Basic Body Parts with pictures http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zo9fQ9A60rU

Disclaimer: 30% of this is based on facts (including the video), the rest pure imagination.

The other day I had sat with five Level 0 (least bright) children at WM Center with the net book to go over the Body Parts video lesson. Names of the students are not relevant, as you will realize at the end of this report. I was able to activate the video showing head, eye, nose, etc., but the audio was not there or was very feeble. Perhaps it was in ‘mute’ mode. Not wanting to fumble with the net book in front of the children, and thus expose my net book illiteracy, I allowed the video to run without sound. I hushed my ego by making it believe that it was a shrewd strategy on my part to judge if the children could come up with the right words on their own by seeing the pictures, or even try to read the words seeing the letters appearing on the screen.

Normally when they see a word start with H, they will either say Head or Hand, but the pictures accompanying the words helped choose the right word. When it came to distinguishing between Hand and Arm or Leg and Foot looking at the picture alone, which could be confusing even to a trained teacher, the words helped. Occasionally, seeing the children try to pronounce some words, I helped them by sounding the first letter, e.g., mmmmm……………., nnnnnn…………………, fffffff……………. , for Mouth, Nose, Foot, etc.

Lastly, the picture of Stomach appeared. (see pic.)

Now, Stomach, you will agree with me, is perhaps a word the WM Center children had never come across, let alone used, having had no occasion till now to write leave letters on a monthly basis citing acute pain in that part of the body. For ages, stomach ache has been the excuse most preferred by everyone from school kids to executives to housewives to escape not just classes but several other situations because of its unique distinction of being an ailment that can’t be disproved by teachers, colleagues, bosses, husbands or even doctors. As if having never heard the word is not bad enough, the word itself is a complex one, looking from a Level 0 kid’s angle. It not only cunningly starts with a double consonant but also ends with one, making life difficult for the children and the volunteers.

To come back to my narration, when the picture of Stomach appeared, there was a sudden silence and after about 2.0003 seconds I thought I have waited long enough and started to say st…st…..st…… and had gone as far as ‘ssssss’ when suddenly, all the five kids triumphantly cried out in unison, “Simran!

Well, I thought, either the children, assessed as level 0 by us volunteers who consider ourselves to be somewhere in level 122+, could read my mind or I have developed a new skill of group-communicating through telepathy. For, I can’t truly say that the name did not occur to me.

Note: None of the above, except for the contents of the video, is true. Including the allusion that I don’t know how to turn on the speaker in the netbook, because I know how to do that. Yes, when I say I know, I just KNOW, okay? If you don’t believe me, ask Sim……… NO!…….I was only about to write ‘ask simply anyone’.

Can’t ‘stomach’ this kind of stuff, eh?

— RR

The Sound of Silence

I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own……..no, if I hand’t ‘heard’ it with my own ears. At WM Center, it was achieved today not once, but twice.

At the end of the half-hour Library session, with Saye’s laptop set on the table with speakers on either side clearly signalling that a DVD was about to be played, the din and noise created by the excited children was deafening. Try as some of the volunteers might, it was simply not possible to make the children stop chattering. Then Saye tried the time-tested method. He somehow managed to make himself heard to the first row of children and told them that until total silence was achieved, he would not play the DVD. To drive home his point, he went and sat in a corner. It took some time for the meaning of his gesture to sink in and percolate to the furthest row in the back. Gradually, the intensity of the noise came down to a light buzz and then to a murmur………until the class became unbelievably quiet. You could hear a feather settling down. Throughout the transition — from sound to silence — all the volunteers remained rooted where they were, sending out an unmistakable message to the children. The DVD was then played.

Well done, Saye!

The second time this same feat was achieved, an entirely different technique was used. After nearly two hours of book reading, video watching, lessons and worksheets, the children were starting to fidget — as they tend to do after a long session. The activities were all done, we were ready to call it a day when the skies suddenly opened up. The children’s noise, coupled with the pouring rain, reached its peak and it was so bad that you couldn’t hear yourself think.

