Saturday, March 3, 2018

Turtle Walk in Chennai

When news that the olive ridley turtles had started to nest in the beaches of Chennai reached us, at the beginning of last week, we quickly put together a plan for our visit. Tickets were booked and calls were made to our friends at The School for a place to rest, Tholkappia Poonga for a visit and to our friends at SSTCN (Chennai Students’ Sea Turtle Conservation Network) for the overnight walk to watch the nesting. We set off on a Friday morning reaching Chennai by noon. After a quick lunch, we visited the Tholkappia Poonga.

Tholkappia Poonga is an ecological park in the Adyar estuary area. It is an amazing example of restoration of freshwater eco-systems in the heart of a city! We were introduced to the history, the restoration process and the flora and fauna found in the park by Mrs.Gomati. Her energy, passion for ecological restoration, and determination to carry forward the good work shone through in her interactions with us. We recommend it as a must see place for people visiting Chennai.

Our next stop was The School. The intention was to play a little, rest, eat dinner and be ready for the turtle walk at 10.00 PM. The sight of the empty grounds at the school was a shot in the arm and the children played football and Frisbee with an energy that belied the tiredness brought about by the long day. We were then treated to an excellent dinner. The affection and care of our lovely hosts gave us a fresh lease of life. We would need it for the night walk.

We received news that an olive ridley turtle was spotted nesting in the Besant Nagar beach. We rushed towards the beach and reached just in time to watch the turtle finish her nesting. She did a little dance to cover up the nest with sand before heading off into the sea. That would be our only sighting of a live nesting for the night. 

The turtle walk starts at the Neelankarai beach and we reached there by 11.30PM. There was a live Q&A session on everything around turtles with Akila and Harish, volunteers at SSTCN. Once again, their dedication and passion towards the conservation of these lovely creatures shone through in their conversations with us. Finally, we set off on the walk, along the beach, mostly on the water’s edge at about 1.00AM. For the next few hours, we were witness to:  the bright lights that dot the city landscape causing untold misery to the turtles, dead olive ridley turtles and large fishes (they get caught in fishing trawlers) washed ashore and the untiring efforts of the SSTCN volunteers in finding nests and recovering the eggs to be relocated to safe havens, i.e., hatcheries. Around 10,000 eggs were recovered that night. Happy at having been a part of a movement that is fighting a battle for these fragile beings’ survival, we completed our walk and headed out to the Chennai railway station.

You can read about SSTCN and their work here:

Friday, March 2, 2018

Celebrating Holi at an Art Museum

Some of us spent Holi at National Gallery of Modern Art yesterday. We had gone to see the exhibition by Balan Nambiar. The exhibition had drawings in Indian ink, charcoal, pastels and paintings in watercolour and oils. On display were also his indoor and outdoor sculptures in bronze, mild steel and stainless steel.

Being welcomed by the magnificent trees at NGMA, one was immediately touched by to a sense of quiet and beauty. Everything seemed like 'art' in this atmosphere.

Enthusiastically we wandered into the large mansion that housed the works of Balan Nambiar. The works created a pause and questions. A game started between the children to see how quickly they could find his name on the work. Then there was also reading the little label to his work and placing it in the timeline that makes most sense to them. 

'He did this before I was born!'
'I was 1 year old when he made this'
'Hey! I was born when he made this!'
'My mother was born, when he made this!'

After initially wandering through the museum and getting a feel of the work, the children scattered in the space to draw some of the work by the artist in their journals.

Looking at his art work closely, we noticed new things we hadn't noticed in our first looking.

We had had our fill and decided to go upstairs to see the regular collection. Just then, the artist walked into the space.... and there was a buzz of excitement and wonder that filled us. The artist was a real person! 

Balan Nambiar, met each of the children, autographed their journals and even looked into their journals and was delighted by their interpretations of his work.

After this unplanned and beautiful interaction we had some delicious lunch at the Cafe. Rohit, a friend arranged a most delicious meal for us. 

