It has been our continued mission to offer a rich and vibrant experience to the children coming into our Direct Care, Monday through Friday, through the Uhuru programme. The curriculum of Uhuru, is designed to enhance the children’s skills and achieve therapeutic goals.
“To develop a complete mind, study the science of art, the art of science. Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.”
-Leonardo da Vinci
Uhuru, which means freedom in Swahili is our Arts Based Therapy program for children with special needs . Arts Based Therapy (ABT) is the evidence-based use of multi-art forms that includes music, drama, dance, play, fine arts, imagination and story-telling to accomplish individualised goals within a therapeutic relationship. Arts Based Therapy enhances development through the deliberate combination and involvement of both the body and the mind. This unique approach holistically addresses the critical dimensions of development namely cognition, behaviour and social skills.
ABT aims at enhancing these basic capacities so that practitioners create for themselves a vocabulary of creative arts-based techniques which they can apply along with assessment, therapeutic objectives and evaluation.
The use of arts and healing forms the bedrock to therapy and learning in this program. A team of ABT Practitioners trained and certified by World Centre for Creative Learning Foundation (WCCLF), Pune, conduct ABT sessions in Uhuru.
Highlights of the Program
Uhuru, our Monday to Friday programme, focuses on the children’s skills and goals. The curriculum is designed to achieve the therapeutic goals and enhance their skills.
The domains and goals worked on for the larger objective are:
- Body – Fine Motor, Gross Motor, Oro- Motor, Physical Agility and Alertness
- Attention – Levels of Attention – Focussed, Sustained, Divided attention
- Cognitive – Auditory Speech Discrimination, Spatial Reasoning, Non-verbal Thinking
- Group interaction – Cooperation, Assertion, Self-control
- Narrative Capability – Vocalization, Basic vocabulary, Descriptive Speech
- Expressive Capability – Self Expression through the Arts
These goals form the basis of the one on one and group sessions that the children are a part of during the day/week. The routines and schedules that they follow during the day/week as well as the exposure to a diverse range of programs enables the effective implementation of the above.
A conscious attempt is being made to ensure that each group engages with a greater number of facilitators through the sessions be it a one-on-one or group session.
Implementation of the Program
The Uhuru program opens its portals to each new year at Snehadhara with the Summer School program. Over the years though the program has evolved in form and content, it continues to retain its intent of providing children vivid experiences within and outside the centre that serve to enhance their goals of social interaction and independence.
Our aspirations for Summer School 2019-2020 were to weave artistic endeavours in as many spaces, with as many people and through as many experiences as possible for our children-– delving into new crafts, exploring new territories, greedily lapping up experiences through our interactions with each other and the new people we meet, all leading to enormous learning and revelations of spirit.
The Summer School this year saw a lot more Artists at the Centre and also the children travelled within and outside the city. Themed ‘People and Places,’ this was a summer of travel and new friendships, brand new hobbies and colourful portfolios. New relationships opened up with skills previously unexplored, in places familiar and unfamiliar.
Every year we create new memories of what epitomises Summer Vacations. It has often been about visiting friends and relatives and making new friends in new places.
Summer School 2018-2019 presented Meil Milaap, as the focus of the month of April where we ventured out to each other’s homes and other welcoming spaces to share our ‘sunful’ joy and partake of the generosity of our hosts. We devised a large canvas for ourselves to harness every possible ray of senses to touch and feel and explore; there was song and dance and paint, lots and lots of paint and colour as well as food in many hues, textures and tantalising tastes.
We believe what we learn outside the classroom is equally and a lot more important than what we learn inside. Each year our Summer School edition brings to children experiences where learning is fun and fun is learning. Dhoop Dhamal 2017 offered expeditions into the world of culinary delights, object theatre, dance and movement and wondrous weaves. It paved the way for a different experience in the culinary world for our children. They cooked together, they served together, they powered their creativity and gave a kick start to the cafe ‘Obattoo’. The highlight of the summer school was the 3 day trip to Devaraya Samudra, an excursion that created learning opportunities beyond the confines of boundaries and opened up a world of beauty and warmth.
