An arts camp, with the future in mind.

I took thousands of pictures while I was in India on the Fulbright. I carried my camera around with me wherever I went. The one time where I ran out of memory and battery power was the time I spent at the arts camp in Kuppam at the Agastya Foundation. I wanted to record everything I witnessed all the days I was there. The Kanavu Pattarai arts camp was something I wasn’t sure I was going to experience. Fortunately, I did. The experience was something that I will never forget.

This particular Kanavu Pattarai camp is supported by collaboration between the NalandaWay Foundation and the Agastya Foundation. NalandaWay provides the teachers, the curriculum, the resources, and Agastya Foundation provides the space. The camp pulls from near by towns. Both boys and girls, ages 13-16, attended this camp. It was not a residential experience but a day camp for 3 full days.

The first day students were introduced to each other and jumped right in on camp activities. The teachers organized the whole camp, and when there was some spots that needed an activity I filled in with yoga and a quick lesson in making origami cranes. I also participated in a trust exercise, which was really fun for all of us.

All the students were extremely excited to participate. They made a large amount of art in just three days, and presented on topics that were important to them and their school community. It just goes to show you, that when students are given a chance to perform, act, interact, create, make, design, and do—THEY WILL! Most of the students were really into the arts projects and produced a lot of amazing work together.

Collaboration is a big piece of the puzzle for this kind of camp, especially since the goal is to build a community of peers. One of the best parts of the camp for me was when the students were tasked with creating a group song. It was a huge challenge. Many students were very happy doing visual arts, or even making posters, and speaking. BUT singing? That was a big leap for some of them. Many of the students didn’t know what to do, or how they should attempt that particular task. However, there were a few girls who would not give up. While the group took a break from song writing, a couple of girls stayed back to finish the melody and lyrics. They were the only ones in the building, and I don’t think they were even aware that I was paying attention. What I saw was true collaboration, respect for one another, and the desire to come together to accomplish the task. These girls continued working on the song until everyone came back in the room. They shared their lyrics and taught the whole group of students the melody of the song. The other students were amazed, excited and couldn’t wait to be a part of the musical task once again.

As a group they practiced (led by the girls and a few other boys). The way the girls problem solved and helped their fellow peers was amazing. They reached out as a team to put something together that would bring a lot of joy to everyone in the whole entire room.

On a whole, this group exhibited a wide variety of talents and problem solving skills. I thought that this was a strength because they all had a particular way to exhibit that strength. It made the group of 30 kids extremely strong.   Students exhibited a lot of empathy and compassion for each other. Most times when one member of their group was having difficulty another would job in and say,” Maybe we try this?” The students always seemed like they were looking for ways to solve problems, think creatively, use the set limitations to their advantage, think outside the box to use limited art materials in a new way, and most importantly not give up on the project or each other. Only a few students really needed some extra help, but I think it was only because they had never had this much going on at once. Not much exposure to arts, not much exposure to group work and collaboration.

The Kanavu Pattarai camp is much more than a few days for kids to get away from school and have fun. This program is creating ways for kids to build their self-esteem, gain leaderships skills, practice problem solving, and be more self- aware. Without the arts, students are unable to see some the values that already exist within themselves. By providing arts camps, NalandaWay is essentially strengthening the school communities. The students who participate in these camps take everything back with them and share it at their school. They are able to talk about their experiences and show what they accomplished by participating in the camp.

 

IMG_3493
The camp space.
IMG_3519
Student receiving a welcome pin!

IMG_3513IMG_3529IMG_3560IMG_3559

IMG_3543
Camp rules.
IMG_3574
Students creating their small group poster.
IMG_3619
Student beginning work on her self portrait with a tiny mirror.
IMG_3631
Decorative self portraits.  Using color and pattern as symbols.
IMG_3643
Students had a lot of discussions with each other for collaborative projects.

IMG_3640

IMG_3652
Working on their community poster, discussing issues that are important to them and their community.

IMG_3654IMG_3670

IMG_3682
Presenting their community posters to all the other groups.

IMG_0599

IMG_0629
Me!  Teaching origami cranes, step by step.

IMG_0647IMG_0703IMG_0683IMG_0706IMG_0735

IMG_3735
Uma and I on a tour around Agastya.
IMG_3744
All the camp goers and the teachers.
IMG_3746
The lovely girls who put the song together.
IMG_0814
Traveling to the camp spot.

IMG_0824IMG_0849IMG_0856IMG_0860IMG_0917IMG_0926

IMG_0929
Shadow puppets to tell a story.
IMG_0954
Clay figures.

IMG_0957

IMG_0960
Trust game– “Crazy taxi”.

IMG_0972

I was delighted to collaborate with NalandaWay on this program. I was able to expand the camp to five days, and add additional components like yoga and mindfulness. The more time we spend providing meaningful programs for youth to connect to each other and their own communities, the stronger we build the future for all of us.