After lunch we made our way itno the Museum shop and a new learning moment opened up for us!
We helped the 'uncle' at the counter segregate 'visitor-buttons' and had our data on the kind of visitors that came in the month of February for the exhibition by Balan Nambiar.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

WOLPE (Women - Our Little Play, Episodes)

At the beginning of the academic year, a group of the older children were  introduced to Little Women, a novel by American author Louisa May Alcott published in 1880. The novel follows the lives of four sisters and is loosely based on the author’s childhood experiences with her three sisters. This exposure began a discussion of different narrative arcs that the story could have taken and from there emerged the idea of a modern interpretation. The children decided to adapt the interpretation as a play. Over the next six months, this creative writing project went through cycles of drafting, revising and editing. During this process, the question of how to present it emerged and the children settled on filming the play. The script went through editing again to allow for it filming as episodes. The first episode is now ready for viewing. 

From learning about the historical context of the novel setting through the study of the Civil War, to converting the book into a play with modern echos and engaging the entire school to shoot a serialised film this project has taken off in many unexpected directions. 

On the 5th of Feb, students, teachers and parents of Shibumi queued up outside the library for the much awaited premiere of the prelude. 



Queueing up
 The prelude was a revelation of sorts, showcasing the children's work in the areas of script writing, costumes, location, acting and film making. In case you missed it, worry not! (or if you wish to watch it again). There is a separate channel on Youtube, WOLPE Youtube Channel, where one can view all the videos related to WOLPE. If you would like to receive an update when a new episode is released then please click the red SUBSCRIBE button on the top right corner of the page. Alternately, you can just visit the page and look for new episodes and view them. Enjoy 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Angadibail Adventures

We were away in the forest of Angadibail for ten days with our youngest group of children. Fourteen young minds between the ages of 5 and 9 were off on this little adventure together.

We reached Angadibail. It was a forest. There were farms surrounding this area. There was a stream nearby. It was soooooooooo amazing. In the forest we saw Malabar giant squirrel, Panther poo, languor and many birds.

Do you know that langoors kill the Malabar giant squirrel and just leave them there? 

At  night it was dark, little fire flys would come out and there would be a little sparkling glow in the trees. We could see many stars at night without the city  light and noise. In the morning the forest was full of chirping sounds. It was beautiful to live there.

- Vibha (9)

We were greeted in the forest by Savita's amazing team. Ishwar Anna, who is full of the most amazing forest stories. Kafeel , who was our guardian angel. Baby akka, who always managed to cook some delicious food for us. Beera, the dog who had once met a leopard ! The cows, the hens and the cutest kittens!

Bella and Thuppa are two really small kikkens. They both have the same pattern on their heads. When i see the kittens I really feel like touching them but instead I sit next to them. They automatically come and sit in my lap and I can feel them purr.
On our last night at Angadibail we couldn’t see the kittens anywhere. I thought they might be playing somewhere so i wasn’t worried. We all went to sleep. In the morning I went to the kittens basket, when I looked inside, the basket was empty! Now I was starting to get a bit worried. I kept wondering: If I was a kitten, where would I go if I go? I kept repeating this and finally decided to go look for them. I went to the chicken area, but they were not there. I looked for them near the cow shed, but no luck! I looked for them in the warmth of the kitchen, but they were nowhere to be seen.
I told Ganga Aunty about the missing kittens and she assured me that they will be around somewhere. My search for them ended with the breakfast gong. In my thoughts I was still looking for them. We didn’t see them all day. When I was in the boat to the beach I was thinking about them. I figured they were lost and hoped they were safe. While we were at the beach, I sat next to Tanu di. Mahiti and Bhavya were already cuddling there. Tanu di told us a silly story about how the little kittens had become big fire balls and that they would never come back. After that Bear (Kafeel) told us a sweet story of how the kittens got lost, but he said nothing about them returning.
                In the morning while we bounced in the waves I had forgotten about the kittens. We were soon chugging along in a train back to Bangalore and at night Savita Aunty called to tell us that the kittens were back! I was delighted!
(I teased Tanu di about the super silly story that she had cooked up!)
Zain (9)

Our ten days were full of leisure, star gazing , story telling, forest walks, boat ride on the river and one night at the beach!

