Sunday, November 28, 2010

New Faces, New Friends at NIRMAN.

Hello! Namaste! I am Mary Kate Long, and I think it's about time I introduce myself to the NIRMAN community. As an intern, one of my administrative duties is to keep the blog and Facebook pages updated with upcoming and current events, photos, videos, and entries from people in all kinds of roles at NIRMAN. As an intern, I never seem to be able to find time to accomplish this...

Since New Years is still a ways away, I've made it my Thanksgiving resolution to keep these pages updated so everyone who comes across NIRMAN on the web finds new, interesting, relevant things to read and see during the next few months of my stay here. Things are developing, growing, and changing everyday at the school--some times too fast for us all to keep up! We do our best to keep pace with the curiosity and energy of the students. It's certainly a tough job.

So, with that said, let me introduce myself. I am Mary Kate Long, a 22 year old student and traveler from New Hampshire, on the east coast of the USA. This is my second time in India. Last January, I spent a month studying at the Central University for Tibetan Studies in Sarnath, just outside of Banaras. When I returned to the US after that exchange program, there was one thought on my mind: Get back to Banaras! So, I finished up my last semester at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts and graduated in May 2010 with a BA in Religion and Spanish. Having already found NIRMAN and committed my upcoming fall and winter to an internship, I felt free to take the summer “off”, at which point I decided to raise over $4000.00 and ride my bicycle nearly 4000 miles across the USA to raise awareness for affordable housing with a group called Bike & Build. About a month after finishing this journey, I packed my bags and hopped on the plane to India and arrived here at NIRMAN on 1 October. I can hardly believe I’ve already been here for 2 months! Even harder to believe there’s just over 2 months left for me in India (at least until my next return).

Over the past 2 months, I’ve been working hard in my classes—learning just as much as my students, I think. Each day in class, they are teaching me how to be a teacher! I must admit that at first, I was so far our of my comfort zone in the NIRMAN classrooms that it was difficult for me to enjoy the student’s silliness, their energy and individuality. Now however, while there are still discipline problems of course (the bane of the Indian classroom, I believe), I have finally been able to channel some of this energy into the projects we do together, recognizing students’ personalities and trying to make sure they can each achieve success in every project. The classroom is home to my happiest moments and my most defeated. But day by day I learn from mistakes, overcome them, and make it better the next time.

Of course, there are still days when I feel a little beaten… when Class 1 manages to reset my watch with an hourly chime and an alarm for 1:00am, when my lesson plans fall apart because there is another Friday festival or school event I didn’t know about, when the two dogs, Manna and Raffi, make off with my shoes, when the power is out and there’s no water left to take a needed shower. But these are the challenges of living and working in India, challenges I am becoming quite familiar with.

So, with all that said, let me post up some recent and upcoming events along with a few pictures:

October Bhaitak: NIRMAN added another concert to this monthly series featuring young musicians in Banaras.

23-24 November: Classes 7-8 took part in the YOUth LEADing India Congress, an initiative of Sankat Mochan Foundation in Tulsi Ghat and the Australian organization OzGreen. Alongside students from several schools in Banaras, our students participated in workshops on environmental consciousness, cleaning up Banaras (especially river Ganga), and youth leadership. They were even able to link up to similar YOUth LEAD congresses around the world via Skype!

24 November: During their semester of study abroad at NIRMAN, Ben Leventer and Cameron Lang, students from Kalamazoo College in Michigan, organized an after-school basketball program for NIRMAN students. The school hosted a fantastic game to cap off the program. The final score was 22 to 20! Both teams played a great game and showed wonderful sportsmanship. The whole school came out to cheer them on!

We also said farewell on the 24th to all of the six students who were studying abroad here from Kalamazoo College. We had a great evening of performances, music, thank yous, goodbyes, and good food. Good luck to all of them as they head off on more adventures around the world!

1 December: Join us for an afternoon of book browsing at NIRMAN’s public library. This Wednesday, we’ll have tea, snacks, and show a children’s movie starting around 4:30pm. As usual, the library is open Monday through Friday 4:00-6:00pm.

