Balsena Annual Event Opening Ceremony
In December, Kishor Mandal (event for adolescent boys) and Kishori Mandal (event for adolescent girls) were held. 109 girls attended Kishori Mandal and 93 boys attended Kishor Mandal. This year’s theme was decision making, goal setting, and leadership. Some activities were strategic and required critical thinking and presenting arguments. Others were more energetic and encouraging team members to cheer each other into completing an exercise.
One activity involved body image where groups of children were each given a bar of soap and asked to create a pitch to sell the product. Ultimately, the activity was to get children thinking about how advertisements change how they perceive their own self-image. For the girls, Rakshaben Bhatt, a high school english teacher and historical photographer, presented a powerpoint of photos she took in Ladakh. The girls were very curious and enamored by the beautiful landscapes. For the boys, Sanjaybhai Desai, trustee of Bhavnagar Blood Bank, past trustee of Shaishav and current principal of Visuddhanand High School talked about how to be a leader. The children listened to stories about the honored guests’ lives, accomplishments, and challenges. They were also encouraged to give feedback on each activity so that Shaishav could adjust future program to their interests.
January started off with the Annual Balsena Event. 275 children from 12 different points were taken to a local school for fun, food, and activities with the Shaishav bus. Participatory activities were planned that would allow the children to fully engage in discussions about important values such as leadership, problem solving and decision making. The children watched the film Poorna, which is about a 12 year old girl from Telegana whom climbed Mt. Everest. It is a story about willpower, and courage triumphing over personal fears and limitations. The film was well received and they still talk about fondly nearly a month later!
Several activities were setup in different classroom throughout the day. In a leadership activity, children were split in to groups where all but one child wore a blindfold, the child that wasn’t wearing blindfold needed to guide the group through an obstacle course setup in the room. Prior to tying the blindfolds, a few minutes were given for the children to strategize about how the leader will accomplish this. The leaders were only allowed to use non-verbal cues, meaning gestures like tapping or gently pushing. Each group had unique ways of communicating with their leaders and the activity was well received.
Decision-making and the importance of time was new topic that was introduced at this year's event. The kids were asked to think about how much time the spent on several activities during their daily life. For instance, how much time did they spend watching tv? They were asked to cut a length of ribbon that was in proportion to how much time they estimated…as honestly as they could! The activity was meant to get kids thinking about how they spent their time and what activities they could do instead.
At the end of the day, the Balsena President and Vice President gave a presentation on the highlights of the years and accomplishments of Balsena members.
In Lokshala, children have begun a new English curriculum designed by Bhoomi College student, Manoj in December. Guided by AIF Fellow, Maitreyi, the children enjoy writing the alphabet and sounding out words. Special techniques are used to increase retain of vocabulary and to make sure that children able to apply phonics to sound out words rather than memorize the words.
Maitreyi has also worked with the Lokshala facilitators to develop ways to engage other senses such as touch rather than just sight and hearing to engage children in academic subjects such as Math and English. Children who are just learning to write the alphabet and numbers are given a piece of Play Doh and asked to mold the colorful cool pliable clay into the different characters. Having the opportunity to play like this while learning has left the children looking forward to Lokshala more than ever!
For Holi, children celebrated with a Dry Holi. In recognition of water’s scarcity and eliminate its waste, Dry Holi uses avoids the use of pichkaris, which are like water guns. Instead, the children painted on newspapers and were given small amounts of safe colored powders to smear on each other.
Lokshala, Learning Through Touch
Body Image Exercise During Kishor Mandal