We had almost reached Yaaana when we spotted two different paths. We didn’t know which one of the two to take! It was only Mauliki, Mahiti, Vibha, Bhavya and me!!
We took the risk of going straight and entering Yaana while Vibha kept telling that “We were going to be lost  forever!!!”

 "Oh God!"

There were so many people there but there was so one we knew.  We came back and started calling for help. After some time of calling we heard another call. It was Kafeel anna. 

"Wow! What luck!"

After sometime we saw Tanu didi, Kafeel Anna, Aman, Zaid and Dinesh anna. We went with them and to our surprise we ended up on the same path. We saw Nachiket , Zain and Sharad Bhaiya waiting for us. 

"What!?? We didn’t even notice them there!"

- Advaith (9)

When we went to the beach we went to the restaurant area to get firewood for the barbeque. There was a man. When he saw my hair he said “ Oh Wig! Wig! You wear a wig!” He then tried to pull my hair off!My hair didn’t come off. Nachi and I laughed so much! 

Another man gave us firewood.


Vessels, ladies, bottles, jars,
Squirrels, Giant Malabars!
Aracanut, coconut, cashewnut trees,
Sunbirds, hornbills, butterflies and bees!
Sugarcane, machaan, fields and stream,
Savita, Ishwar, Kafeel’s team,
Pebbles, pods and fish of the stream!
The day’s over and now is night,
Next to the fire,under the stars bright.
-         - Sharad


      Nugli akka with her tribal stories and Capt. Preetam with the stories about the stars were some of our forest treats! We also did leaf art, brick making, basket weaving and so much more!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Giving Week Round up - Skills sharing

Each day of the giving week was filled with sharing of skills, planned and executed by the children. In the morning, there was football, folk dance and running on offer. The afternoon had activities like making ninja blades and nature art. On Friday, there was a treasure hunt activity that combined the game of treasure hunt with the skill of tree climbing. The clues were placed on nine different across the Shibumi campus. There were five teams and in each team every person had to take turns climbing a tree to fetch the clues. The whole experience was exhilarating.  The week was brought to a close with a music performance on the keyboard and violin by the children.

Watch some of the moves in the folk dance.

There was time for some cool moves as well :)

And this is how it is done...

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Giving Week Round up - Find Out

The first task for the 'Find Out' group was to get out and find out ways in which we could give.  We got on to our faithful minivan and went looking for people, spaces, and animals around Somanahalli that needed help. Finally, we decided that we would clean up Thottikallu (TK) Falls and help out in a local farm.

For the first four days, armed with gloves and garbage bags we set about cleaning TK Falls. The task, as we discovered, was not easy. The plastics had to be separated from the paper and the glass, visitors coming in had to be educated about littering, and discussions were needed with the lady assigned to pick up the garbage. This was clearly just the beginning!

On the last day of giving week we visited a local farm and helped in plucking out weeds from the bean patches. As we were at it, there were many interesting questions coming up from the children - 'Why are we doing this?', 'How do the weeds harm the crops?' ' How long have these beans been growing?' ' I wonder what it would be like if I had to do this work everyday?', 'Is this how much work that goes into growing all vegetables?', 'Can we throw this mud at each other for a while, please?'. And so on it went. 

Giving Week Round up - Anganwadi

Engaging with the tiny tots at the Anganwadi centre opposite Shibumi during the week through some interactive activities was a delightful experience for everyone involved. Monday was spent on warming up to each other. Playing with clay in the Anganwadi centre was the activity. Tuesday saw them take baby steps into Shibumi. The sand pit was invaded and soon mountains, balls, and towers were springing up.

Playing in the swing and running up and down the back verandah, touching the drawings on
the wall and shrieking with joy formed the rest of the day. Wednesday brought on more playing in the sandpit and more smiles all around. On Thursday, the tiny ones moved on to playing with the wooden blocks and making structures twice as tall as themselves.  

After a monochromatic, predominantly brown, four days, it was time for an explosion of colours on Friday. Large sheets of paper were laid out in Bijitsu. Tentative brush strokes were soon replaced with bold moves on hands and legs. The children were drenched in paints. The adults were not too far behind.  The giving week ended on a colourful high.