Fun in fundamentals


Published on 9 May, 2014 in Time Out Delhi

Forget textbooks. The Nehru Learning Centre for Children & Youth put the zing back into learning.

Learning by rote can be boring for kids. The Nehru Learning Centre for Children & Youth’s new programme plans to alleviate this daily chore by incorporating fun activities for kids, such as playing with puppets, listening to stories or simply appreciating the simple things in life.

Currently spearheaded by documentary filmmaker, writer, teacher and former Time Out Delhi Kids editor Samina Mishra, NLCCY, which was founded in 2007, has been organising open activities and events for children. It sets out to achieve all that government-funded schools cannot or don’t do, primarily due to shortage of funds. The centre offers an interactive space for children outside their scheduled school hours, where they interact and work with writers, filmmakers and teachers. This summer, four engaging workshops, each five days long, will see youngsters from different schools and backgrounds come together under one roof to learn something new. The “Crafts with Seeds, Pods and Leaves” workshop, on from May 19, will be conducted by illustrator and craftsperson Indu Harikumar. The “Glove Puppetry” workshop, conducted by Katkatha Puppet Arts Trust, will focus on how to make and manipulate glove puppet characters. Two other workshops – “Shadow Puppetry” and “Matka Planetarium” – are slated for the month end and beginning of June.

“The centre’s mandate of reaching out to those who have little access to cultural resources is a critical one,” said Mishra. “Access to knowledge and cultural resources is imperative in bridging inequality and creating room for social mobility. On the one hand, we have large numbers of children who may be enrolled in schools, but in real terms are divorced from this kind of access. And on the other, we have middle-class and elite children who are increasingly growing up in compartmentalised lives with little awareness of the lives of those other than themselves.” Mishra has been working with NLCCY since August 2013. Working in conjunction with Mahesh Rangarajan, director of The Nehru Memorial Museum & Library and the team, Mishra conceived the current programming structure.

The centre works with around 40 NDMC schools and transport is provided to all child­ren, whenever there’s a programme or a workshop. Currently, there are three ongoing programmes – “Story Cupboard” (Kitabon ka Pitara), “Talking to Teachers” (Shikshakon se Baatcheet) and “The World Around Us” (Hamari Duniya). “Our programmes are conceived to cover all aspects of communication and learning,” Mishra said. “The sessions are usually bilingual because most of the children aren’t well-versed with conversing in English. We intend to make the sessions as comprehensive as possible, but at the same time they’re also encouraged to communicate in English to facilitate the habit.”

“Story Cupboard”, a monthly programme, has writers, illustrators, storytellers and others involved with children’s books, interacting with kids by reading from a book, sharing a story or encouraging them to share theirs. “Talking to Teachers” includes presentations and workshops. “We have had a team of teachers from the Central Institute of Education, a maths workshop by the organisation, Jodo Gyan and a theatre workshop by Sukhesh Arora for this programme,” said Mishra. “The World Around Us” is also a bi-monthly programme where scientists and environmentalists present their work and interact with the children. The recently organised “Butterfly Walk” with Surya Prakash who teaches at JNU and a session on Himalayan ecology with Malavika Chauhan was a huge success. Each session is 90 minutes long, which includes time for a discussion and an activity – writing, drawing, or a quiz. Some well-known personalities who have participated in the programmes include poet and art critic Prayag Shukla, filmmaker Krishnendu Bose, academician Nandini Chandra, writer Subhadra Sen Gupta, writer and storyteller Anupa Lal, filmmaker Pushpa Rawat and environmental journalist Bahar Dutt.

NLCCY also plans to organise special events such as Wildlife Week, Children’s Day, and Dr Martin Luther King Day. Last month, they arranged a storytelling session of the book Sadako and the Thousand Cranes by Eleanor Coerr for International Peace Day, where children were taught to make origami cranes.

Nelson Mandela once said, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” Hopefully, NLCCY can introduce kids to a world where dreams can really come true.

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