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Beyond the classroom?

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As a mother of a 14 month old, I enter the dreaded world of planning schooling. Having discovered the joys of creative learning, I go through a lot of attrition when I picture my little one in a ‘class’ in the traditional sense of the word. Of course most of us went through it and we apparently turned out all right. Or did we?

I began to understand myself somewhere in my late twenties (I am still figuring out the ups and downs of being ‘me’). There were so many things I was more suited to do and probably excel, compared to what my formal education had taken me through. It was too late to start many things at a practical level, but I went ahead thanks to the belief of it being never too late. It has gotten me this far and there are no regrets whatsoever. But there are many times that I wonder “what if…”.

I have had the privilege of meeting some brilliant young children in my line of creative work . By brilliant, I mean children who are grounded, secure in themselves, but still retain their childlike wonder. These are definitely few and far between, but its heartening to know that their tribe is increasing. Despite the commercialisation of education, this attitude of letting children be natural learners, allows them to trust and hone their instincts rather than replace it with the worldly ideas that industrial revolution has discovered.

We need more such citizens of the world. We need them for a better tomorrow, for a better earth. Coincidentally almost all these children have one thing in common. They do not ‘study’ in a conventional system taught to them. They teach themselves to study in modern systems, but with original ideas. Many a times, they are just allowed to “study themselves”.

But like all things that “catch up”, there are the me-too’s too. So the make-a-fast-buck-while-saying-jargon ones are mushrooming too. It takes some discretion to differentiate.

More power to the original thinkers. After all, we only apply what we learn beyond the classroom in real life. Many a times, we learn as we live life. So why cant formal education also be encouraged be experiential?

PS: Pic – How I teach my daughter the centripetal force!! :-D

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The Dance in my life’s journey – A reminiscence

A story from the archives of Archana’s blog – http://unexploredrandomscriblings.blogspot.sg/2012/06/cluster-of-fun-and-activities-navarasa.html from Friday, 15 June 2012.

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It has been almost a year since I was absorbed into this swarm of art and activity enthusiasts. Little did I know when I joined that it is going to be a part of me through out my journey.

I was looking for a place which can help me take my fervor towards Kathak to a serious note when I chanced upon this place NaVaRaSa. I didn’t hesitate for a moment and called up the number given on the website. A petite voice answered all my queries and said that she is on a break and not conducting the classes and I can join them when they resume again.

Curious as I was, I located this place to be on my way from office to home. I walked up to its door to find it locked with a notebook and a pen hung to it with a note saying that they are closed for a few days and to leave the contact details on which they could revert.

When they did call back it was to tell me that I can join them on the following Monday for a test. A group of girls dancing gracefully welcomed me to NaVaRaSa for the very first time and sitting in one corner with a plaster on her leg was my guru – Shridevi Mahadevan.

A ligament tear in her ankle few days back explained her state. I wondered at her commitment towards NaVaRaSa that made her come even in a difficult time such as this but she had more her in disposition to surprise me.

People came in and went away from NaVaRaSa but the enthusiasm of Shri never faded for once. She keeps on going and going and imparting new things. Coming from a background of software industry its remarkable to see how Shri has immersed herself into art and creativity. She is always on her toes to try something new, to do something different and her enthusiasm with little kids in her creative cocoon requires acclamation.

In my journey with NaVaRaSa, there was never an instance where I felt monotony of routine. NaVaRaSa was a stress-breaker for me. That one hour I spent everyday in NaVaRaSa bought with it new amounts of energy every time. There was no pressure to out do your peers, never the pressure to achieve something unreachable to you, it was always fun and learning.

Before I knew, I was one among the friendly, graceful and dedicated group of girls planning for the Second Annual Day of NaVaRaSa.

IMG_5887Oh, what a time that was. For the new enthusiasts of NaVaRaSa it was the thrill of performing on stage for the first time and for the leading set of NaVaRaSa it was to better their performance this time. It was bigger and better with many forms of art coming together at one place.

