Sunshine Around the World

Sunshine Around the World…                         

An apple pudding with bits of green chillies!                            

 

I wondered what everyone at Akanksha was talking about when they mentioned Sunshine Around the World. This was almost 11 months ago. I had joined as a teacher at Crispins 3 at Nal Stop. Without any experience of formal teaching I dived into a commitment of teaching English to children in the age group of 10-13.

Teaching has been an exciting learning experience. The emphasis of planning a lesson  to the last detail cannot be overemphasized. That too, in such a way that it should not feel like a lesson being taught. Children just need to absorb and react to the experiences in the classroom. 

 

Experiences….

 

Today, a little nervous and a little excited while waiting to see our kids go out and share with the people outside, their learnings and imagery of their partner country.. I stop to think of the days from the inception of this idea…

 

The project – ‘Sunshine Around the World’ started as an attempt to widen the perspective of the participants by exposing them to different cultures and traditions across the world. 

The idea was to engage schools from other countries and let the Indian children exchange information about their countries with students from a foreign country.

 

It was big idea. And it needed a whole lot of serious planning.

 

Akanksha had 23 centers functioning at different levels of learning. It was decided to take all kids at Level 2 and above into the project and a suitable learning plan for each levels was to be made. The learning plan would have to first include an appropriate understanding of the Indian Culture and the Indian System. And then the interaction could begin.

 

The idea took off.

 

The communications team jet started by shooting emails to schools in different countries that seemed possible partners in the project. Though it seemed to be an easy task, it was far from being that. Till a few months back we were still struggling to establish continuous interaction with some countries.

 

The project educational co-ordinators did extensive and exhaustive planning of the topics and lessons to be covered over a period of 2 years. In addition ‘events’ were planned to acknowledge and test the learnings of the students from time to time.

 

The teachers had the massive  responsibility to take them through a journey across India before introducing them to their partner country.  It was decided that only a few hours in a week should be dedicated to this project. The lessons would cover history, geography, culture, festivals, language and currency of India as well as the partner country.

 

The excitement of the kids knew no bounds. I remember I had to explain to the kids that they will not be meeting their partner kids in real! But they would be writing letters to them individually and they would possibly get replies to their letters. And that they did.

 

And on various occasions, I have found to my great satisfaction that most children lighten up at the mention of their partner countries and it is a pleasure to see them talk with some degree of confidence about a new found first-hand knowledge coming from the communication with their international pen-friends.

 

 

 

Partner Countries

 

Today we have eight schools from eight countries with established communication with Akanksha through ‘Sunshine Around the World’. These are Japan, Switzerland, USA, UK, The Netherlands, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Japan. Akanksha centers were aggregated into clusters (of 2-3 centers) – each cluster sharing a partner country.

 

Japan was one of the early participants in the project and it has been a wonderful learning and thrilling experience for our kids, reading the colourful letters by Japanese kids.

 

The Grand Finale

 

To showcase the learning of our kids from Sunshine Around the World, we decided to  put up an exhibition where the Clusters would put a stall depicting the history and culture of their partner country. In addition, each cluster would also put up a dance and drama  specific to their partner country. Kids would learn and make traditional handicrafts that could be sold at the exhibition.

 

The Making of SAW

 

The process for the Grand Finale started sometime in June, 2008. SAW meetings were called and preparations were planned. I had been given the responsibility to make audio-visual presentations on History, Festivals and Currencies of the eight countries. Likewise there were groups who were made in charge of Drama and Dance, Costumes, Logistics, Public Relations, Handicrafts and so on. One could make out that it was going to be a big event for the Akanksha children.

 

Many a time, I stopped to think – ‘Why can’t big, established schools have such programs for their children when it would be a cake walk for them in terms of resources! I guess it is just a matter of priority and creativity in education.

 

A Day in the Life for me as a  SAW Volunteer

 

Let me picture this for you – Get up in the morning….do a bit of Yoga (to stay away from promising back aches all set to arrive)…. A cup of tea with  The Indian Express…..on the Net to browse for an hour…… make food for the family…. Get kids dressed up for school……..go back to the Comp….compile the morning’s find…. Prepare Akanksha daily chit… hunt on the phone for volunteers to help make props and choreographers to teach dance!….  go to center… teach….. practice if you have the music in place…… go home…….fight with your kids for the comp!!!….. eat food…. Play with family and CRASH!!!……SAW Dreams… or call them Nightmares!!!!

 

The scene would possibly be more or less the same –except for the research mode for most volunteers working on the Project.

 

As days passed by, the SAW structure became clearer and looked more real with sponsors and resources clearly in place….

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