The summer school ‘Atota Lakmose’ this year was a six week program that saw a heterogeneous group of children- the children at the center, their siblings and friends- experience art in its various forms. The children together enjoyed sessions in visual art, storytelling, puppetry, baking, gardening, pottery, dance and movement, and theatre. The various learnings from the summer school culminated with an hour long performance at ‘Paradigm Shift Café’.
Structure Of The Day
The structure of the day at Snehadhara provides the framework which allows the children to experience a flow to the day through all the daily activities. The day begins at 8.30 am for the children followed by Circle Time where each group welcomes the day with music and songs. This is followed by breakfast and two morning sessions that include group sessions as well as one on one and ABT sessions. At lunch the children and adults eat together, children buddied with adults. Lunchtime and naptime lead to two afternoon sessions where on any typical day the children are a part of sessions in classrooms as well as outdoor sessions. Closure of the day is at 3.15 pm and by 3.30 pm the children bid goodbye to the centre.
The Obattoo Cafe under the Oota Thota programme continues to see our master chefs cook and serve a buffet of dishes on Fridays.
Besides the activities at the centre, under our Classroom without Walls endeavour, some children go to Kid’s Corner school for Snehasangiti once a week, furthering our effort towards creating a community of empathetic, compassionate learners. This year’s goals for social interaction are envisioned through Home Visits, Treevelling and Travel beyond the confines of the centre and through Houseful, Culture and Arts, Theatre and Drama at the centre, where external facilitators share their metier through performances and workshops.
Our curriculum design is rooted in the intent to enable the children to acquire the tools required to navigate the daily practicalities of life while also getting prepared to deal with some of the larger questions that life asks every child and adult. Our focus is on creating a space where compassion is an integral part of daily living – with respect to the self and with others; resilience is built to deal with all that comes in the path; attention and observation skills are honed; emotions are acknowledged and negotiated; learning flows from connection with each other and an understanding of the larger interconnectedness of all and everything emerges naturally.
At Snehadhara, learning is embodied for the children and their families through many experiences provided by a range of facilitators- ABT practitioners and others at the centre, external faculty, visiting artists, peers, interns and volunteers.
The curriculum designed for the children each year is based on action research projects, group domain goals identified for the children and divided into three parts:
ARTS BASED THERAPY (ABT) – GROUP and ONE-ON-ONE
Each group undergoes ABT sessions as a part of action research projects each year. The ABT sessions are conducted either in a group or one-on-one format. The findings from these sessions are further analysed by triangulation of assessment and evaluation gathered from qualitative and quantitative analysis of observation formats, standardized tests and ABT tools.
This year we pilot the SEE (Social, Emotional and Ethical Learning) curriculum for the children and team of the Uhuru programme. SEE Learning has been developed with the help of a team of experts in developmental psychology, education, neuroscience, and trauma-informed care. The culmination of over two decades of academic cross-cultural collaboration between Emory University and the Dalai Lama, who has long called for an education of heart and mind.
SEE Learning conveys a universal, non-sectarian and science-based approach to bringing the ethical development of the whole child. Scientific research is demonstrating that basic human values can be taught as skills and that this can result in measurable benefits for physical, psychological and social well-being. These so-called “soft skills” not only contribute to students being able to lead a happy and meaningful life, but they are increasingly recognized as desirable and necessary skills by employers as well. The entire Snehadhara – Direct Care team undergoes training on this curriculum through the year drawing in new developments based on the latest knowledge in educational practice and scientific research and integrate it into the classroom sessions.
LANGUAGE AND FUNCTIONAL ACADEMICS
The sessions in language and functional academics address verbal and non- verbal communication, listening skills, impulse control on speech and action, non-verbal thinking, expressing needs and disagreements through story reading, comprehensions and role plays.
