We had a lot going on yesterday at Sphoorti. All sorts of loose ends wove through the cacophonous count of new groups for dance classes – Kuchipudi has made its appearance – and the introduction of an illuminating new project unit.
A California-based organization called One Million Lights has agreed to an unconventional collaboration exploring the intersection of education and environmentalism. They’re already traveling good routes on their mission to deliver high-quality, portable solar lights to the places that need it most. Partnerships with local organizations for rural development help to assure appropriate distribution and use of the lights, and One Million Lights shares the cost of the lights with the organization and/or the community itself in a proportion that’s determined on a case-by-case basis. Potentially hundreds of families in a single community can suddenly access clean light after dark.
In our case, Sphoorti students have only occasional need for an extra burst of light – the way a flashlight is useful in a place where power cuts are common and streets with lamps have yet to travel. But they do have a lot to offer. Incorporating concepts of environmental sustainability into our projects is a top priority for me, and One Million Lights has agreed to accept a curriculum about solar energy as part of the “cost sharing” for the lights. The curriculum will be fueled by the exquisitely renewable supply of enthusiasm and curiosity that Sphoorti children manage to generate longer than the sun can shine. Not to get competitive about our alternative energy sources.
We will wind up the curriculum with a donation of lights to an off-the-grid rural community in Andhra Pradesh. We started it at 1 p.m. yesterday, when the alarm on my cell phone went off and I started shouting, “Vanti ganta! It’s one o’clock!” I grabbed a length of string, some tape, scrawled a big “1” on a piece of paper, and dashed for a sun-flooded rock with just the entourage I expected because of that curiosity I mentioned. With one child on the rock and one at the end of the rope, we made a little flag at the one o’clock shadow and then went back to loose ends.
Next I set the alarm for 2 o’clock.
Now, I didn’t ask my students to point due north and lean at the angle of our latitude, so our white-flag sundial only made interesting movements for a few hours. When the shadows started simply getting longer instead of slithering clockwise, I asked all interested parties to draw a sun and whatever they appreciate it doing. Interestingly, most of them wanted to try this out twice, and the second batch of suns were drastically bigger.