By Caitlin Perkins, Director UArts Continuing Education
Gayatri Aditya is a UArts Teaching Artist Certificate Program Student. She participates in this online program from Shanghai, China.
I had a chance to catch up with Gayatri, one of our Teaching Artist Certificate program students who lives in Shanghai. Literally, catch up to her–she is a busy woman. She has been a participant in our TAC program since last fall, but she just got back from Ooty in Tamil Nadu region of India where she spent four days as a teaching artist-in-residence at a remote rural school.
Gayatri and I spoke about her fall Capstone Project, which will complete her Teaching Artist Certificate program. Even though it was early morning in Shanghai, she was beaming with happiness to report that because of her participation in the Teaching Artist Certificate program, she had just secured a job at the Bright Start Academy in Shanghai. She starts teaching her new program in September teaching art to a group of 16 two-year old children!
Gayatri explained that she would develop a series of lesson plans to work with the school’s curriculum, and laughed as she explained that she would definitely be referring back to the coursework from the Human Behavior and Child Development class in getting ready to work with such young children.
Leading up to our conversation, I’d been following Gayatri’s journey to Ooty in July of 2016. She worked with a Tribal school in Ooty,Tamil Nadu to help build a school.
Gayatri did a four-day workshop and intervention in the Tribal school in Ooty. This particular school sits inside a forest surrounded by tea plantations, and the tea farm worker’s children attend the school until the 4th grade. The teachers are government appointed, and Gayatri said that they are extraordinary, working at the school with no power or electric connection, let alone wireless. She laughed saying that simple teaching tools she has so often relied on didn’t exist, “They write everything. No photocopier. No Internet. No electricity. No lights. They are in the middle of the forest!”
The children have text books, but there are no storybooks. We spent a lot of time reading stories, but as she started her four day residency, “I realized on the first day that the children couldn't draw!”
And, in closer observation she saw that the children were being “overly corrected” or "inappropriately corrected' when they showed their drawings to their teachers. Disturbed by the barriers that had been put up, Gayatri said she went home that night and remembered something her mentor Cheilaugh Garvey said: “Children learn best when they are let out in nature.”
The next day, Gayatri took from Garvey’s lesson and asked the children to go out and collect whatever they could find. Then they made “drawings” using these found materials. The children made patterns or designs of their choice and then we let the rain and wind wash it away the next day. The drawing project was amazing!
Gayatri added to their experience by having the students photograph their drawings and designs.
Gayatri left for Chennai/Madras, India on June 24th, and upon her return she shared this experience with her fellow UArts TAC classmates, indicating that [she had] “put all that we learned last month into practice. It really works! I suddenly found Lowenfeld's [stages of artistic development] observations and charts coming into being!”
While the school project with Ooty is over, Gayatri explained that they have identified needs the school has and she will continue to raise awareness and funds to support it. She started the a fundraising campaign in June and has already raised funds and volunteer support. You can read more about Gayatri’s projects with the children on this blog: https://gayatriadityablog.wordpress.com/2016/08/07/first-blog-post/
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