These are addressed through exercises using props, musical instruments, breath work.
ACTIVITIES OF DAILY LIVING
Personal hygiene and self-care though important are seldom relevant to the children due to the sensory challenges as well as lack of understanding of social expectations. There is a special focus on Activities of Daily Living for the children in the curriculum. These activities include inputs on using the bathroom, eating and drinking, dressing-undressing, selecting clothes for weather and situation, grooming (e.g., brushing hair, shaving, make up, nail care), personal hygiene, ( e.g., washing hands & face, brushing teeth, showering or bathing, using deodorant, menstrual care) and taking care of personal belongings. They also take this to application during their travels beyond the centre as well as during overnighters.
An integral part of the goals for a child is to work on independence, empowerment and livelihood skills. The sessions on vocational training focus on the children being a part of small units like cafes, restaurants, printing press, cash counters, shops to understand how they units work.
Overnighters at Snehadhara have always been an exciting door to enter the world of independence for the children. An overnight stay away from home, managing oneself, ones patterns and emotions, emerging triumphant through the experience, all this have paved the way for the children to learn very naturally about themselves and empowered them to accept challenges with rapidly growing readiness.
HOUSEFUL – OF JOY AND ARTISTIC ENDEAVOUR
Watching a performance together could be as thrilling as singing in harmony or acting in a multi-cast play. That huddle of attention and happiness around a performer is what Houseful aspires to offer the children every month.
In the new term, Snehadhara Foundation will continue to welcome performing artists – musicians, singers, dancers, magicians, actors, story-tellers, beat-boxers – who will open new worlds for us through their art. The intimate settings of these performances, followed by short, small group learning interactions, will hopefully allow our students to taste the wide and varied possibilities that the arts can enable. Our attempt through ‘Houseful’ is to create experiences that allow us to be touched by another’s creativity, as well as engage in the process of co-creating an artistic space.
‘Houseful’ – is our attempt to collectively linger in artistic spaces – witness and soak in the magic of creativity as creators and artists in our own lives.
Some of the Projects of the year for the Uhuru Programme
CULTURE AND ARTS
Exposure to traditional art forms in music and dance, through listening, watching performances, participating in workshops, experiencing costumes, languages, visual art forms, stories, strive to work on attention, narrative and expressive capabilities of the children.
STORY TELLING AND SHADOW PLAY
Conversations, stories, shadow play look at enhancing narrative capabilities, imagination, creativity and generate curiosity in the children.
PLAY AND EXERCISES
The sessions on sensory play, embodiment and directive play in the curriculum looks at goals of response time, attention, focus and movement for the group.
This is a semester project combining wet and dry media, painting using indigenous materials, varied techniques and canvases, looking at the natural world for inspiration, incorporating songs and stories. Through a variety of mediums, the attempt is to build the stamina of the group to focus on task, and understand boundary, and artistic creation.
CONSTRUCTIONS AND COMPOSITIONS
Through creation of architectural 3D models of familiar spaces indoors and outdoors, delving into the process right from physical inspection to planning, designing and execution, the aim is to address the spatial, attention, observation, language and social goals of the children.
THEATRE AND GAMES
Through drama and play we enable the children to understand transactional relationships, exercise flexibility and adaptability to different situations, look at problem solving and decision-making skills. The sessions facilitated by Artists also introduces theatre skills that work on voice, language articulation and acquisition.
RHYTHM AND MELODY
Drum circles facilitated with the groups have been designed to look at helping the children to look at imitation, consistency, attention and patterns through improvisations and helps establish their presence to the moment.
For achieving language goals like vocalisation and sound production a yearlong project is to introduce the children to a variety of wind instruments, make instruments and toys with them that produce music and create soundscapes. The focus is on working with sounds and frequencies to achieve oro- motor goals, impulse control and attention with the children.
SKETCHING AND ZENTANGLING
Shades and strokes while sketching allow us to work on fine motor skills with the children along with zentangling to look deeper into attention, imitation and patterns.
