Unlearning Uncentred Restructured By Vardhna Puri

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The Unlearning Uncentred sessions have been happening as you all know for the past 9 months. It is quite a sight to see children involved in playing games, which have been designed for them from a learning objective. These months have been interesting and have given us so many ideas to move forward. Let’s call that Unlearning Uncentred- Chapter 2. We now have onboard Noopur, who works in the area of education. With this we plan to structure our program and reach out to children in our capacity. The sessions will continue on a regular basis but with tweaking, in terms of learning goals they address.

What the sessions till now have done for us is to create visibility in the community and generate a buzz that we engage with children. This month started with a field visit where the parents of the children were individually visited. A lot of the children who come to us have dropped out of school and those who are still enrolled in the formal system, are not making too much out of it.

The next step is to individually assess children on what point are they in their learning journey and how can we make it more attuned to their lives. We plan to use themes such as- ‘understanding self’ and want to gain insight into the community as a way to generate interest in learning. So one of the activities this time around was for children to talk about the places that they like or dislike; feel happy or scared in. This gave us not only a glimpse into their relationship with their community but also ideas for further engagement.

For now, we plan to create a deeper relationship with both the children and the community at large.

Cooperative Games with Manish Kataria By Nishant Paul

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To keep adding dimensions to our approach towards creation of the Unlearning Uncentered space in Khirki, it’s important for us to keep looking outwards at more methods of facilitation and the different spaces that already exist. We started the process last month and invited Manish, our friend and a facilitator for cooperative games, to play with us for a two-day workshop at C-5!

It became a day’s workshop eventually due to some reasons. We still had copious amounts of learning and fun in that one day! Along with the Unlearning Uncentered facilitators, the youth club members also attended the workshop. Manish has an arsenal of games which focuses on cooperation rather than competition. In the 5 games that Manish shared with us, we could see the very subtle elements of cooperation woven into them, mostly later, by reflection. We already knew some games and had played them multiple times but their different versions surprised all of us. The games stirred a different kind of energy in us.

One of Manish’s favourite games, ‘Who’s Goofy?’, has become our favourite too; it has stayed with all of us and we keep playing it at every opportunity!

We also wanted to have Manish come over to the Unlearning Uncentered space and share some cooperative games with the little children but that couldn’t happen unfortunately. We hope to be able to incorporate the elements of what we have learnt in the workshop in our own ways in the Unlearning Uncentered space

A mind-washing experience By Himani Haswani

   

Himani, our extremely committed & artistic volunteer, came to know about Aagaaz through iVolunteer and has been an important part of Unlearning Uncentred since the very first day that we started meeting the children in Khirki. Himani shares here with us her reflections on the experience in designing and facilitating Unlearning Uncentred and her forever evolving relationship with the children!

Initially, when I met the children, I had just heard about them dubbed as “The Tonga-walas”.  So the comparison here starts with identity being the first factor of comparison between me and the children. My perception of the children’s identity changed as time passed by and we built our relationships as their fellow playmates. On the other side, my identity experienced a change too. Earlier, I was just Himani, a distant facilitator trying to form a relationship with the children. Now, when I see the children looking for me or playing with me, I get a sense of acceptance from them as if I am one of them.

Being a facilitator at Aagaaz, I have seen multiple aspects of my character change as well as the children’s. And I’d like to share those here!

The way I used to think earlier about a session or lesson plans was based on pure imagination and anticipation without any sense of reality. There was a false sense of certainty about the execution of everything exactly as planned in mind. But with enough experience now, I’ve learnt multiple valuable lessons like making plans in accordance with energy levels of the children, etc.  I hope to incorporate all of them while executing our sessions plans. Session planning and execution require a lot of work and thought than what I had expected. With constant experience, I’m able to develop my skills and approach, and look at the whole undertaking in a new, informed light.

There’s an evident transformation in my approach in terms of my actions, reactions and perspective. I have started using the loudness feature of my voice, which reflects my newfound confidence to articulate my thoughts more comprehensively. I have also learnt about the subjectivity in relation to what’s wrong and what’s right. We all are different, a common realisation that has been amplified in my experience. There is a positive change in the children’s behaviour too for they seem to call the shots for their own learning when we leave them free to explore. ‘Activities’ have a new meaning in their lives now. Boundless experimentation, learning and development are achievable, it seems.

 On a whole, I have experienced a lot of good mind-washing and have enjoyed it thoroughly. 🙂

Without Himani with us at Unlearning Uncentred, there wouldn’t have been a lot of activities and motivation that eventually came our way during all these months!

Unlearning Uncentred- अब तक का सफ़र| By Nishant Paul

     

It has almost been seven months since we started meeting the children who live near the Jamun Wala Park in Khirki and make it the happening place that it is. Without them, the park would only look green but not ‘happy-green’! We have met each other at least 30-32 times (for sessions) and are now aware of each others’ idiosyncrasies. We see glimpses of trust in our relationships now, which has been the foundation as well as the result of the ‘work’ that we have done.

When we started working (thanks to KHOJ), we began with a very basic premise that focuses on the psycho-social aspect of working with children. From our own experiences and the wisdom floating around, we have known that majority of the existing learning spaces (be it schools, home or even society in general) are stifling any free movement in children’s minds and actions for they merely cater to the ‘wants’ of the world. We wished to create an informal, unstructured learning space which doesn’t fall into the established trappings of the existing systems. On the face of it, it might look like a pretty vague idea to start with but that’s what we had to begin with. Consequently, we initiated our interaction with the children at the end of January on mounds of garbage, the erstwhile state of Jamun Wala Park!

