Neema and Cheekoo in Dahanu

Posted by Amna Singh on July 21, 2017

This year, we'll be taking some of our authors and illustrators to classrooms and reading centres around the country. These are authors and illustrators who have contributed to the digital-first, STEM books that have been developed with support from Oracle. We're organizing these mini-events in association with our outreach partners. Pratham Books is eager to create more opportunities for our contributors to interact with young readers from across India, and this seems like a great start!

Neema (aka Bijal, our editor) and Cheekoo (aka Karanjeet Kaur, our author) trudged up to the Tamarind Tree School, Dahanu on a very rainy day for story sessions with the kids. Here is that story...

The Tamarind Tree School is an experiment in trying to bring in much needed equity in the education domain through open-source. The aim is to open up the world for the first generation learners of the tribal communities of Dahanu through a learner driven environment using the pedagogy of activity based learning. The school, in its 7th year of operation, has 150 students (90% belong to tribal villages in the neighbourhood) where technology is used extensively with the educators supplementing conversations around learning. 

The biggest impediment in this endeavour is not a physical one. It is the long history and the weight of oppression borne silently by these tribal communities. This effort to draw them out into the light is an exercise that needs to be handled with utmost empathy. 

Our sessions:

Neema was welcomed with open arms as courses on food, seasonality and bio-diversity are an important part of the syllabus here. The teachers put up a play at the school assembly on the advantages of eating with the seasons. This set the tempo for all the learning conversations to follow. Bijal's story sessions with Grade 3, 5 and 6 students included everyone talking about their favourite and least liked veggies and fruits, the Warli names of what Neema likes to eat, an informal quiz of what grew when & why..and a formal quiz at the end of the session with a video of Sam (an educator at Tamarind Tree) on how he has finally understood why his mother always stressed the need to eat the fruits and vegetables available in the season. The kids plan to make their own Dahanu seasonal calendar with Sam!

In the assembly, the teachers introduced three new words to the kids - ‘trash, biodegradable and recycle’ through a play. And then Karanjeet went on to narrate the story of naughty Cheekoo learning a lesson in cleanliness and social responsibility. The key conversation to emerge from these sessions was one where the Grade 7 students of Tamarind Tree School have now decided to embark on a 4 day clean-up drive of their neighbouring pada within Sogve village. The recce and pre-planning for this initiative are on as we type this up:)

And some other stuff we just have to share:

It was a wet week in Mumbai and Dahanu was green, silent and gorgeous. Brown chikkos hung low outside our classroom window as we sat chatting about our Cheekoo and her story:)

The cafeteria is a very important learning space. The students read-aloud the lunch menu, make a note of the displayed array of raw materials for cooking the day’s fare, comment (preferably in long sentences) on what they thought of the meal and then help with the clean-up.

The food was yum. And we were CHOMP! CHOMP!ing, MMM…MMMing just like Neema.

Signing off with one of our favourite pics...

You can read What's Neema Eating Today and A Cloud of Trash in 5 languages on StoryWeaver. 

The development of these books and the outreach session mentioned in this blogpost have been supported by Oracle.