Suddenly, above the racket boomed Yeshwant’s voice, “All of you be silent.” No one bothered. He wasn’t one to give up, though. Straining his vocal cords, he again yelled, “All of you be quiet.” Again, no one stopped speaking or shouting. Then he bellowed, “Let’s hear the rain!” That did the trick! Even the volunteers took notice. Slowly, ever so slowly, the uproar gave way to silence until there was not a sound. Except that of the rain.

In that silence, we listened. We listened to the music orchestrated by Nature that was coming to our ears from all directions. In the stillness, we could hear the rain coming down in sheets, could distinctly hear and distinguish the sounds of rain falling on the roof, hitting the cement floor outside the class-room, dropping in the open space above the class and around it. We could hear the gurgle of rain water as it gushed down the drain.

The silence within the class lasted for about 40 seconds, but within me it stayed much, much longer. When it lasted, it was simply divine. There is no other word to describe how I felt. ‘At peace’ would come very close to it.

Thank you, Yeshwant!


Deepam wins 2010 HP EdTech Innovation Award !!

Hello Friends of Deepam,

The hardwork and dedication shown by all at Deepam , is rewarded through the 2010 HP EdTech Innovators award . This award includes grant of Technology and cash worth over $40,000. The HP Edtech Innovators award supports educators using technology in creative ways.

The email from HP says “ Deepam is one of 10 educational institutions across the globe that have been selected by HP to receive this grant in 2010. Only 4% of the received proposals were funded, making Deepam part of an elite cohort dedicated to enhancing math and science education through the innovations that are possible at the intersection of teaching, learning, and technology. This award of cash and technology is valued at more than $40,000 “

This award rewards organisations that make real impact on people and helps the organisation to build the capacity to reach more people.

An idea like Deepam can exist in many minds but its the execution that matters. It is only because of the dedication and commitment of the entire team of volunteers at Deepam, that we managed to win the award. Every single volunteer who has contributed time and energy to show up at the class , motivate students or even helping Deepam through many administrative tasks, has contributed to winning this award.

Awards like this one validate the Deepam way of thinking and execution. This is an assurance that we are headed the right way. This award also will motivate all of us to put in more efforts .

A working model such as Deepam has high chance of winning awards. Thanks to all volunteers for keeping the Deepam model, working. A special thanks to Meera Sundar – She was always positive about Deepam winning the award. She motivated / pushed a lot of us and applied / sent a proposal for the award grant. Thanks Meera !!


Fun with Google Doodle

The kids at the Uroor Kuppam(UK) center participated in the Doodle 4 Google contest conducted by Google last month.

Doodle for Google is a competition where young people were invited to design the Google logo in their very own style based on a different theme.
The theme this year was: My Dream for India

We had very enthusiastic responses from the kids in the UK center. You can check out some of the photos of their drawings here:

Engineers of the future in the making.

Its Oct 2nd, National holiday, shops are closed, schools are closed too, and in most centers children to mass bunk, and decide to watch T.V.But what happens at Kakkan colony center takes everybody by surprise. It was also quarterly exam holidays, so the volunteers weren’t expecting much of a crowd.

The previous week, we had taught kids about bridges, their types, their functionality etc, and so decided to give children a hands on experience on what it takes to build bridges. Volunteers were all geared up with all the materials to make this bridge building event a thought provoking one for the kids, but were alsofilled with skepticism about children turning up for the class. slowly by the time it is 5 o clock, we have more than 30 kids in the class, and new kids just kept pouring in.

In a way, we were both happy and scared if we would be able to make the children experience what we intended to teach. so anyway, we take one thing at a time, and decide that the only 5th graders and above will do the bridge building activity in groups of , while the smaller ones will work on dialouge delivery and conversational english. Once again, we were surprised, the smaller ones offered to help the bigger kids build the bridges.