An important aspect of vocational training this year is tailoring which focuses on fine motor skills, attention, participation, communication, independent function and response through cutting, sticking, measurement and sharing material.
Following up on the gardening endeavours of the last two years the children are taking it deeper into the basics by understanding and executing composting, planting in the pots, caring for their pots and learning to clean and clear up. This enables them to understand a process from beginning to end and participate in it with emphasis on attention to, observation of and completion of work and involvement in the routine and structure of it.
Classroom Without Walls
We open ourselves to learning beyond the bounds of the center
DHAN DHANA DHAN GOAL - FOOTBALL
Our sports program takes off with football this year. The emphasis is on working on and enhancing the basic skills like warm ups, understanding the movement of the ball, passing, receiving, running and a grasp of rules of the game. All this seeks to enable the focus not only on the motor skills but social interaction, dynamics within the group, body awareness, attention and expression within the group as well as exploring boundaries of personal space and rules.
Treevelling is about travelling to meet trees and revel in them. The goal of the exercise is not just to celebrate trees but to track the impressions that trees leave on our consciousness. This is important because those impressions could become the fodder for much learning about our own bodies, our feelings about our bodies, its relationship with the earth, our perception of our self, our aspirations and our contexts of being and becoming.
The intention is to hone the children’s observation of the external and internal environment, trigger further development of their motor skills, ability to work together, take turns, share props, be creative, improve their communication and develop story-telling skills.
It involves exposing the children to trees, leaves, grass, stones, seeds, clay, paper, fabric, colours, photographs and other materials, mostly natural. The children walk in the park and befriend the trees they choose to interact with. They are given space to engage with the materials and sensorial triggers in their own ways, to observe the materials as deeply as possible and record their impressions.
HOME VISITS- Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki
Home Visits last year were the perfect platform for the children to learn from and about themselves and each other. Their social goals were addressed on a broader ground of meeting families and friends in a variety of settings. Very organically their patterns found a space to adapt, their flexibility emerged, and they were able to indulge in a plethora of diverse experiences both as guests as well as hosts. It also provided us an insight into their world away from the centre and was thus a wonderful realm of co learning for all of us.
The year 2019-2020 brings with it the same enthusiasm, the same zeal and the same spirit to continue on this learning journey of fun, food and friends. Each parent hosts the group of his/her child for about 2.5 hours approx. once in two months. Every Thursday children of each group visit one of their group-mates homes, meet their friends and families, have lunch and return to the centre. The children leave the centre at 10.45 am and are back at the centre by 2.15 pm. Facilitators and support of the group concerned accompany the groups.
Our Parent Interactions
Our endeavour with our parent community has always been to come together, learn together and stand together for our children. Over the last few years through Kala Samvaad, our parent interaction forum, we have made an effort to enable that intention. Last year too through Creative Expressions and Dialogue Circles we envisioned the coming together to build a space for collaboration, reflection and mindfulness. Despite the fact that the response was low we persevered in our belief that the way forward for our children lies in us collectively moving towards a common vision. Our faith in our path is clear and we will continue to persist in 2019-2020 in our attempts to bring the community together.
Keeping the above in view Kala Samvaad in 2019-2020 will continue to be a space that holds deeper conversations about the self, about life and about relationships on one Saturday a month. Through artistic endeavours we aim to delve into understanding our own motivations and challenges and creatively arrive at solutions.
MONTHLY PARENT MEETINGS AND DOCUMENTATION
It has always been our endeavour that parents should walk the path of learning with us, a path that we envisage for the children together. It does need to be a collaborative one for the learning to be holistic. In 2019-2020 the child’s learning journey with the parents is shared in a twofold manner. Firstly, once in two weeks the direct documentation of the children’s daily experience is sent to track their progress. We have also opened up a Friday a month for Monthly Parent Meetings where parents can meet the team in small groups to strengthen the collaborative route for the children’s learning.