Friday, May 18, 2012

Observe ! Understand ! Build !

Evolution is a relatively slower, natural yet effective process that, over a period of millions of years, creates value that is generally understood as a more definitive, and better adaptation of living species for their survival and adaptive growth.

Human beings today have a natural lifespan in the range of about 50-100 years – a relatively miniscule timeframe for us to depend on this relaxed automated 'process of evolution' for our survival and growth. We just do not have enough time to wait for millions of years !! 

The thought behind Valurevolution was to combine Value_r_evolution by inserting an r in between (‘r’ for radical) and expedite the process of creating value, not through evolution but through revolution, something every ordinary or extra-ordinary individual can expect to achieve within the normal human lifespan!

Observing. Understanding. Building. Three verbs – words of action, every child is naturally gifted with at birth. When executed habitually throughout life, they create a synergy for valuable growth of any individual, unlocking the immense potential within to inspire values, create value and enrich life.

Our 5-day outdoor residential vacation camp for children (age group @ 9 to 14 years)was designed for having valuable fun based on these three verbs. We eventually conducted two batches, with about twenty children actively participating and benefiting from each. The batch sizes were kept small enough so that we could pay individual attention, but large enough to enjoy collective learning through team work, competitive spirit and sportsmanship. Here’s a summary of the value created. Enjoy!
Their first ‘observing’ activity started early morning on the first day, as soon as children bid goodbye to their parents and boarded the spacious and airy first class compartments of the local train, towards the camp site at Belavali. It was to see and remember the names of the various stations that the train either stopped at or speed past. Surprisingly, most of the children had travelled many a times before, but had never bothered to ‘observe’ and understand the route. Albeit a seemingly simple and boring activity, it gradually inspired enthusiastic participants from all the children. The seventy-five minute journey towards the camp site at Belavali got over in almost no time.

After getting to know the camp site and having a sumptuous breakfast of ‘idli-chatni’, the children started the camp site activity by dirtying their hands into creating their first ever attempt at city farming – a technique that involves putting together three layers of dry twigs & leaves, wet vegetable waste and locally available mud into a bag open at both ends (for proper aeration), adequately watering this assembly and then planting seeds (soaked overnight). They all planted ‘methi’ seeds. Children watered them delicately and these grew into saplings by the last day of the camp.Children understood the benefits of resuing domestic organic waste, water conservation, as well as the importance of process and discipline during this activity.

This was followed by playing the first part of our unique YES Cube game created to achieve Your Exciting Success, by strengthening your ability (talent) and attitude (character) to See, Set and Score your goals. Playing this game opened up the children significantly into participating proactively, overcoming any shyness or inhibitions and helped them gain deeper insights into their perspectives about Success, Failure, Attitude and more. It was fun!

Lunch was taken together as one team and children had their first experience at some housekeeping work involving cleaning up their own lunch plates – a first time event for quite a few of them!! This was followed by a 30-40 minute break that was supposed to be a session to ‘relax’, but invited a unanimous non-cooperation from all children – what with their abundance of energy and enthusiasm overflowing with expectations and excitement.

The afternoon session involved an activity where the children made a beautiful product themselves, packed it themselves and then went about selling it on the streets to real people – it was all serious fun, strategy, team-work, competitive spirit and the sheer joy of determining value of their hard work, arriving at a price and then getting to know how difficult convincing people can be, experiencing failure and rejection multiple times and then eventually tasting success. We too were truly and excitedly surprised that eventually all the children in both the batches ended up selling what they had made – a first time for them as well as for us. It was not the money they made, it was the experience of failing again and again and again and yet not giving up, learning from our failures and eventually succeeding. A life lesson learnt live!

The children returned back home victoriously, as if they had conquered the world – their world! As the Sun set, a different world from outer space awaited them, sparkling and shining in its glory, almost as if congratulating them and joining into their victorious celebrations. The skyline cleared the way for the planets and stars - time for observing through sky-gazing or ‘aakash darshan’, understanding and building their knowledge about ‘twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are; up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky’. The children learnt about the stars, planets (Venus, Jupiter, Mars seen with naked eyes), constellations, and some were also lucky enough to see an artificial satellite as well as a meteor.

It was not the end of the day yet! Sky-gazing was followed by a magic – show in which the children learnt a few tricks of the trade of magic and then enjoyed creating various creatures using mere shadows of their fingers and hands. It was time to go to bed after dinner – for a few children, it was their first night away from their home and parents, alone!

The wake-up call was at 6am the next morning. Exercises were conducted between 6:30 to 7:15am. These included physical exercises as well as breathing exercises. During the exercises, an added attraction for the children was seeing various birds going about their morning activities and listening to their array of melodious chirps.

The children then did a little more of house-keeping activities in terms of cleaning up their own rooms, before getting ready for another fun and activity filled action day. The second day started with a few sessions on positive thinking, lateral thinking, effective communications and personality development. The children were encouraged to come forward and share their experiences and guided towards forming their thoughts and content for and emoting through body language towards a build-up for their final day effective speech presentation. This was followed with a concluding session of the YES Cube game they had begun playing the previous day. It included a session for making them experience active visualization as well as confidence building exercises.
Following lunch, children were taken into the creative world of art and painting. Several types of paintings were shown and then followed a live demonstration of painting, with their active participation. The excitement of painting and creating was followed by some group games. And then it was time to cook two special items for dinner – by the children themselves, YESSSS!

