Thursday, 4 December 2014

The excitement of a name badge!

Well!! Have you thought of making a name badge for yourself and the excitement associated with it? I had never thought of it, never made it and when the idea struck it was simply for the purpose of knowing children's names.  I did not want to face the embarrassment of forgetting a child's name and see a child's face go down when I dont know his/her name.

All I told them was - Please make your name like a badge, in any way you want and as colorful as you want and pin it up when you come for the class.  The excitement, the eagerness, the shyness, the pride of wearing their own hand made badge was a delight to watch.  These were not fancy, sturdy badges! They were made with 'simple ordinary' papers which means they did not last for more than few hours or more than a day.  More importantly it also meant that they get to make a new one for every yoga class!!! And of course I too make my badge!!

The ideas they come up with are spectacular and brings a smile on my face.  They forget to bring a pin and lo behold appears the hair clips!! and not to forget Vignesh with his name badge held to his shirt with the help of a sticker, Diwakar forgot to make a badge and quickly tore a piece of paper, wrote his name and plugged it in near his button and smiled so sweetly with his wide open eyes!!! There was a bus badge, a road badge and pattasu (crackers) type badge..Harini was the heroine of the day.  The other children around her were so excited about her badge and came running to me and said - Miss! Miss! Harini-oda badge paatheengala? Nalla senju irruka! (Did you see Harini's badge? She has made it well) and what pride in their voices when appreciating a fellow beings work.  I have seldom seen that kind of excitement in adults.

From the place I am in, it seems to be spectacular.  For the children, it is only a way of doing what needs to be done!! If only we adults could do the same!!!  The focus is on the moment of pinning the badge to the uniform and how to do it with resources available  and here I thought I was doing this activity to remember your names!!!!  I learn from you every time  Hats off to you and gratitude kiddos!<3 <3

P.S: Apologies for the poor picture quality! The badges are so much more nicer in person! :-)

Monday, 24 November 2014

Me as an Observer

Moon Watch By Vladimir Kush

It was a co incidence ,that I joined the team on Children's day!
I was curious for more than a year to know what do my friends do in the village school?  Are they teaching English, stories, good habits....?!!!.yes,what I witnessed was not only answer to all my queries, it was more than that.  It is their connectivity,dedication,interest, passion and I can add a lot more.
I saw the kids almost 100 in number, each one welcoming their teachers with a loud clap and great smile.  Geetha's yoga session and Arul's meditation session helped the kids to focus. It was so vivid,none of the kids were shy to speak English, they were curious and knew the English names of fruits ---evidence of the work of these teachers.  Many times I wondered whether the kids energy was the cause of these teachers to evolve and bloom or is it vice versa?
The new Tamil song written by Rema was a great hit among the kids.  First I thought it was the rhythms that they liked and may be later they would forget the song.  But after 5 days when I went there with Rema ,all the kids from class 1 to 5, the moment they saw her started clapping their hands---paid their gratitude for those wonderful verse.  The spirit of those children gave me goose bumps.
I am sure the vibrations are going to create a great circle and I am happy to be part of it.
My gratitude to Geetha for initiating me in this wonderful journey.

Also,Thank you Pavithra for initiating me to write this ......

- Kousalya Karthikeyan

Monday, 17 November 2014

Joy of fruits and a rhyme!

A day filled with joy, laughter, a feeling of connectedness all the time! A very simple day which was
our weekly day to be a part of the lives of children @ Sundapalayam Primary School, Coimbatore.  It began with Malaichamy, our fruit vendor @ Race course.  He is a shining example of the many leadership lessons that Robin Sharma quotes! Ever so generous, ever so smiling and ever so welcoming!

There was such a seamless flow in our team of volunteers.  Kousalya, being new to the team, chose to observe and supported us so unobtrusively by clicking such beautiful moments and recording a powerhouse emerge in the form of Arul!

After our customary Yogasana and meditation session our focus was on November 14th, which is celebrated as Children's Day in India.

Does celebration need a day? For lower primary children, everyday is filled with excitement, curiosity, fights, laughter, pushing, pulling and pinching, secrets, looking at something with a longing, eyes wide open and such a big smile when something unexpected is got - all this and much more happens whether Children's Day or not!

Volunteer: Do you know why Children's Day is celebrated?
Chorus answer: Nehru porandha naal (Nehru's birthday)
Volunteer: Do you know what flower he likes?
Chorus answer: Rose
Volunteer: Have you seen his picture or photo?
Children: (feeble) yes! (most of them) no! (none of the grade 1 to 5 textbooks seem to have his picture or that is the impression we got from the children.)

