Dancing to Teach

A group of 11th & 12th graders press softly on wet clay till it takes the shape of a dome...Another student devises a clay ribbon with intermittent stripes…After a while all the pieces of moulded clay are assembled and take the form of Sanchi Stupa. The installation they are making is part of the presentation on Madhya Pradesh being put up by the students for the folk-art exhibition. