Newsletter Nov’16 – Apr’17

As we write this newsletter, our minds are filled with images of our children spontaneously dancing to music, singing with gusto and the audience cheering loudly! Our Annual Day function just got over and was a huge hit. We never imagined that our 4 to 7 year olds could tirelessly perform for almost two hours. The teachers and the nursing students from the hospital also joined the fun and danced for a couple of songs.

Interaction with Parents

We believe that our education work, to be truly effective, should not stop with the child but has to extend to the parents also. To foster a deeper involvement in the learning process and to encourage participation we requested parents to visit the school as observers and have one to one meetings with us. We set aside dedicated time for their visits during November/December. We staggered the timings of their visits. They visited their child’s class as a silent observer to understand the learning process as it unfolded and then discussed their child’s  progress with us privately.

This was an intense exercise as it involved continuous interaction with the parents but it was well worth the effort for both sides.

We had another parents’ meeting in March. Most parents participated enthusiastically. The meeting started with the feedback from the parents. Most of them were very positive and some of them related interesting anecdotes.  After that we had discussions about the contribution of parents, uniforms, children’s progress, TV  watching, admissions for the coming year etc. The children then put up a performance for their parents and also individually showed them their files and work in school.

Pongal Celebrations

Pongal is an important festival in the valley and it is a custom here at Thulir to celebrate Pongal in the campus with students and staff. This year also we had loads of fun during pongal, Children and teachers were completely involved in the activities right from the beginning to end. Cleaning the campus, planning decorations, applying cow-dung paste on the mud walls and floor etc.

Children unleashed their creativity on the classroom walls and each painting was unique in its own way. Pongal was cooked together and the women danced the traditional folk dances. Colourful rangolis from the children and staff adorned the walls and floor.

Project based learning

As part of our ongoing project based learning approach, children worked and collaborated on two projects

Plants

For this project, children were split in groups and each of the group were given separate patches to grow plants. They planted different varieties of seeds and observed multiple factors that affect or promote plant growth

  • What does a plant need to grow ?
  • The role of air, water, soil and sunlight in the life of a plant
  • Lack of these natural resources and its effect on the plant
  • The effect of chemical fertilisers etc.

Every week, they observed their patch, conducted measurements, tabulated and graphically depicted the growth of the plants. Later, they enacted a play stressing the importance of plants.

Water

Children learned about various types of water sources, water types, water cycle, various phases of water through observation and some experiments. e.g: boiling, freezing water. We also discussed our dependency on water.

We conducted a small awareness rally through the village stressing the importance of saving this precious resource. We wrote placards, created and shouted slogans and with the help of Sakthivel fixed the leaking community taps on our way. It was surprising to see the normally shy, quiet and diffident teachers and nurses chanting slogans loudly and enthusiastically through the village!

During the annual meeting of the Sittilingi Organic Farmers Association, our students performed a play on the importance of trees. The play was a reflection of village life. The 500 members of the audience cheered throughout the play and later congratulated the children on their performance. This was the first time our children had performed in front of a large audience (mostly strangers) but they pulled it off beautifully.

Village Trip

Most of the teachers and students had not visited each other’ villages. We decided to go on some local trips. We took the children to Thanda, the Lambadi hamlets in the valley. We visited students’ homes and also a small power loom plant. We observed how a loom works and how weaving is done.

Through out these projects children had lots of learning & fun – observing, collaborating, experimenting etc. The fact that learning can indeed be fun was palpable throughout these interactions.

Camping Out

Most of our 6 and 7 year olds had never stayed a night away from their parents They were very excited when a night out at school was planned. That whole night was filled with excitement and fun. We all collaborated and cooked our dinner using firewood and a star gazing session ensued after it.

Marudam Trip

15 children along with 4 teachers visited Marudam Farm school, Thiruvannamalai. Our children attended some of the sessions in the school. In the evening we visited the big temple and the Ramanashramam. We spent the second day in the Park developed by The Forest Way Trust.

Children played for hours in the slides and swings in the Park, it is also a great learning space with life-like paintings of various species of birds, snakes, trees, orchids and interesting facts about each of them. All of us fell in love with the park.

With the guidance of Thomas from Marudam school, Children baked cinnamon biscuits in the oven. They also learned new games that are popular at Marudam. The way these 6 and 7 year olds had their baths on their own and got ready by 6 am in the morning and the way they handled the crowded public  transport buses amazed us !

Scratch

With Sreyarth’s help Children created multiple programs in scratch and tried their hands in simple animation scripts. They went on to create an animated story, “Hathi, the elephant” and presented it to the rest of the school.

Workshops

This was a community where people used to sing and dance together. Most of that is lost now. In an effort to bring back some of that spirit we invited Mr. Mohan from Polur for a week to conduct an intensive folk dance workshop. Teachers too participated and learnt dances enthusiastically.

Four teachers are attending a two day yoga workshop every month. This is being conducted at THI by teachers and therapists from Yoga Vahini. This school of yoga is based on the Krishnamachari tradition of yoga.  Our teachers are learning to observe their bodies, minds and breath and how to guide children and others to do so and reclaim control over one’s s own health and well being.

The Sittilingi Run

A dream for many years, finally came true this year on January 22 nd. The youth from Thulir and THI got together and organised this beautiful event. There was much comradrie, laughter, sportsmanship and team spirit as around a hundred men, women and children ran the 10 Km and 5 Km runs! The weather co- operated completely and we couldn’ t have asked for a better day. Santhosh and friends from Runner’s High arrived and participated to provide encouragement and support!

Sakthivel and the BT students group participated in the Auroville marathon in February.

New School Construction

The new school campus is taking shape faster than we had imagined. Walls of three classrooms have come up to 8 feet height. The walls of the fourth and fifth are at 3 feet. The ferro concrete roofing channels are being fabricated. Most of the work is being done by the Thulir Alumni.

New Additions to the Thulir family

We welcome Ram, Archana and their 3 year old daughter, Sharada, to the Sittilingi community. They have left lucrative careers in Bangalore and shifted to Sittilingi. Their coming has definitely given an impetus to the work. We are happy that they have quickly adjusted to rural life and become a part of the Thulir team!

Visitors & Volunteers

In support of Thulir’s efforts and to fund-raise for the new school campus, a group of 10 young architects from Bangalore & Pune cycled to Sittilingi from Bangalore. The distance was about 200 km and they cycled close to 100 km a day. Some of us from Thulir also cycled from Sittilingi, planning to meet & greet them on their way. We met the group near Theerthamalai and accompanied them to the campus.

  • Nandini, a student from NID Ahmedabad visited our school and taught some songs and guided the children in Art.
  • Two groups of children from Marudam Farm school visited Thulir on two separate occasions.
  • Valli and Ilakiya two architecture graduate students visited Thulir.
  • Jaishankar & Madan, students of architecture, from Adhiyaaman college of Engineering are interning at Thulir and helping us with the construction of the new school campus

Sunder, a volunteer from Delhi and part of our team for about an year,  completed his stint at Thulir and has gone back to Delhi for higher studies. We thank him for all his efforts and wish him the best in his pursuits.

This summer has been especially fierce and we came very close to a severe water crisis, thankfully we made it through. The school is now closed for the summer holidays and teacher training classes are in progress, it’ll reopen on the first week of June.

We all are thrilled and excited about the new campus taking shape and at the same time gearing up for the new challenges that face us in the new academic year.

Thank you all for supporting us through all this.

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Newsletter July-October 2016

Many new and exciting developments are taking place at Thulir!

Creation of the new School

After innumerable designs, discussions with the teachers and students and changes, we have finally started on the foundations of the classrooms last month! We would like to create an environment which is aesthetically pleasing, cost effective, environment and child friendly while satisfying the government norms.

The campus will be built by the local artisans we have trained over the years and it will use renewable energy as far as possible. Kumar is the latest addition to our Thulir team. He is from Naikuthi village and will be helping us with site supervision.

Gift Of Water

The Thulir Alumni under the leadership of Perumal dug an open well in the new school land. It was a pleasure to see them organise and conduct the whole operation very professionally.

We are really happy to have struck water at 12 feet and now we have a well full of water! Thanks to the water divining by Regi.

The first cottage

Sakthivel, Jayabal and the present batch of BT students. built a small cottage to store materials and for a caretaker to stay.

