Monday, October 8, 2012

Me and My Surroundings by Sirish, Jun Maya & Kashmira (volunteers)

  Me and My Surroundings

Under the theme “Me and My Surroundings” we, Sirish and Juna Maya, held seven hands-on learning sessions with the fourth grade students of Koseli School. The activities of the sessions were planned to focus on the following three areas: self-awareness and creative self-expression, heritage and environment, and health and wellbeing  Some of the activities included in the sessions were: creative movement, journaling, heritage walk, zoo visit, art, and gardening. 

Our Experience

Running these sessions at Koseli was a pilot activity and, therefore, a new learning experience for us, and initially we didn't know what kind of response to expect from the children. From day one, however, we were struck and touched by the level of enthusiasm and energy with which the nine fourth-graders took part in all activities of the seven sessions. After the first session we left Koseli saying to each other several times: “What a good group of children! They are such good kids!” The spark, the brightness and the creativity that came from them never ceased to surprise us. Here we describe a few of our experiences with these children.

Our first “field trip” was the ‘Patan Walk’: meant as an experiential heritage-education walk. Since we were also interested in discussing our natural heritage with the children, we were impressed how all along the way from Baneshwor to Patan, they were pointing out different fruit trees, and amongst themselves were able to identify so many varieties of trees! In Patan, we were struck by the energy with which the children looked around at the various temple sites and statues and by the kinds of details they noticed and discussed. For example, several times they stood in small groups around even very small statues and discussed the clothes and cloth patterns they observed and understood to be depictions of what people wore in earlier times. The day after the walk, we held a follow-up session and were pleasantly surprised by the vividness with which the children remembered the details of every site. Having seen the way the children experienced the walk through Patan, we felt confident that they would probably from now on see temples, statues, and other things passed down from the past with new sets of eyes and that these memories would stick with them for a long time…

Our second field trip with the students was a walk through the zoo guided by wildlife expert Kashmira Kakati. As one of the follow-up activities to the zoo trip we gave the students blocks of play-dough (which came in rectangular packages)…Obviously having never seen anything like it before, the children wondered whether we were giving them bars of soap. We told them to squeeze and knead the soft dough and make it into round balls. After that step, they still seemed unsure what to do next. Then we told them to choose an animal and create it with the dough. We will never forget what amazing creations appeared out of the balls of dough within the next fifteen minutes!

On Environment Day (June 5, 2012) we planted vegetables with the students. Since the school only has a concrete ground, we collected (with the help of the students) old pots, jars, yogurt containers, and buckets for planting the vegetables. The students sat around a large pile of soil and with their hands mixed in the compost fertilizer, broke the larger pieces of the soil and took out all the rocks. Except for a few shrieks and jokes over the earthworms that came along with the compost, the children were fully engrossed in this hands-on process. 

They then poked holes into the containers with a big nail and hammer, filled the containers with soil, and planted the seeds. The students then learned how to start a compost pile and took responsibility for separating the garbage at their school kitchen. It was a long and satisfying day of hard work. And every time we have gone to Koseli after that, the grade four students have happily shown us their growing plants—beans, dhaniya, rayo ko saag, garlic greens, tomatoes...and have asked us for more seeds and planted more vegetables.

In our creative movement sessions we observed how several of the students who seemed rather inhibited early on, later openly and freely used their entire bodies to express themselves, and how eagerly more and more students started to volunteer to lead activities.
The end of the seven sessions definitely didn't feel like it could be the end of a relationship. We feel a lasting bond with this group of children and wish to preserve it by periodically going back to interact with them. Having been so warmly welcomed into the Koseli community, we also hope to conduct similar sessions with more groups of students and teachers at Koseli.

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