After this customary dialogue, we celebrated the day with fruits.  Mango undoubtedly rules as the favorite fruit.  Apple seems to have found its way inside the heart of children along with local fruits.  Arul shared with them the benefits of having fruits and that too the local seasonal fruits that are available all around - banana,  gooseberry, guava, papaya, mango and sapota.  We emphasized on eating local, seasonal fruits and that good health is not a product of eating apple or any of the exotic imported fruits.

This time we did not have many conversations with children.  The highlight was the rhyme taught by Arul and recited by the children, both with equal gusto! The place was reverberating with sound energy.  Oh! How the children enjoy the sound of rhyming words!

The rhyme was written by Rema to suit our theme of the day.  After they recited the poem once,

Volunteer: Do you know who wrote this rhyme?
One voice piped in: Avvaiyar!! (Avvaiyar is an ancient Tamil poet who is revered for her wisdom that shines through her poems)

It did not take a second for that spontaneous answer to flow out from the child.  Everyone laughed and it still brings a smile to my face.  On the other hand, the child had no thought of - Oh what will people think when I answer? Is it right, is it wrong? Will people laugh? etc..whatever flowed from within the child shared.  Do we as adults do that all the time? Where do we stop ourselves? - was a question I was left with.

Children made their own actions for the song and third around we moved out and few children took the lead to recite and others followed.  What is the teaching here? Who is teaching here? We were learning from the children the joy of spontaneity and acceptance and the children were being who they are - all in the name of teaching about fruits :D

And here is the poem written by our own Avvaiyar aka Rema and the powerful voice of Arul reciting it for the children is still ringing in my ears:

Vaa Vaa vazhaipazham
Enga ooru vazhaipazham
Ko Ko koyyapazham
Gunam niraindha koyyapazham
Ma Ma mambazham
Madhuramana mabazham
Ne Ne nellikani
Jeevashakthi konda kani
Tha tha seethapazham
Valam niraindha nallapazham
Ivai anaithum podhume
Engal udalai kaakave
Namma ooru pazhangalai
Naalum thindru kalipome
Noi nodigalai dhoora thalli vaipome!

Whether children or adults, this take on fruits,  is the same isn't it? Be it acceptance or spontaneity children are our role models!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

The Joy of a gardener

I was conducting a training program for Govt school teachers and the venue was the nearest Govt Highschool here.
Govt Higher primary schools here are much different from the lower primary schools I work with. There are many class rooms, there is a staff room and a lot of traction and movement compared to the quieter, smaller and two member staffed Lower Primary Schools.

Just as I was entering the school gate, I saw a bunch of children coming running towards me. It did not take a moment more to recognize the faces, these were children whom I have been with during Balavidhya Sessions when they were in lower Primary classes.
They are all grown up now and studying in highschool.

There was a wave of joy that swept all our hearts to see each other so unexpectedly.

They greet me with their usual style, a long dragging "Goooooood Mooooorning Miss"
but then their eyes and body language said so much more, they came close to me, held me, looked at me  as if they have tales to tell me.

I asked them how they are doing and I get to hear short stories :)
The most delightful one is what Reena told me

Reena with her soft voice told me that she is continuing with yoga and meditation at home and in free time at school she is helping other children in high school learn it. Her PT teacher at the highschool also encourages her.

"Miss can I learn more, I can now come to your home if you like..." she said.

I have invited Reena to come home anytime she wants :)

I feel great joy to know how some children have connected with Yoga and Meditation and how it has become a part of their life.

I now understand the joy of a gardener whose plants are flowering.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Art out of Alphabets

As I entered the class to begin a session of Balavidya meditation I noticed most children were busy drawing something with small chalk pieces that they had collected. I remembered my school days where activities like this were viral in the class, one begins and the other is drawn to do the same.
This tendency in children is a legacy, nothing much has changed over time, I saw children searching for pieces of chalk or negotiating deals in exchange for a small corner of the board to draw.
Making boundaries of their canvas and ending up in real-estate disputes.

I felt like joining the flow rather than pulling them out of their mood and making them do something that is not the current vibration in the air.

I invited all of them to come to the black board and use Alphabets to make Art. Imagine things that can spring out of Alphabets. There was a burst of creativity in the class. And here I proudly present the masterpiece that my children have created....

'A' turns into a clown and 'C' becomes an Apple, Snake curls out from 'S' and 'M' mountains welcome the morning sun and 'E' can indeed lead to electric bulb.