A new technique of mud walling – in situ mud concreting – was tried out here. We mixed mud, debris from the well digging, some stones and a small percentage of cement and poured it into bamboo shutters to make the wall.

Tree planting Mela

Govinda and Leela from Marudam School organised a tree planting weekend in the new land. Teachers and students from Marudam brought energy, enthusiasm and tree saplings and joined with our teachers, students to celebrate nature and friendship! The immense satisfaction of work like this and the bonding with like-minded people overshadowed the hot punishing weather and the hard physical work.

The Thulir team continued the planting and watering work through the rest of the week. In spite of the monsoon playing truant in the month since, the saplings are happy so far.

Teacher training workshops

At the beginning of this academic year, Poornima conducted a two day workshop for teachers at Thulir. Later, Jessica from Marudam Farm School visited Thulir and conducted a workshop on Pedagogy through movement and games.

Nikita from Marudam initiated an impromptu craft workshop for teachers when she visited Thulir with Ram.

Chitra, Sinthamani and Sasikala from Thulir attended a teacher training workshop at Marudam from October 20th to 22nd

We are grateful to our friends at Marudam, for providing these additional learning opportunities to us. Training programs such as these have indeed broadened our horizons and will definitely help us to take on the huge challenges of the new school.

Music and Dance workshop

Shirly and Baby, the founders of Kanavu Gurukula at Wynad visited with their daughter Shanthi from 20th to 23rdOctober and conducted a song and dance workshop. They got all of us to shed our inhibitions and dance.

Music and dance feed our souls and it is a shame that hardly any of us sing or sway to music nowadays. Even adivasi communities are not engaging actively with these art forms but are just becoming passive consumers of it. We hope they will visit regularly and continue these activities.

Parents Meeting

We continue to engage with parents, as we strongly believe that an educative process cannot happen in isolation and parents play a critical part in their children’s learning. We had two parents meetings: one in June and one in September.

Parents actively participated in these meetings and they were very keen to know about their child’s academic performance. Teachers engaged them with the works of their children and provided constructive feedback.

In an open discussion, most of the parents expressed immense satisfaction with the school and they were happy about their child’s progress.  The recurring question about children climbing trees was discussed again in this meeting, with some of the parents apprehensive about tree-climbing and others confident about the benefits of it.

We stressed the need to question ourselves as Adivasi parents, whether our negative response to tree climbing is due to the outside urbanised society’s influence; which makes us feel that our way of living or being with nature is “backward/wild” and must change? How do we educate our children to learn the skills of the modern world while not losing the inherent positive qualities of the local community?

Overall, the session was filled with buoyant enthusiasm with cheerful exchanges, feedback, questions and concluded with a wonderful performance by the children. We look forward for such meaningful participation and interactions from the parents in the upcoming meetings.

Participation in the Bangalore Marathon

On October 16th, Sakthivel, Prabhu, Annamalai, Mohan, Perumal, Raghu, Sriram and Karthi participated in the Bengaluru Marathan 5K run

Participation in the Craft Week at Marudam

Sakthivel was a resource person for the Marudam craft week and guided students in bamboo craft work. The BT course students participated in the craft week and learnt various crafts.

Scratch

Sreyarth shared his knowledge about scratch programming with the children – Scratch, is a free programming language, with which you can create your own interactive stories, games, and animations.

Children were immediately hooked and we could witness the immense satisfaction in their eyes. Moreover, this process encouraged them to use English naturally without explicit instruction.

In a way, “scratch” not only helped them to gain programming exposure but also provided a great language learning experience. We intend to use scratch programming as a creative learning tool in the coming months, watch this space…

School Trip to Mel and A.K. Thanda

Our children come from six villages in the valley – Thanda, Sittilingi, Moola Sittilingi, Velanur, S.Dadampatti and Rettakuttai. We realised that many of the teachers and students had never visited each other’s villages. So we decided to organise exposure trips to different parts of the valley.

The first trip was to Thanda. It was an eye-opener to the fact that money, exotic locations and costly gadgets are not necessary for children to have a good time.

Melthanda and A.K Thanda are Lambadi hamlets in the valley. The Porgai artisans who create the beautiful embroidery are from here. We all carried our lunch boxes and children discovered great nooks, corners and slopes under various trees to play and have a great time.