Children and volunteers formed groups and the ice cream sticks were distributed and children were allowed to choose their bridge designs from the templates. The collection of designs was given on an experimental basis to cater to various levels of complexities and to test commitment levels besides team work and visualising 3 D objects. These included simple truss bridges to more complex ones like suspended bridges, arch bridges and beam bridges based on their strength and load bearing capacities.. The thought that these kids probably don’t get a chance to relate real life scenarios to what they read in books made the whole effort of teaching them and experimenting on it made it a worthwhile experience.

We had invited Ms Lekha Umesha as our chief guest, Lekha is an Architect graduated from NIT Trichy. Her areas of interest are in product design and creative designs. Currently after graduation, she has been learning and doing a lot of complex Modular Origami objects.

we had started working on building the bridges by 5.15 P.M. while the bigger kids were scaling their bridge designs and getting ready making their templates, the smaller kids help them apply glue to the ice creams sticks and also run around spying on other teams and their levels of completion. It was a total fun activity, where we were witnessing a combination of team spirit, leadership among the older ones, understanding maths, physics and the strength of materials.

the Judge arrived at 6:30 P.M and only 1 bridge had got completed by then. when we looked around, we had no hopes of seeing any more bridges getting completed, and she started her work on judging, which included criteria like stability, complexity of design, execution and improvisation from the original design, minimal usage of material for maximum strength and load bearing capacity. after the 1st entry had been evaluated, the heat caught on when children started counting the number of tiles the bridge could bear, and the spirit was so high inside the class room.

subsequently all the entries were evaluated, and the result was announced. Honestly it was a very satisfying event and a memorable one for the volunteers and kids as well, as most of them took more ice cream sticks home to complete their bridges and were planning to bring it to class the following week. Later Ms Lekha remarked that, the enthusiasm in the smaller kids was higher than the bigger ones. while some of them took it seriously, some of them were having fun. while some of them struggled with over ambitious design, some of them did a commendable job with their simple yet strong designs. The struggle was more due to the lack of team work and communication skills among kids, as they were unable to communicate what they wanted to deliver and hence slightly complex designs failed to materialise.In effect, it was a learning experience for both volunteers and the kids. Never mind, it was still a practical lesson learnt.

Deepam WM anniversary Celebrations

No festoons or flowers, no dazzling lights or music. Still, the class room wore a festive look and the joyful atmosphere was so thick you could lean on it. The children had come in dazzling colours that matched the excitement in their faces. It was like it was everyone’s birthday.

In a way it was. Yes, West Mambalam Center of Deepam stepped into its second year on 4th September 2010 and the function to commemorate it was got up on 25th September.

And what a day it turned out to be! The class started at 9 AM like any other day, with children vying with each other to get the best book from WM Center’s library. Even though the children knew ‘Board Games’ were to be inaugurated after the library session, it was heartening to see that they were well-behaved, not wanting to rush through the books. Soon, when the modest collection of Board Games was thrown open, the volunteers appearing more excited than the kids, it was greeted with loud cheers. The games were an instant hit.

Children and volunteers formed groups and the games were played with great enthusiasm both by the kids and the volunteers. The Center’s collection of games had been procured on an experimental basis to cater to the interests of children of various levels. These included jigsaw puzzles, word games, chess, games based on numbers and shapes. The thought that these kids probably don’t get a chance to enjoy such games either at home or at school made the whole exercise very special and exciting.

The Center had the honour of having Mrs Chitra Nagesh as chief guest. Mrs Chitra Nagesh worked as a Social Science teacher at DAV and at PSBB and currently after retirement she is working with a lot of schools and teaching Ghandian Values. It was a proud moment for Saye and Yeshwant who have attached so much value to her impeccable qualities, and today they could express their gratitude to their teacher in a way she’d feel happy and invite her over to introduce WM team to her. Mrs Chitra Nagesh put everyone at ease with her simple approach and modesty. Her talk on non-violence and appeal to all to shun violence, going deep into root causes of many a conflict, was really thought-provoking to the kids as well as to the volunteers.