Children learnt how to create the right mix of several ingredients of making the delicious ‘bhel’ that most of them had relished many times before in their life, but never had made one by themselves. The second item on the agenda was a home, made pot ice-cream! This was made using a mechanical pot ice-cream maker, two litres of milk, sugar, mango-pulp, salt and lots of ice to freeze the mixture, as it was stirred in the pot continually for over an hour. What emerged out of the pot was a delicious, yummy home-made mango ice cream – lots of it. We also had guests from nearby localities coming over to get some taste of it. They all loved it.

After the usual early morning session, the children were all taken to a 5-acre organic farm about 7-8 kms away where they spent the entire day understanding about food chains, water conservation, recognizing different plants, as well as enjoying the farm food, the birds and the soil activities. A session of a live outdoor painting too relaxed the excited enthusiastic minds by channeling their creative energies into observing the surroundings, choosing their subjects and then painting it live; without having to bother about marks, good, bad, ugly – sheer flow of joy and creativity.

The next day started early again when the children went for a trek to the nearby hill station of Matheran where the children walked in two stages a total distance of about 8 kilometers and spent their time having fun, while observing, understanding and building their knowledge about Matheran and its flora and fauna. The monkeys and horses at Matheran were special attractions for the children. The way down from Matheran was a joyous ride on the famous toy train – a journey of about 100 fun filled minutes.

The last day of the camp included some sessions on effective communications as well as practicing their presentations and receiving feedback from other children. The objective of their final presentations was to share the activity they most liked from their camp experience.
Their final presentations are collated in the videos below:

Batch 1 Video

Batch 2, Part 1 Video

Batch 2, Part 2 Video

As the camp ended, the children were all presented with colorful mementos, as a parting appreciation and encouragement from us to the children for their active and enthusiastic participation, as well as sustaining the habit of observing, understanding and building - the basic guru mantra for YESSSS!

Feedbacks were obtained from all the participating children, as well as some parents and teachers and they are summarized here-in:

Positive Feedback (From some parents/teachers)
 The organizer of this five day outdoor cum residential activity workshop, Mr. Sunil Tatkar is well known to me. He was a student of mine. Even as a student, he exhibited a passion for ‘thinking out of the box’. He is very innovative and creative. He has developed an extraordinary and effective tool for instilling values and skills in students, in student friendly manner, evoking their interests & developing their skills by actually experiencing the activities. He is highly educated and his technique is well appreciated. I recommend this method for the all round development of the student.  + Smt. Panicker Sarala Narendran, recipient of The National Teachers Award (Public Recognition of Meritorious Teachers) from Hon. Shri Pranab Mukherjee, the 13th President of India.

The last activity undertaken during the summer vacations was a great   experience with the kids. The  children got to learn  making  wax candles and to sell those, making  handmade icecreams  etc .There were other outdoor activities like  horse riding at matheran, nature trails, botanical gardens.Some of the indoor activities done  by the  children were  preparing  speeches and learn to deliver  them  in a professional way. I would  recommend  more  parents to  encourage their children to  take active part in these activities  in order  to learn and imbibe  good morals .
+ Samar Ghorpade (works as GM-Sales -Toolings at Omira Marketing Pvt. Ltd. His daughter Ishita - 6th grade, studying at PVG's Vidya Bhavan participated.
I must admit, when we came to know about your program & were interested, we had apprehensions about sending Chintan with ‘strangers’, without any references. But apprehension gave way for confidence when we spoke to you & Mrs. Tatkar. Simple telephone conversations, interactions with both of you, the daily tele-chat with Chintan during the program and of course his beaming face on return only justified our confidence. + Mr. Girish Karnik (works at Siemens, lives in Thane, parent of Chintan, Age 12 years – student at Vasant Vihar High School, Thane
Positive Feedback (From participants)
-          We improved our perspective on how to behave and construct our life

-          Techniques of imagination and visualization powerful

-          Speech practice helped build our confidence

-          There was no scolding, the learning was done patiently in a relaxed, cool minded nature

-          We learned as well as enjoyed a lot. Even when we did ‘masti’ no one shouted at us and on the contrary, our needs to enjoy were understood and accommodated willingly.

-          Felt like the teachers were taking care of us like our parents. We were treated as equals.

-          Understood the meaning and importance of ‘Observation’

-          All activities were explained exhaustively and we were made to do all of them hands-on

-          Mistakes were welcomed and corrected. Paid individual attention and guided us properly

-          Waking up early in the morning, breathing exercises

-          Excellent tasty healthy home-made vegetarian food

-          We were also taught how to eat properly as well as clean our own plates

-          Importance of head-count when drawing human figures was very valuable. Paintings demonstrations as well as live were an excellent experience

-          Lots of information was provided in a simple interesting manner. Easy for us to digest

-          Discipline (such as the benefits of waking up at 6AM every morning and exercising)

-          Acting and Jokes were superbly and effectively used. Individual guidance and suggestions for improvement provided.

Constructive Feedback (from participants)

-         Made us walk a lot during the trek at Matheran! We also took a wrong direction once!! (batch 1 and 2)

-          A few mosquitoes used to disturb our sleep at night! (batch 2)

-          We were made to present our final presentations twice! (batch 1)
On the list of items we had requested the children to carry with them when we started the camp was a smile. As we handed over the children back to their respective parents after the journey back from the camp site, the satisfaction of seeing their smiles having grown bigger and wider was something money can never buy. Bye Bye !!