Project based learning

In our project based approach to learning, every month we choose a theme and base our activities around it. Through this process, children gain knowledge and skills by working over a period of time – learning about the concepts, investigating and asking questions.

This time we chose three difference themes: Colour, Food & Five senses.

Colour: We learnt about different colours, their formation, making natural & artificial colours, colours in our lives etc., children were encouraged to express their interpretation of colours through multiple art forms –  watercolour paintings, play and songs

Food: We learnt about food, traditional & modern, methods of cooking, nutritional value of food along with theoretical & practical activities related to food.

We also tried our hands in cooking some traditional recipes.

Five senses: We learnt about the five senses – Sight, Touch, Smell, Taste and Hearing. Children experienced these sense expressions in their myriad variations. The setting of the school amidst nature provided ample opportunities for us to tune in to these oft-neglected sense experiences.

Various games and activities, in which each of the senses have to be used in a discerning manner, were held. Learning about the world around us, not only intellectually but with all our senses, was fun.

Visits/Visitors/Volunteers

  • Anita Balasubramaniam visited us in September. She conducted a small workshop with a handloom and taught us how to weave. Teachers and some children started to learn weaving

  • Vidya – a Young B.Ed student from Dindigul, volunteered in the school for 2 months.
  • Sunder – from Delhi is volunteering here and taking English classes. Sunder doesn’t know Tamil and it is heartening to witness our children interacting with him despite the language barrier.
  • Accompanied by Senthil from Helikx open school, 10 students and 1 professor from Kumaraguru college of Engineering visited in September.
  • 30 teachers from Teach For India, visited in October and interacted with our children and teachers
  • About 50 students from VIT, visited the valley and witnessed the Alternative building technology implemented here.
  • Krishna was invited by the architecture department of VIT as the jury for their rural design project.
  • Anu was invited to talk in the Children’s day celebrations and valedictory function of the Helikx Open School, Salem.

As we embark on this journey towards building a new school, we need all your support and encouragement. Please spread the word about the construction of the school and help us fund-raise for the buildings. Every small bit counts and  let us together create a meaningful learning space for the children & adults.

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Newsletter January-June 2016

There is fresh life all around us as we write this! Fresh grass, tender leaves, new flowers, new sprouts … Yes, a few good showers in the last 10 days have ended the blistering heat of the hottest summer here for ages, bringing great relief. All of us are now looking forward to the start of the academic year!

New Thulir Road

When Thulir started in 2004, there was hardly a proper road connecting it to the village. The mud path from the village ran over a stream bed that would fill up with water whenever it rained. Children would stop coming to Thulir whenever this happened. The road used to be so slushy that many a pair of slippers have been lost in the clay.


A bridge was finally constructed across the stream some years ago. But now from February this year we can boast of a brand new tar road!

Land At Last

After two years of intense searching, land for the new school has been identified and was bought this March.

This 3 acre piece of land is more central in the valley, about 1.5 km from the present Thulir campus. It is also easily accessible from Velanur, Kalaiyankottai, Nammankadu, Sittilingi, Moolasittilingi and Malaithangi. Yet, it is also far enough from any government school to satisfy all the requirements.

The 2 acre land which Thulir had earlier bought for the resource centre was found unsuitable for the school. It had no scope for expansion and was very close to the Sittilingi village and the existing government primary school. This land has now been transferred to the Tribal Health Initiative for its Organic Farming marketing activities.

We have now fenced the new land. In the coming month we will dig the well and then start the construction.

The process of designing the school is on, with inputs being taken from both teachers and students.

New Teachers

It was felt that the school needed a few more teachers with degrees in education. Once again, news of this spread through word of mouth to all the villages. Ten local youngsters with B. Ed and DT. Ed degrees applied. For the first time in the history of Thulir we had to conduct an exam and an interview in order to select people!
Jeyachitra and Sinthamani from Naikuthi and Rettakuttai villages respectively have joined the Thulir Team from April 1st. They seem to have bonded well with the rest of the team already.

Sports Day for the Government School

Regular evening classes for the government school children were put on hold this year as the Thulir team was preoccupied with the starting of the primary school. However, some children came in the morning to train for the 10k, 5k Runs that we participated in this year. We also conducted a Sports Day in February for them.


