A Thanksgiving Story

To celebrate Thanksgiving this year, I did not cook all day long and I did not eat pumpkin pie. That’s the bad news; in honor of exploration, however, I spent the day circumnavigating both Tamil and French areas of Pondicherry, complete with provisions of a chocolate croissant & espresso that I was very grateful for. And in honor of cooperation, my students helped me prepare my presentation for the Fulbright Conference I was attending in Pondicherry.

We made a Thanksgiving Story touching on the major influences defining my project so far, with between 5 and 10 students collaborating on each large page; I bound the sheets into a “storybook” and explained the course of my research interspersed with our aquatic tale at the conference. The meat of the presentation is the narrative built on images, with the bare-bones structure of notes that I spoke about in between. Je vous remercie, et bon appetit.

Once upon a time, in a deep blue sea, a little fish began to realize that all the schools were having big problems. There were also plenty of ideas floating around to make those schools better, and one day she met a wise Italian polpo named Reggio Emilia whose schools did amazing work with the small fry.

– I am interested in extending the concepts behind Waldorf, Montessouri, & Reggio Emilia methods of progressive arts education to benefit underprivileged students.
– I chose to focus on Reggio Emilia because of 3 points : non-linguistic methods of communication are encouraged, teachers & students are re-defined as partners in research, learning is structured around active work on experiential projects.
– Value of projects is practice setting goals, research, organization, and presentation skills.

So the little fish decided to travel the seas and find out if the Reggio Emilia ideas could work in some other oceans she had heard good things about. Eventually she caught a current known as the Fulbright-Nehru and it carried her to a New World. She stopped in a place called the Sea of AP.

The fish there were beset with problems, and schools were facing some terrible situations. When she arrived, the Sea of AP was drying up under the hot sun and fish were losing their homes, but suddenly it began to rain... and rain... and fish were swept away instead, the sea was filled with mud and the waves ripped away homes and tore apart schools.

– Children deserve support as they face the challenges of a constantly developing present. The epidemics of the modern world – HIV/AIDS, malaria, contaminated water, malnutrition, natural disasters – have and will continue to affect their lives.
– Children have the right & responsibility to effect change. Flooding in Andhra Pradesh this fall made social consciousness a central concern.
– Sphoorti responded by donating available school supplies & raising funds for rice, providing students with a crucial pattern of responsible citizenship.

The little fish began to work with a school called Sphoorti as the far-flung fish family trickled in from throughout the Sea of AP.

Sphoorti is
– We began the curriculum with a mapping project to explore surroundings & relationships. Working with a group of students who are separated from traditional familial ties underscores the importance of connections between individuals and the community.

When the Sea of AP became calmer, the little fish explored and discovered many ideas for helping the schools and many fish working to help each other. She soon met a very wise old gharial named Nai Talim whose ideas were well known in her new world.

Nai Talim is Gandhi’s very controversial philosophy of experiential education based around mastery of a craft. The utility of crafts & exercise can be turned towards a different set of skills in this situation.
– Through traditions of weaving, dance, and festivals we can explore local culture as co-researchers.

The Sphoorti fish helped to create a wonderful series of projects that incorporated Reggio Emilia, Nai Talim, and many ideas of their own. When they realized everyone would safely survive the school year ahead, they celebrated together with a festival of lights, sweets, dancing, and thanks. They are creating projects and dancing to this very day.

This bullet point-skeleton comes from a paper that will be presented in February, so there are lots of complete thoughts to back up any concept in there that piques your curiosity. Just let me know if you want to discuss!

The Happily Ever After.



Filed under education, holidays, Hyderabad, India, Sphoorti Foundation

2 responses to “A Thanksgiving Story

  1. Suzanne Albright

    Becca, wonderful drawings; they remind me of some you did in glass class. Love the colors! S.

  2. Becca! I love this post, and being included in the story.

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