The Light Project forms the Development Awareness component of a project partially supported by the EC, entitled Auroville Youth Education and Training. It is essentially an IT link, a virtual "meeting-place" for school children from both New Creation School in Auroville and Sedlescombe Primary, a school in a village in England, as well as to other schools with which they respectively have links.
Promoting a greater global awareness in education, the idea is for children from both communities to gain an understanding of each other's lives and cultures, by experiencing similarities and differences, through an exploration of different attitudes to each other's countries, cultures and levels of development.
Having had an opportunity to meet face-to-face, teachers and co-ordinators from both schools worked closely together, (mainly via email) and in an inspired moment decided to dedicate 1 full week per term to the project, working with the specific theme of "light". Carefully planned across a diverse range of subjects relevant to the needs of the respective school's curriculum, the project has already explored many classroom subjects from science to religion and art to mathematics.
Always child-focused, the children have engaged in a variety of different learning activities, including learning mantras, writing poems, participating in simple scientific experiments, making shadow puppets as well as celebrating different festivals.
Although in its 2nd year, the project has only been "live" in the classroom since October 2001 and the commitment of those teachers involved must also be acknowledged, for it is with their support and understanding that this project has truly flourished. But perhaps India's greatest success is in the enthusiasm, diligence and sheer efforts of the children themselves as they have eagerly and joyfully participated in all aspects of this work.
Mother India is the fertile ground from which radiant, shining faces, open like bright and beautiful sunflowers, turn towards the warmth of the sun. Ultimately, this project is a celebration and an offering to the precious and unique gifts within the children themselves. As they grow, they take with them our own secret hopes that how they are supported and nurtured in their time with us at school may help them to have courage in all that lies ahead.
Collecting baseline information is simply a point from which to begin our journey of learning and discovery. It gives a picture of what the children's understanding is at the start of the project and enables those involved to understand the impact of the project as it develops.
For this project, the Class 5 teacher told the simple and popular folk tale about the town mouse and the country mouse. At the end of the story, the children were asked to imagine that they lived in England and to draw pictures of their homes, friends, and themselves whilst eating and anything else that they could think of. Once they had finished their pictures, they were then asked to write simple sentences explaining what they had written.
It was surprising to observe just how many things the children already knew about life in England. Their pictures showed dining tables with knives and forks for eating, western-style toilets and bedrooms with beds for sleeping in.
Of course this is quite different from the lifestyles of most of our children, since Indian food is enjoyed using hands, with day-time snacking often on a rich variety of tropical fruits and nuts, easily accessible to small and interested hands. In the village, most of the children spend their nights asleep on a mat on the floor, which would be rolled-up when not in use, the comfort and warmth of parents and siblings close-by.
The teachers were also particularly interested to see an abundance of palm trees (a popular sight in Tamil Nadu) with many different varieties of coconuts in England's beautifully landscaped gardens!
The idea of a "hook" is to do something to catch the children's interest - and to focus their attentions at the starting point of a new project. The teachers of classes 5 and 6 decided to perform a small "skit" on the history of light, from the time man first learnt how to make fire, to modern-day usage of electricity and alternative energy sources like solar-power.
Using a whole host of props, displaying many different light sources including candles, oil and gas lamps, as well as small generators and battery-powered torches, the children were invited to sit down in a dark room, where their teachers presented their performance.
It was a happy occasion; the children enjoying the teachers' humorous "skit" as looks of surprise flickered across their faces. Perhaps the most appropriate comment is simply to quote Kumaran, an eleven-year old boy in Class 5, who with wonderful awe returned back to the classroom, to enquire of his teacher "but how did you know all this?"
The teachers and co-ordinators at New Creation School warmly welcome any of your comments and feedback. Please do let us know what you think and ways in which you feel we can improve what we are trying to do. We are also interested in developing further links with other schools both at primary and secondary level and would love to hear more from you.
Creation School, Auroville, 605 101, India .
Ph: 0091 413 622 358