Though there were no formal announcements of this event, word had spread in just two days and a total of 104 children turned up to participate. The sweltering heat of the day could not curb the childrens’ enthusiasm; they all declared that they wanted the events to continue and never stop!

As usual, there were prizes for all the participants and not just the winners.

Annual Day – April 16th

The Annual Day at the end of the academic year was an opportunity for parents, teachers and children to get together and share the achievements and trials of the year. The children, many of whom had been completely shy—refusing to come out from behind their mothers’ sarees—when they joined a year ago now went up confidently onto the stage to sing and dance and act. After a while, they all left as a group to quietly engage in drawing and painting, leaving the adults to have a one hour meeting. Finally each one of the children took their parents to their class to show them their files and all their work for the year. At the end of the day, the parents all appeared to be very happy with what they had seen.

Participation in the Freedom Inclusive Summer Camp for Children: May 2nd-May 7th

Sakthivel, Ravi, Mohan, Perumal,Satish Raghu and Karthik participated in the Freedom Summer Camp for Children organised by The Runners High. The objective of the camp was to bring together children from completely diverse backgrounds in order to help create awareness and respect for each other.


Children from SSK, Shrishti Special Academy, Snehagram, Thulir and Ananya participated. The children stayed in the Spastic Society and Pegasus campuses and engaged in various Art, Craft and Theatre activities together.

Participation in the Asha Summer Teacher Training Session May 27th-May 31st

Rajammal participated in a teacher training camp organised by Asha Chennai at IIT Madras campus. Her confidence and skills have been given a definite boost.

Participation in Runs

Senthil and Ravi ran the Bangalore 10 K run on May 16th  to raise funds for the Tribal Health Initiative.


Sakthivel, Mohan, Raghu, Karthi and Perumal participated in the Anandayana Run organised by Runner’s High on June 6th. This was an opportunity for them to once again bond with the students of Ananya  School, Spastic Society and the runners from Runner’s High. It was good for them to renew contacts with old friends and make new friends.

Visitors/ Volunteers

Julian and Miriam from Germany conducted English language games with the teachers and children.

Old friends from Asha, Sridhar Desikan (with his daughter Janavi) and Balaji visited. It was good to have them here again.

The headmistress and teachers from Vidya Peetam, Salem, also visited.

Thank you for being a part of all our efforts so far. Hope you would stay with us as we now raise funds to build the new school and help create a meaningful learning community of children and adults together.

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Newsletter – January 2016

 

Wishing all of you a year filled with innumerable moments of Creativity, Learning and Fulfillment.

Pongal Celebrations

We had a wonderful Pongal this January! Pongal is a Tamil rural cultural festival. It is also a harvest festival. The sun, cows and the natural elements are honoured and thanked this week. The accent is on community spirit and on using natural materials for all the rituals. It is a lovely time to be in Sittilingi. The only jarring note here is the newly added custom of broadcasting loud music in the temples the whole month!

In Thulir, Pongal was special this year. Everyone creating countless kolams was enjoyable as usual. We also cooked pongal together in a huge mud pot on an open fire in the courtyard. Vellachi Ammal, a respected elder and an organic farmer from Thekkanampatu village was the special guest and resource person for the day! She taught us the traditional pongal songs and Kummi dances. All the women from Thulir and the hospital wore their sarees in the traditional Sittilingi style and sang and danced together with the children!

The traditional music and dance of the tribal people in the valley has mostly disappeared from people’s memories. We hope to re-discover and preserve what is left and revive it in the school for the future generations to look back on with pride.

The Transformed Thulir Campus

Those of you who haven’t been here for some months will now find the Thulir Campus greatly changed! The old workshop and the small Thulir classroom have become residences. Two families stay there: Senthil and Rajammal with Rishi, and Ravi, and Ambika with Ishanth. Senthil and Rajammal have a thriving mixed crop garden in front of their house which has a special beauty and draws everyone’s attention. The big classroom has lost all its books and teaching materials but is still used as a classroom for the basic technology students. It also doubles up as a dormitory space for big groups of guests. The office room is a guest room now. Most of the classes are now conducted in Professor’s house, i.e. the earlier guest rooms!

