The Katha Lab School is an enriching school environment for students of all ages. As we observed, it is a multi-sensory experience that engages learners through collaboration, and critical thinking. There was evidence of cultural and artistic awareness, and promotion of gender equity. A unique aspect of the cultural awareness of this school is the publication of several diverse cultural stories that have been translated into English in order to share them with other parts of the world.
Manzil Mystics is the name of the musical group at Manzil, a very unique educational facility. This school has no "teachers" in the traditional sense, because several students in the school are also teachers. This allows everyone to become an integral part of the school. As we listened to the founder of the school explain his vision, it was very evident that he was very passionate and committed to the improvement of his community. What began as informal tutoring of 8th grade math students has turned into a very organic educational movement that is changing lives.
We got up really early in order to travel to the wildlife sanctuary! We saw Indian elephants in the wild, and the amazing Malabar giant squirrel, which can jump up to 20 feet from tree to tree!
Today, the school put together an amazing farewell celebration. Honored guests presented us with tokens of love. There was dancing, martial arts, and alot of crying from the U.S. teachers! When asked to share about my experience, I was overwhelmed from all of the kindness. From the moment I got to Kerala, I was treated as if I was a member of the community. I never felt like a foreigner- I was embraced by the people, and the school community of SMV Higher Secondary School. The high standards and expectations for learning, supportive administration, cohesive team of teachers and the emphasis on preservation of cultural traditions and values make SMVHSS a school that we can all learn from.
We had the privelege and honor to be hosted at Josit's house. We had an amazing traditioanl Indian meal, and spent time with his beautiful family in their lovely home. Josit is a PE teacher and wrestling coach. He has earned several teaching honors, and has been featured in several newspaper articles. In September, he will receive another award for excellence in teaching. Josit's wife, Linsei, measured me for the gorgeous traditional saree that she is making especially for me. I am so honored to wear my saree to the closing cereminies, but I am also very sad to say goodbye!!
Today, we learned about another cultural tradition unique to Kerala. It is one of the oldest fighting styles in existence, and originated in Kerala. It includes jumps, flips, strikes, and requires much agility. Some of the weapons used in this ancient art form include: sword, curved sword, staff, stick, machete, and shield. I thought the urumi was the coolest type of weapon. It looks like a whip, only with metal. The performers were extremely skillful, and some were very young. This is one way that cultural traditions are kept intact, as this martial art is passed down to younger generations.
A few members of the community performed Kathakali, a classical art form. We were able to peek in as the performers were getting ready. The colorful red and green paints for the face are made from natural pigments. The costumes were beautiful, but looked very heavy. The performance was so expressive! It is told completely by facial expression, mainly the eyes. The performers train 10 years or more to learn their techniques. I feel so privileged to have viewed this cultural art form that is unique to the state of Kerala.
Today, the Student Police Cadets (SPC) organization welcomed us to their campus. The SPC is a school based initiative created by the Government of Kerala that trains High School students to evolve as future leaders of a democratic society. The organiation instills values such as respect for the laws, discipline ,civic sense, and empathy towards vulnerable sections of society through community outreach. This project also builds confidence through leadership activities and strengthens within them commitment towards their family, the community and the environment. This is very similar to the National Junior Honor Society on our campus, which promotes leadership through service and citizenship.