Save

A peak at what’s around

I had the chance to visit the Kanavu Pattarai camp in Andhra Pradesh.  I was mostly in the very southern tip of that state where Tamil Nadu and Kerala come together.  First we traveled by train, and toured around in a car until we got to Kuppam.  That is where the camp was held.  The landscape was very similar to the southwest.  Dry, arid, blue skies, and puffy clouds.  It felt like a very familiar place.  I loved the Southwest when I lived there, and I really got used to being in this type of environment again.  If felt so familiar.

It was the perfect setting for the camp.  Very quiet, serene, beautiful.  Rambling vistas everywhere to just stare at, and take a very deep breath.  I think students would have no problem feeling inspired to create in this space.  In the morning and evenings it was quite cool.  However, just as you may have guessed, the day time was hot.  You really had to keep up your fluids up here, or else, heat exhaustion.  I loved visiting the Agastya Foundation and staying on their campus for those few days.  It was a great break from the traffic, humidity and people-packed city.  It would have been great to see more of the State itself, but I was happy I got to see  this small corner.

 

IMG_0511
The conductor of the train, wearing  nice jacket, but what you don’t see is the clipboard.  It had a very colorful cartoon character, and a unicorn on it!
IMG_0510
AC.
IMG_0522
Trains fill up fast, sometimes it was standing room only.  Not to mention 3 people to one long bench.
IMG_0529
Everyone has there hustle.  There are people selling everything: toys, jewelry, games, food, snacks, tea.  You name it, you can probably get it.
IMG_3321
Part of one of the schools we visited on our way to Agastya.
IMG_3368
Streets are far less busy here than Chennai.
IMG_3372
Trucks, palms, and mountains.
IMG_3431
Watching the sunset, was lovely.
IMG_3432
Small town we passed through to get to Agastya.  We had some tea and chips.

IMG_3433

IMG_3454
We drove far away from the towns and villages to a huge plot of land that is the campus of Agastya Foundation.  We crossed over this big water body and we realized there was a full moon. 
IMG_3457
Outside of our dorm they are building a shrine to Agastya.
IMG_3479
After breakfast we walked the road to the art camp building.
IMG_3485
View from art camp.

IMG_3486IMG_3489IMG_3487

IMG_3492
Another view from Art Camp.

IMG_3496IMG_3587IMG_3586

IMG_0537
Typical South Indian Cuisine! That big spot is for the rice!
IMG_0559
You can tell it’s hot.

IMG_0560IMG_0561IMG_0562

IMG_0577
View from camp.

Spontaneous Performance

When I visited this school, I had no idea that these students were so apt to show their talents.  The students were so eager to show off their dance moves and singing.  We had a whole evening of pre-dinner performances. Many of the students improvised and made up percussion with the objects around them.  These two kids were really quite amazing.  It just goes to show you, that no matter what your background is, your circumstances, art transforms the space.  On first glance many of us may look at the state of the classroom and think nothing can be accomplished in a grey, uninspired room.  Sometimes it just takes a single action to transform the space.  The students who shared their talents that evening made the environment warm, joyful, exciting, and playful.

Road trip to Camp

The major highlight of being involved with NalandaWay Foundation was being able to attend, observe and help facilitate an arts camp called Kanavu Pattarai (dream workshop).  The purpose of the camp is to immerse youth in community building strategies. By using arts based and mindfulness practices, Kanavu Pattarai camps educate and train diverse communities to create responsible children who are expressive and positive in their choices.

Before we arrived at the camp for this session, our group stopped along to visit some other groups at some different schools who had already experienced Kanavu Pattarai in previous sessions.  The kids had recalled what they learned, shared with us the art and skits they created during camp.  I even got to facilitate some group yoga practices.  What a treat!

The best part for me was being able to interact with the kids, and noticing how receptive they were to my presence and trusting me to guide them through some poses.  What a warm reception and some stand out, unforgettable moments.

Here is a glimpse of some of the students I met, the schools I visited, and what they shared with us:

IMG_3315.JPG
Students were game for a few yoga poses.  Tree pose is always a good one to try.
IMG_3322.JPG
In Andhra Pradesh, the land is a lot drier and rockier.
IMG_3324.JPG
Mural painting is big everywhere you go, although this one is fades, it’s still beautiful.
IMG_3342.JPG
I had a chance to visit a girls school, the whole school was bright, cheerful, and boasted lots of arts integration.
IMG_3353.JPG
Meeting with a group of girls who participated in a previous camp.
IMG_3389.JPG
We also visited a residential school.  These kids were energetic, lively, and so friendly.
IMG_3397.JPG
Listening carefully to a few members who were speaking about the importance of the arts, but also how the arts can be a catalyst for social improvement among peers.

IMG_3399.JPGIMG_3390.JPGIMG_3367.jpgIMG_3359.jpgIMG_3347.JPGIMG_3311.JPGIMG_3309.JPGIMG_3302.JPG

IMG_3295.JPG
Part of the camp process is to create a banner to bring back to the school.  This group worked hard to create a message about equality and acceptance.

IMG_3285.JPGIMG_3282.JPG

More to come from this trip. Stay tuned.