It unquestionably was a mammoth successful event and the effort put in by everyone is commendable. But my partiality lies with my teacher who did almost everything from choreographing the Kathak sequences to coordinating, with people in charge of the premise, tailors for our costumes, selecting the theme for the event poster, getting the invites done, recording videos,  practicing her own performance and to top it manage small kids and most importantly their parents. It was an event which has sketched itself in my memory to be there for a long time.

– Archana Moro

Archana is a software professional in Bangalore. She is an avid traveler, voracious reader and loves to capture the most precious moments of her life and her thoughts through her blog and pictures. She is a creative individual who apart from having practiced Kathak, is also trained in Carnatic classical music vocals. You can find her blogs at unexploredrandomscriblings.blogspot.sg

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Art Traumas

Fragments

When I was about thirteen or so, I vividly remember sitting in ‘art class’ with a huge sheet in front of me covered in what looked like watercolour vomit. The instructions for the class was to paint a feeling or a memory. I happened to feel the early teenage turmoil of my secret crush not noticing me at lunch and decided to throw paint on paper to look as confused cocktail of colours as my thoughts were. My art ‘teacher’ walked by, looked at my colourful self-expression on a big sheet of paper and actually said ‘well you’ll never be an artist’. Apparently I was supposed to do a ‘real painting’ not just make a mess. I was supposed to be creative and not make a mockery of the assignment. She then proceeded to lift up another piece of work, a very realistic, and very good may I add, painting of a girl’s face close up. ‘This is what I want you all to achieve’ was her advice to all of us. ‘But we were meant to paint what comes from within!’ I whispered to myself and then proceeded to strengthen the idea in my head that I am, as it were, a talented artist after all.

Cut to twenty years later and I’m still working through that block of fear I have towards visual arts. As soon as I take a pencil or a paint brush in my hand, there is a tiny voice reminding me not to bother. Stick to movement and theatre, leave the paints to someone who can appreciate them. But now, being a tad bit more confident, I go ‘hell no!’ I need that paint brush! I have the right to own it.

Art and creativity belongs to everyone. Creativity is inherent in all humans, it is our inheritance. To tell someone they are not creative or artistic is a big pile of bs. And for a teacher to do so, it is just criminal. Without creativity we wouldn’t have modern technology, medicine, let alone art. Scientists, teachers, you name it, need creativity as much as artists do. And as an artist I believe art can support creative thinking in all fields of work, study and more importantly it simply just helps us to be and feel. There are plenty of studies to suggest that participating in arts encourages children (and adults alike) to take risks and develop a sense of innovation. In addition there is a correlation between participating in arts and improved academic performance.

One day lost online I came across this brilliant point made on earlychildhoodnews.com: If children grow up believing they are creative, they will have a better chance of finding constructive outlets for creative energy in later years. A child’s creativity will not be just a memory; it will be a valuable, personal resource to use every day.

To sum it up? To kill the creativity and freedom of self expression in children is extremely damaging. And may I add, to kill it in adults can be disastrous.

Kurt Vonnegut famously said in a letter to a class: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.” 

I’m taking his advice. I’ve started to keep a visual diary in which I doodle and paint my thoughts and feelings. And I love it! I love it so much that I have started using forms of visual art in my workshops and as a stimulus to create movement. I have not only found a new way of expressing myself, but also a new depth in my work.

What to do to tap into our creative sources though? If there are anyone out there working through their art teacher traumas, just go ‘do art’. Even if there is no bad memories of art classes, ‘do art’ anyway. Do anything. Write poetry, draw daily, dance for while every morning. The only thing that matters is that whatever you do, you do it to be true to yourself. Let it come from within.