Afterwards the children enacted a beautifully conceived skit, show-casing in just 90 seconds the ideals of Deepam and how over the last one year these have been achieved in West Mambalam Center.

A fitting memento was presented by Deepam WM Center to Mrs Chitra Nagesh. In recognition of the excellent support the school’s Head Mistress, Mrs Radha, and the teachers of the school have been extending to Deepam and its volunteers, an acrylic shield with the inscription “Deepam Supported Institution” was presented to the School.

This was followed by cutting of the Anniversary cake and distribution. Children were also given in a take-home packet cakes, biscuits and chocolates.

Truly it was a very satisfying event and a memorable anniversary for Deepam WM.

Later, commenting on the event, Mrs Chitra Nagesh remarked that Deepam’s way of combining fun with teaching is something that even trained professionals struggle to achieve.

Origami and SCRATCH ! Learning By DOing!

Deepam KC centre had organised a fun activity for the children. Subash Thiyagarajan , an origami expert, had a fun time with the kids at the centre. He seemed a natural, talking their language , engaging the kids in the art , commanding their attention , keeping the kids interested and amidst this fun activity, he taught us to make this paper art and also a nice lesson in maths on shapes.

All the kids showing off the japanese samurai hat !!

‘Tsuru’ the bird, that we made !! I enjoyed this workshop . I was happy i made it to this class – this bird is now on my home showcase 😉
Thanks to Chandana and Gokul, for planning and organising this session. They are now keen on taking Subash to other centres. So, if you missed making this ‘bird’ , you still have a chance 😉

Deepam team at Pudiyador has been experimenting with a new application called SCRATCH. SCRATCH is an interesting tool – students can draw / animate the characters / record audio and play them in sync with their animation. In short, children can make a short animation movie!!
No no, it is NOT complicated – with such easy to use tools, SCRATCH makes the children enjoy this experience. How do i know if the kids liked it ? Well, the volunteers had to stay 30 mins past the scheduled close of class, since the children were so engrossed in the project 🙂

One of the kids showing off their project 🙂 – Surely, learning is only by DOing 🙂
Sooper work Ram / Santhiya / Shashi / Deepa et al. Awesome energy in the class !!

Netbooks at Deepam West Mambalam Centre!! Thanks to OPEN India

We had our first class at the Deepam WM center on Sept 5th 2009 with a dream of introducing computers to the kids and teaching English by using them as a tool and one year later we have realized this dream. It is more than a dream come true for these less privileged kids who are enjoying the english lessons taught using the netbooks.

The Deepam West Mamblam center currently has 6 Dell Mini Netbooks and from the class on Sept 4th we have integrated it as a part of our curriculum. We are sure that the children will cherish learning english from the Hi Tech tool. The WM team is very happy and grateful to the sponsors for not only nurturing the enthusiasm in the kids but also helping the center take one step closer to being GREEN by helping us reduce the number of worksheets used in the class.

All the 6 netbooks at the west mambalam centre were sponsored by OPEN India. Just over a call , OPEN team decided to support Deepam and followed through with it. We are grateful and thankful to OPEN , IGNITE trust and Sriram Gopalaswamy and Bala from DELL for making this happen. We look forward for your continued support. Also thanks to Saye for his initiative – he came across OPEN and wrote to them requesting for support… and here it is 🙂

Deepam Financials 2009-10

Though we had these numbers in our newsletter issue of july 2010, financials required a seperate post.
  • All the monies raised / donated were used to directly benefit the children
  • There is no admin expense – no money spent on activities that didn’t directly benefit children . For example : No salaries were paid to ‘volunteers’ / no cost of operating an office etc
  • The netbook fundraiser organised by Srini / Balaji / Meera and Vijay
  • Many small contributions that added up quite well, to end the year with a surplus
  • We bought 6 netbooks with the monies , to support the UK / KC centre
Thanks to our treasurer Bhargav, for patiently working through this one. Quietly, he works away in the background, to ensure all the activities go smooth without the glitches. Thanks buddy!