaShaale and Belum.  Belum is in absolute and delightful boondocks and because of the distance, we had to plan for overnight stay, costs were prohibitive, there were quite a few doubting jonases (including yours truly). Quite a few times the trip was planned and cancelled (all increasng the tempo and queering the pitch) as some piece or the other of the jigsaw puzzle that the logistics nightmare was, fell off at the last minute. Finally, finally it happened on 21-22, March, 2009 – and by gawd and o boy, it was nice!

A few of the staff  of NammaShaale, along with all the ‘upper elementary’ children and erdkinder – in all, some 30 of us, set off on saturday morn (21rd March), by a hired & comfy Rajahamsa KSRTC bus at 9.00 AM sharp. Sharp. I could not believe it when it happened! How can it happen? How come no parent rang up at the last nanosecond and say that he is caught in a traffic jam with a loaf of bread and his child only 20 kms away, from Chennai that is, and so would the bus please wait for just 10 hours? I pinched myself pretty hard and yelped. It really hurt mightily.

The journey – to and fro – was reasonably uneventful, in spite of the COMPLETELY charged children only 25 in no, CONSTANTLY eating/chatting/screaming/playing – by god, the two day-one night trip was over on sunday night. *phew*

All in all, it was a great experience, with folks AP tourism dev corp who are maintaining the cave system owned by the Dept of Archaeology, literally bending over backwards to please us. The boarding and the lodging provided were of a very nice kind… The children (um, including myself) were COMPLETELY bowled over by Belum. Stunning.

There are authorized guides available at Belum and we were fortunate enough to be guided by an enthu cutlet of an young man – Sri Nagamuni.  He very nicely explained the history, science, geography, myths and pretty much everything about the cave. It was amazing to see ALL the children listening to him with rapt attention and following him carefully; there was no jostling, no passing out – they were orderly, in spite of the high humidity within the cave system and its (sometimes) claustrophobic passages. The pre-work that the children had done, reflected on the way they took in the whole environment – and the qustions they asked. Eager beavers, what else…

Of course, there were the morbid arts of the ubiquitous vandals in a few places, in spite of the best offorts (honest) of the APTDC people – and I was glad to learn that ‘KUMAR LOVES KAVITA’ – all in CAPITALS and hoped that Kavita also reciprocated the feelings. Since the grafitti happened on 12-3-2004, may be they have, by now,  some children too, and what a great feeling they would have when they come back to the cave with the whole family and look at their pristinely preserved grafitti. May be this time, they will paint the whole cave RED! I have become tearful, a sentimental fool that I am! Tender moments… whate else! %^$#@*&

The children also did a nice bit of stargazing, thankfully not the Aamir Khan types – and the older & pesky children pestered us for some ghost stories, at the indecent hour of 11 PM – in the night. After listening to a few of the ghastly ghost stories, with every twig snapping and rustling of leaves psyching them no end, some of the intrepid fellers decided to go on an AntiGhostMarch in the dark night, amidst distant howls (well, of laughter may be – by the braver ones who stayed back) to prove it to themselves that they are not afraid of ghosts. I too gingerly joined them. Luckily, I was protected by a ring of these youngsters, so I continued to be brave. Sheesh, the things that one has to do, to earn the respect of these youngsters… I still shiver when I even plan to think of it.

… Among the usual reports and diarization of the impressions of the children, we may even have a quiz exclusively devoted to caves. The questions would be similar to:

What is common to Belum and Pepsi?

(actually a wag, um, in fact a child, said when asked the question: Pepsi is avaliable in the cafeteria near the Cave! Bleh!! Our urban children are soooo so very smart!)

Would you know the answer please? 🙂

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Special thanks to Rama, who made it happen. Belum was lovely.

PS: The photos are yet to reach me, so that would be another post, if and when I get them.