Towards a New School…

Planning has begun for the new school. We are still looking for suitable land. We then have to construct the buildings as per government regulations.

As a first step we have started a small pre-school for 24 children (aged 4 and 5). Most of them are children of the staff of the hospital and Thulir. Professor Ravindran and Sri. Nagarajan have generously permitted their house to be modified and used as classrooms temporarily.

Our search for suitable land for the new school has not been successful. It almost was. We had located a suitable piece of land and we were all set for the registration. But the pre-registration survey showed many discrepancies between the actual boundary in the field and the documents. So finally the deal had to be cancelled.

Legally the Trust cannot buy tribal land. Non-tribal owned lands are few here in the valley and most of the owners live outside. That is the reason for the delay.

New Energy and Cheer

Thulir has always had children of various ages occupying it at all times of the day and night. But now for the first time we have a group of 24 young pre-schoolers the whole day. These children have brought new life to the campus! Their enthusiasm, energy, innocence, laughter, learning and play have transformed the days in Thulir.

The Basic Technology Course group

We had planned to discontinue the basic technology course for teenagers this year as well,  in order to focus our energies towards the new school. However, 5 teenagers found their way to us. Their parents insisted that even if we had no time to teach them we should at least allow them to stay on campus and take part in the work here. They have no other place to go to! All these students have not ‘dropped out’ of school. They have been perceived as ‘academically challenged’ and have been ‘persuaded’ to drop out by their teachers in the 8th/9th classes! The schools are under pressure to show ‘cent percent’ pass in the class 10 public exams.

Years of corporal and verbal punishment in the  schools has made them extremely diffident and silent. But they are a sincere and earnest group. Sakthivel is in charge of them. Though we are not able to conduct an intensive basic technology course as we did for earlier batches, the group is blooming and growing more confident, vocal, cheerful and bright! The pictures above and  below show them learning to build Nubian vaults in sun dried bricks (adobe).

 

 

Evening Classes

The evening classes have been temporarily stopped this year. We needed to focus all our energies on the new school. The government schools also function for longer hours nowadays. Teachers come more regularly and students have more tests and assignments. So the number of students coming to Thulir has also reduced. Even those that come are often exhausted after a full day of work at school.

Also, after 11 years and around 500 students, we felt we needed to stop, take a breather and reflect on this programme and assess the needs of the community instead of just carrying on!

The school working Committee

Ravi, Manjunath, Ramesh, Prema, Anu and the teachers meet at least once a month to discuss the  policies and functioning of the new school.

Further Training and Exposure for the Thulir Team

It was felt that the Thulir team members needed additional training and exposure in order to take on the huge challenge of the new school. As a first step, Senthil has shifted temporarily to the hospital for further training and exposure. He will work with Manjunath, who co-ordinates the organic farmers’ association here, to get an experience of interacting with the community and the government offices outside. He will also help the Porgai artisans’ group with their accounts, thus gaining a wider experience of different kinds of accounting.

Bamboo Flowering

The bamboo trees in Thulir and throughout Sittilingi are flowering! Bamboo flowering is a rare event that occurs every 60 to 130 years. Producing flowers and seeds requires a massive amount of energy. As a result, the bamboo plants usually die. We expect the surrounding area to look quite different afterwards. Interestingly, when a particular species of bamboo flowers, the plant relatives and ancestors of that species will flower worldwide!

Running!

Some of the government school children still continued to come in the mornings till September to train for the long runs! Senthil and Rajammal were in charge of this programme. The Thulir team participated in three running events this year.

9 of them participated in the Kaveri marathon on September 18th. Although the younger students trained for it they couldn’t participate as it coincided with their exams.

The same group participated in the Bangalore marathon on October 18th.

The younger students and the teachers participated in the Ultra marathon and ran the 12 k and the 21 k on November 8th.

New Trustee

Dr. Ravi Manohar joined the Board of Trustees as a trustee earlier this year. Dr. Ravi was in Sittilingi in 2003/2004 when Thulir started.  He then left to do higher studies in the UK and Oddanchatram.  He returned to Sittilingi with his wife Prema and daughter Varsha a few years ago. He has always been a part of Thulir’s efforts. He is now one of the main members of the group initiating the school. His 5-year-old daughter, Varsha, was one of the first students of ‘Kutty Thulir’ and now the pre-school. In October, Dr. Shylajadevi Menon stepped down as managing trustee due to health reasons and Dr. Ravi was unanimously chosen to be the new managing trustee. His addition to the Board of trustees has indeed given an impetus to the work.