Along the way, the facilitators, which includes many children from the core group of Aagaaz too, have been setting aside some time to work on polishing their facilitation skills and also, learn about working well with children with all kinds of energy. Additionally, we plan to invite educators and facilitators to train all the Unlearning Uncentered facilitators in the area of working with children and informal learning spaces. The pre, post-session planning and review aspects are in place now and have become a helping source of reflection and generation of further ideas for Unlearning Uncentred. Currently, Devika, Himani and Nishant are regular facilitators, with Sanyukta coming in as the observer sometimes. Himani has been the most consistent volunteer at Aagaaz and an integral part of Unlearning Uncentred since the beginning! More people are going to start helping us out with the space starting this month, as facilitators and designers of the space; Jasmeen, Saddam and Nagma from the Aagaaz core group as facilitators & Vardhna, Nupur and Shipra, our friends and educators, as designers. We are really looking forward to that!

Along the way, the facilitators, which includes many children from the core group of Aagaaz too, have been incorporating time & space to polish their facilitation skills and also, learn about working well with children with all kinds of energy. Additionally, we plan to invite educators and facilitators to train all of us in the area of working with children and informal learning spaces. The pre, post-session planning, and review aspects are in place now and have become a helping source of reflection and generation of further ideas for Unlearning Uncentred. Currently, Devika, Himani and Nishant are regular facilitators, with Sanyukta coming in as the observer sometimes. More people are going to start helping us out with the space starting this month,- Jasmeen, Saddam and Nagma from the Aagaaz core group as facilitators & Vardhna, Nupur and Shipra, our friends and educators, as designers. We are really looking forward to that!

We are looking to understand the needs of these children better and respond to those by designing the sessions in a suitable way. Also, in order to support such designs, we are looking to study and understand child development in depth. The children whom we meet twice every week (till July we used to meet them once every week) belong to diverse age groups, This is another factor that needs to be incorporated in our session plans to ensure every child’s engagement. It’s a challenge and something that we look forward to addressing since the crux of our work is to be able to give everyone the space to be.

The adults from the community have started responding to us differently as well. Whenever a regular facilitator doesn’t come, some of the parents are bound to ask us about them! Recently, one of the children’s elder sister wanted to learn all the songs that the children had learned. In response, all the children gathered around her and shared every song in one go! This kind of sharing that has been initiated on its own within the community is a beautiful sight and opens doors for our future engagement with the larger community in Khirki.

It’ll take us some more time and experiences to be clear about our vision for the space. Though what we are really sure about is that our program’s approach will continue to be informal, inclusive and playful and that there will be a lot of learning and unlearning, for everyone, including us. Hopefully!

Unlearning Uncentred Intensive

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We have been working quite regularly with the children in Khirki under the umbrella of Unlearning Uncentred. Since the past few months it has been a weekly engagement that aims to allow children to be able to find many mediums of expression for their stories and start using them in their daily lives in small ways.

During the last three days of April, we decided to do an intensive 3 day summer workshop with the children. The intention was to get the group to work more cohesively and also to deepen our relationship with them. This was also an experiment for us, which allowed us to observe the quality and nature of the work in an enclosed space.

We worked on three different ways of expressing stories –oral storytelling, storytelling through drama and storytelling through visual art. These activities were led by three volunteers from Aagaaz-Nishant, Priiya and Himani. We also had Zainab, Nagma, Nagina, Saddam, Shahid and Jasmeen co-facilitated the sessions.

As the days progressed, we understood the value of time and commitment and the difference it makes. We decided to put boundaries on entry and demanded punctuality and noticed how it automatically made this smoother. The children responded to the mediums quite beautifully and expressed their inclination to want to explore them further.

We are now thinking of ways to create learning journeys for the children that nurture their curiosities and allow them to engage with areas that fascinate them. As facilitators, we need to find opportunities and resources that would equip us to create such a space. We also need to look at strategic ways of managing emerging needs and unpredictable circumstances.

Unlearning Uncentred

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We believe that children are inherently curious. With the help of Unlearning Uncentered we are creating spaces to nurture curiosity and the many ways of learning through active engagement, conversations, and play. We are renegotiating the boundaries of knowledge and ways of learning for children.
To start with, we decided to focus on three things:

  • Playing with children with the help of toys made from trash and some low cost material that work on basic scientific principals
  • A mobile library and read-alouds.
  •  Human books in which volunteers pick an experience from their lives and for that moment, become that story. Possible readers listen to synopses and chose the human book to read. The only way they can read these books is by asking them questions. The best way for them to get to know these stories is to suspend their judgments, assumptions and being open to possibilities.

We have had one great experience at Nizamuddin Basti, where the community accepted this new co-learning space with ease. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3XA0-ViAdw.
This has been followed by a few smaller events at Khirki Extension in collaboration with Khoj International Artists AssociationWe have made some good friends and it has lead to some valuable realizations about the children and ourselves:

“I went with no intention of teaching anything. The kids actually responded to this quite well. The three relatively older boys sitting with me were able to draw parallels with their lives and predict the story based on the images.”- Devika, Team member at Aagaaz

“I thought we’ll teach them (the children), but I learnt so many stories and so many new things. They made us so comfortable”- Nishtha, Volunteer at Unlearning Uncentered

We look forward to more unlearning in more spaces and would love to explore new ideas and possibilities that cultivate the inquisitive child in all of us. 🙂

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