In the group of children there is a child who is hyper active, has difficulty in focusing and has trouble making friends. But today was different, he saw more things coming out of alphabets and surprised everyone by designing a Kite out of 'Z'. He is right there in the middle of this picture, looks like he might make friends soon too as all children loved his art work and he loved to tell stories about each alphabet.
It was amazing to see a boy with learning difficulties in the typical class room turn into a budding artist with so many creative gifts and it was even more touching to see how children naturally made the class an inclusive space to be shared with each other given all their uniqueness.

I have often noticed parents and teachers treating art as a hobby element in life. Most schools that I have visited have art, music and craft periods but they are only name sakes. It is sad that the purpose and intent of these time slots are least understood and hence are not well spent at all. If Art based methods are adopted right from lower primary schools ( at least in the allotted time) then certainly we will be setting up an environment for creativity, natural understanding and evolution in children to unfold.

I feel creativity is a building block of life itself.
Learning to create,express, ideate and more than anything appreciate beauty and aesthetics is very important in life. Dance, drama, music, poems, drawing, painting, sculpting and several other expressions of art within us can give a child deeper insights into the self and the world around.
I also feel that visual learning is more natural to children even before they can read, write and understand through text especially through English in rural schools, where  the language certainly is a barrier yet to be broken.
Children easily interpret what they see. Even small children can easily operate a smart phone these days and this happens because they observe and learn from the visual information.
Art forms can help children in developing motor skills, creativity, language and also bring in cultural awareness. They begin to develop a sense of appreciation or criticism based on their experiences, they become aware of their tastes, likes and dislikes. Their sense of perceptions can refine and lead to contemplations and periods of original thinking which is a sign of individuality.

I do not know for sure how much of all this happened in my class but certainly I saw children in their natural self freely expressing their mind and this is a positive sign for me to continue the efforts in this direction

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Love Tree

A seed growing into a tree is a natural process. When the conditions are favorable a buried seed pushes through the layers of soil and comes out of darkness into light and space. The seed germinates and grows. An inherent power in the seed manifests and it grows into a tree.

The soil of our mind is also a fertile place for many seeds to grow. These seeds are our qualities, habits and skills. In Balavidhya, through a series of Asanas, rhymes and stories children get to soak the concept of “mind-seeds

Balasana, Tadasana, Tiriyaka-Tadasana form the sequence of asanas

Mind-seeds growing into trees within us is a powerful concept that can bring about awareness in children in terms of:
- Observing what kind of seeds they already have in them ( Recognize)
- What kind of seeds are they already nurturing? ( Reflect)
- What kind of seeds do they aspire for? ( Expand)

In the past year we worked with children to help them understand and look upon qualities and virtues as seeds in the mind that they need to care for so that it can grow within them. We used the seeds of Love and Kindness to begin with. 

Here is how Asanas are weaved into a sequence to present the concept of “mind-seeds” to children.
Balasana (Seed Pose)       Tadasana  (Tree Pose)       Tiriyaka Tadasana
                                                                                               (Swaying Tree Pose)

1. The seed of love and kindness is planted in the seed pose
( Balasana, is referred as seed pose here only for the purpose of helping connect with the concept)
2. In the Tree Pose and Swaying Tree Pose, the nurtured seed grows into a love tree and sways happily. 

Children love movement and Asanas are an excellent medium to not just strengthen their physical body but also give food to their thoughts.
When Asanas are spread as an interconnected sequence revealing certain message that they can contemplate, we touch upon certain important aspect of life and learning.

Recently during a revision session of the “mind-seed” concept, a dialogue that took place in Geetha’s class ( Balavidhya Team
 touched all of us 

Geetha:(asking the class) - When we did Balasana what seeds did we sow?
balasana pannum bodhu enna vedhai irundadhu?

Children: Love (Anbu)

Geetha: What does it become when it grows?
Adhu marama valarum bodhu enna aagum?

One girl's voice piped in : Love Tree (Anbu maram) 

Another girl's voice: It gives love fruits
Anbu pazham tharum!!!

Wow, the girl took a natural step to realize that what you sow is what you reap :) even without the concept being discussed in the class.

More than two years of study, research, expert guidance and field work has gone behind designing the programs of Balavidhya and it is still evolving. Through out this period “Patience” has been a “mind-seed” that we have sown in ourselves.
While writing the first post in the Balavidhya Blog, there is a deep sense of gratitude towards all who have contributed, supported and nurtured Balavidhya.

Dheere dheere re mana, dheere sab kuch hoye
Mali seenche sau ghada ritu aaye phal hoye
Sant kabir

Be patient oh! mind, everything happens at its own pace
A gardener nurtures the trees with a hundred pots of water but the trees bear fruits when the time is right.