Workshops on Traditional Art and Music of the Valley

Ravi’s uncle and father are from Echangadu, a village in the Kalrayan hills abutting our valley. They taught us the joys of toy-making using coconut leaves. They have also started us on bamboo basket making.

Vellachi Ammal, from Thekanampattu, has started coming once a month to teach us traditional songs and dances of the valley.

Parents’ Meetings

Education here includes educating the parents by engaging the parents in a dialogue and making them a part of their child’s educational process. If the situations and values are vastly different at home and school, the child suffers. We have had three major parents’ meetings since June.

The last one on January 7th was very positive and left all of us extremely satisfied. Parents also got a chance to use their hands and wits when they were given different jigsaw puzzles and asked to solve them. Then they were asked to give their feedback on their child’s progress. We were pleasantly surprised and happy when parents remarked that their children were now intensely curious and asked many questions. All of them said that their kids could not wait to get to school in the mornings! We went on to discuss the pros and cons of a pedagogy which concentrates on only academics versus one which integrates art, sport and physical activities with academics as it is in Thulir. Some parents complained that we take their children every Friday for a walk to the forest and that we allow them to climb trees! So a discussion on the importance of Nature education and being with Nature ensued. After this the children came out of class and put up an impressive performance for their parents. Their complete lack of stage fright impressed many parents. Then each child took his or her parents to the class and showed them all the work done so far.

We were a whole group of happy and proud parents, teachers and children that evening!

Volunteers and Visitors

As always many friends and fellow-seekers visited us over the months. As one young friend, Shankar from Delhi remarked after seeing the number of visitors we had, “I never knew you had such a hectic social life in Sittilingi! If you need solitude, please come to Delhi!”

Vijayalakshmi from Vellore volunteered in Thulir for a month before starting to study her B.Ed. She was a part of the teachers group here and took part in all the activities.

Lami, who was on a sabatical from her bank in Mayiladuthurai, volunteered in Thulir for some weeks. She helped the children with their English.

Sakthivel, a computer professional from Chennai, while volunteering in Thulir, translated many essays on Education from English to Tamil so that it could be used by the teachers here.

We were very happy to have the teachers from Marudam Farm school for a few days here. We had many interesting and stimulating discussions with them.

40 young teachers from ‘Teach for India’ visited on October 31 st. The discussions with them continued even after the session was over, with much enthusiasm.

The ultra-marathon runners group from Runners’ High came for their training weekend in September.

Ajay and Neha from Asha Bangalore came for a visit.

Ramkumar and Archana from Bangalore visited in November. They are toying with the idea of visiting Sittilingi on a more permanent basis over the coming years.

Christina and Sarah, medical students from Germany, made a slide show about Germany.

Nondiya from Nagaland and Nisha from Meghalaya took some classes for the children, taught some of their songs and talked about their homes.

Lea, a medical student from Hungary, gave a presentation on Hungary.

Franziska and Sabine, medical students from Germany, talked about their country and taught some English songs and games.

Mithun from the US also joined them for these classes. He also engaged the teachers in some conversational English classes and helped with this newsletter!

We hope to make geography more personal and engaging for the children through all these interactions with people from different countries.

 

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Photo essay — recent events at Thulir

The new Thulir School was formally inaugurated on June 17th. Senthil, one of the earliest students at Thulir and now a senior staff, lights the lamp.

Parents, members of the education committee, and students  participated in this event.

A discussion on the kind of education and the values that should underpin it, followed.

Prof and Mrs Ravindran, Mrs and Mr Nagarajan have generously permitted their residences to be used as classrooms. Here you can see the bamboo work added to create a class room

children during a break

New classroom!

Thulir Alumni Jayabal, Dhanbal, Kumar and Kumar, along with Thulir staff have been working hard to get the buildings ready.

The new Reception area under construction.

Starting of the day!

Quiet time!

Activities!

Hmm, what shall I do now?

Fun outdoors.

 

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