22, 23 December: Musical and theatrical performances in Betawar and Nagwa.

28 December to 2 January: Art Camp at the NIRMAN campus in Betawar

19-29 January: NIRMAN is pleased to announce a ten-day residential, intensive workshop in CORPOREAL MIME by visiting US-based mime artist Thomas Leabhart. More info is on the NIRMAN facebook page.

3, 4 February: Open Houses in Betawar and Nagwa

As always, please find our page on Facebook to see full photo albums, videos, and up-to-date information on events.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Subject-Specific Plays

The students at the Betawar and Nagwa campuses performed plays specific to each of their school subjects. From currency development (covered in math class), to reenacting a popular story about a mailbox (from Hindi class), the children all greatly enjoyed the opportunity to perform and appreciate their peers' work.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sports Day

On February 15, NIRMAN held its Sports Day. Students from Pre-Nursery to Grade 8 all competed in events that required them to work as a team. From bucket races to balancing a potato on a spoon, the students had a lot of fun in one of the first hot days of the new year.
Pre-Nursery Event.

Passing the blocks, supposedly one at a time, from one end of the field to the other.

Putting on, and then removing and passing along as fast as possible, the t-shirt.

Blowing the ball from one plate to another with a straw. It's harder than it looks!

Pouring the water - without spilling - from the first container, into the second, and finally into the third.

Racing with a potato, on a spoon, which is held in the mouth.
By far the wettest event! Racing with buckets filled with water.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Performance Competition

On February 11, Vidyashram's four houses (Oz, Narnia, Neverland and Wonderland) in the Nagwa campus engaged in a Performance Competition. Each house developed a set of characters with costumes and acting, linked by a theme. The performances were dramatically different. Some looked at the environment, while others were more whimsical and used music to capture the mood of childhood dreams. The students had fun performing their plays and the audience enjoyed watching them.
Students taking a bow.

Audience enjoying the performances.

Dr. Som Majumdar's Birthday

On February 8, NIRMAN commemorated the birthday of Dr. Som Majumdar, the first director. A classical sitar player himself, he wanted to build a school that would foster in children an appreciation of music and the arts. In his memory, the school invited two young musicians, Anjali Sharma (sitar) and Sandeep Kewle (tabla) for a performance. After the concert, the children asked questions about the musicians and the instruments. It was a fitting way to honour Dr. Majumdar, by celebrating his passion for music and creativity.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Parent Meetings

On February 6, the parents of students attending the Vidyashram Southpoint School came to the campus. The parents had the opportunity to discuss their child's latest work with his/her respective teachers, and meet other parents.

After the individualized meetings. there was a parents' workshop. After some announcements, the teachers led the parents in a few group activities that the children do at school. The pre-school teachers coached the parents in joining paper strips of different colours in patters to create a paper garland. The primary school teachers played a word game, to show how even a practice exercise can be interesting. The middle school teachers had parents listen to an article about rising costs, and pictorially depict how the story affects their lives. The aim was for parents to see how concrete and useful visualizing information is.

Parents discuss their child's progress with teachers. 

Parents engaged in group activities (1/2).

Parents engaged in group activities (2/2).

The parents' activities reflected the educational objective of NIRMAN, which is to encourage learning, and make the experience interactive and fun.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Republic Day

This Republic Day was a bittersweet occasion. While the school had scheduled to hold a field day to celebrate the holiday, some news from Betawar changed the plan. A child from the village campus passed away unexpectedly from the cold weather. Accordingly, the field day was postponed, and students, faculty, staff and parents commemorated the holiday and the student's memory. The children raised the flag, sang the national anthem, and shared their thoughts about the significance of the constitution. After the speeches and the anthem, those who knew the student best paid their respect to him and his family. The holiday took a new meaning, highlighting the need to live up to the potential of the constitution, and the imperative to work to solve problems that cause pain in the form of preventable tragedies.

Nagwa children assemble for Republic Day.

Irfana Majumdar talks with Nagwa students.

Republic Day at the Betawar campus.