Anna Olkinuora

Painting Credit : ‘Sirpaleita’ (‘Fragments’) By Jukka-Pekka Uusikyla

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From IQ to Multiple Intelligence

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The concept of Dr. Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory has been around since 1983. To reiterate, it suggest that the traditional notion of intelligence based on IQ testing alone is limiting. The progress of an individual in a traditional setup seems to depend on this perception of intelligence. It is becoming clear as we move away from the notion of IQ that, given the right environment and encouragement, every individual can achieve his/her true potential. Gardner says, the goal for a society at large “should be to develop intelligences and to help people reach vocational and avocational goals that are appropriate to their particular spectrum of intelligences. People who are helped to do so, [he] believe[s], feel more engaged and competent and therefore more inclined to serve society in a constructive way.”

So what smart describes you best? Are you Word-smart, Logic-smart, Picture-smart, Body-smart, Music-smart, People-smart, Self-smart, Nature-smart, Spiritual-smart?

The more I understand this, the various possibilities of addressing learning challenges is mind boggling.  It is the answer to address all the labels of ‘learning disabled’ or someone with and ‘attention deficit disorder’ or any other ‘underachiever’.  The same concept can be learnt in so many different ways. Each student learning it in a method that is his/her strong hold – by listening, by reading, through pictures and visual aids, hands-on experience/activity, by discussion, by analysing statistics,  etc. This is not only useful to address the shortcomings of our current education system, but also for an adult to lead a complete life. The theory gives us a whole new way to look at our lives, examine potentials and look at possibilities that can be developed at any time in our lives.

From a personal experience, be it a deeper understanding of myself, or interacting with people, or facilitating a life skills workshop at a corporate house or a similar one for children, I have begun to understand this concept at a more practical level. We seem to be born with a higher level of one or two kinds of intelligences from the above group, but that does not mean that we are a zero at the others. It is just the percentage that varies. Our basic nature mostly remains the same, but depending on what we are doing at different phases of life, there may be variations. If it is important to our current context, we could still work towards what we may think is our weak point, but through a method that is our own strength. For eg: I always thought I was bad numbers. Struggled with it through formal education, and basic calculations made me go into a brain freeze. But there was one place I loved numbers – when it was to do with classical music & dance! Here the numbers became my best friends – so much easier since the medium of my learning was through Music and the Body’s natural sense of rhythm. Once I experienced this, I could comfortably deal with numbers in daily life and the brain freezes are few and far between :-)

The examples are endless! We will all find such examples if we delve deeper.

The Possibilities through these examples, theory, practical approach into actual Teaching Methodologies is what we aim at as part of this Community Engagement initiative of NaVaRaSa.

– Shridevi

Pic credit: http://adorofejeva.blogspot.in/

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Play is the highest form of research

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Despite all efforts to make learning effective, a big percentage of education still relies on teaching methods adopted during the industrial revolution, that of passive one-way instruction. In the knowledge era the efforts to make it interactive, using multimedia does bring in better assimilation of information. But it still remains passive after the initial fascination for the gadgetised environment wanes. It still caters to individuals who are already good listeners and those with a good amount of visual intelligence. What about the rest? How do we bring out the best in them? How do we PLAY that? Is there a one-can-suit-all formula for the game?

And when I say education, I dont only mean in schools and colleges. It is meant to encompass learning as a lifelong process. Right from when parents try to teach their kids a way of life they think is right, to the tutors in the education process, to the workplace where new skills have to be acquired and so on, the learning never ever stops.

Which part of the learning do we enjoy most? That which is told to us or that which we learn by experience? If nothing comes close to learning by experience, can we wait to experience everything? If that is not practical, is a simulation of the experience the next best way? Here is where we can PLAY with the methodologies and hence understand the learning.

As part of this process, we at NaVaRaSa have chosen a few tools that are up our alley and experiential in nature – Music, Dance, Theatrics, Fine Arts, Yoga & Martial Arts, Visual Media, Culinary Arts, Linguistics and Earth Sciences.

The experts in the fields come together for more depth and breadth on the subject on this forum.

A work in progress like all good research must be….stay tuned.

– Shridevi

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