Guiding Light of The Month

THERE is a great difference between being in the midst of active work, of external action, while keeping one’s thought constantly fixed on Thee, and entering into that perfect union with Thee which leads to what I have called “absolute Consciousness, true Omniscience, Knowledge”. - The Mother

The inside story of IEP retreat 2010

Anjali and I were at the center just before eight in the morning, planning to set up and get some quiet time before beginning the program.

Anjali and I proceeded to stack the chairs and create the space for the integral enrichment retreat. We played music and lit up the lamps and incense. Toy corners were created, with crayons, playdough, blocks and simple games for the children to retreat to, should they need some quiet time. They were used, and frequently, by various groups of children throughout the day.

We began the games at 9.30am. Icebreakers was followed by a game of kabbadi - a game which all the parents took part in. At 10.30am, we came back for reflections. A short break was followed by a two hour craft session. Breaking tradition, instead of running activities sequentially, we set up activities as stations running parallel to each other. The children could move between activities and come back and forth between them.

Several times over the day, I regretted not bringing my camera. This was one of those times. It was a sight to see heads bending seriously over a piece of work. It was even more of a sight to see them delighted over their creations. Four stations were conducted in parallel - painting, sculpture, engineering and crafts.

The object of the painting session was free exploration. The children made their own paints - with face powder and food coloring. It was a delight to watch Rooshad's face splitting into a grin of astonishment as he mixed blue color onto his yellow color and wow! The whole thing turned a bright green. Of course, then all the children wanted to mix colors to their own concoctions and before we knew it, everyone was painting with variations of mostly purples and black.

The sculpture station was meant to be one where children could mould flour to form dough. But by an unfortunate combination of circumstances, some very gloopy things were created. These gloopy things, we didn’t know what to do with, until we decide to mix food coloring to them. Four or five children were up to their elbows in gloop, which they washed up and then made paints with colorful gloop. The gloop mixture, we discovered, could be put on paper and then, when the paper is folded and flattened, makes interesting symmetrical patterns. Several patterns surfaced - butterflies, nests and in one particular case, a pattern which we could decide whether was an eagle or horse.

Aravind and Raghu were manning the station where the children explored hands-on how to make catapults. This was an activity for the older children, and they experimented on making the toy out of various recycled materials like shoe boxes, matchboxes and rubber bands. The children investigated how they could change the behavior of the catapult by playing with the length of the arm.

Meenakshi set up the fourth and final station. It was one where the children made crafts from popsicle sticks. When i peeked into the station at one time, there was a whole circle of children, sitting around a set of popsicle sticks fashioning keychains, triangles and even a small home.

After the activities, we had a short circle time, followed by lunch. After lunch, it was back to the center for drama time. The children were split into three groups according to their age, and given a story. They were also given the task of dramatizing their stories. Anjali, as the witch on the broom, making friends with a cat (Amrita), dog (Surya), bird (Sweta) and frog (Vedika), to finally overcome a dragon (Harish), was based on the book Room on the broom. The toddlers enjoyed reading the story, choosing their characters, watching their mothers make props for them, and enacting the story.

The lower primary children enacted the story of "Follow the swallow", where a blackbird (Shree) needs to pass a message to his friend the swallow (Rooshad) who was flying to Africa. "Come to the tree", is the message. The messengers are a dolphin (Priyanka), a monkey (Anu), A crocodile (Bharat) and a camel (Viji). But does the message get delivered? It was a quaint adaptation of Chinese whispers.

The older children put up a dramatization of Robert Munsch's mildly controversial "Paper Bag Princess". Pradeepta as the dragon very creatively used several props to give the feeling of burning forests. Vishnu, as the brave ill fated princess who rescued the prince (Abhi) put on an impressive, though comical performance, which had many of us giggling.

At 4pm, the children went out for games again. Vishnu rallied the older children for ball games, while the younger children played crossing the river. Anjali took her witch costume with her and in the end, the children played a little bit of what they called "follow the witch". I am not quite sure what that means, though.

We ended the session at 5pm, with a short circle time and a couple of minutes of meditation.

As the children went home, I realized that one central characteristic of the day's events were how kid-driven they were. It was heartening to see some of the alumni of IEP step forward as facilitators, lend their strengths to the day's activities and make them fun and enriching for the little children and toddlers. As such, here is a big thank you to those children who come back often to facilitate and to continue their learning.


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