The MOB project in Ooty is lead by a band of volunteers that clean up Ooty, collect garbage and recycle it. It is lead by Shobhana Chandrashekar. After they clean up the area they have the surrounding community adopt the space and maintain it.
Ooty is a small hill station on the Western Ghats in South India. It’s home to many local communities and tribes such as the Badagas and the Todas. At one point it was the British place of rest during the summer months and hence has a lot of historic buildings. It also has tea gardens and large tracts of forest was cleared for this and tea continues to be a cash crop.
I got interested in Shobhana’s work when they cleaned a Government Boys school in Ooty and the results were spectacular! That was when I decided that’s where I need to go help at; because Ooty was where I grew up.
By June 24th
I meet my mentor
As part of my course requirement-TAC (Teaching Artist Certification) from the University of the Arts,Philadelphia, I meet my mentor, Cheilaugh Garvey, she has lovely ideas and I wish I could work with her. I spent two days walking around with her and quietly observing her and taking many many notes.
After a very restless night I decide that there is something that I can teach to get the children to think and work independently with nature, outdoors. Its the only way I can make them ‘draw’ without second guessing themselves.
I arrive at school and the children want to draw and read the books that have been donated. It’s a fun day and a lot of children spend time on their own drawing and looking at the books for inspiration. I read a lot of books to them and they are so excited. They observe the Warli drawings and soon begin to draw and make little books out of their drawings. I also teach them to put things away and look after the marker pens.
I take the children out to play. I also introduce them to working with nature and throw the idea out there for them to make the best of it without giving them too much direction. I also realize that the children want to speak English and reply in English whenever they can!
Once we go out and work with nature Viktor Lowenfeld’s Creative and Mental growth charts emerge.
I have with me some aeroplanes that have to be assembled. I talk to the children on what we have been discussing on what makes us happy.The children first plot their design for their aeroplanes on paper. I then teach them how to fashion brushes out of rope.
Some of the children’s mothers come to visit me in school when they are on lunch break from the tea gardens.
Dia (my daughter) and I take turns to work with the young children and the Montessori material.
On day 4 I decide to tackle the problem of alcoholism that the children are witnessing at home. I talk to the first grade and up about this and ask them what they think about alcohol and budgeting for it if they received an income and spent 90% of it on alcohol. We have a very interesting discussion and I leave them with a lot to think about.
I then show them how to make collages.Unfortunately we get interrupted by the Government Health team that has come to dispense inoculation shots.The little children are inconsolable. Its very sad to witness and my heart is breaking because I can’t help. The teachers help with the children and the children feel better with them by their sides.
Its time to say goodbye and the children ask me why I have to leave? I explain that I must go visit my grandmother and will come back next year. It’s never easy saying goodbye.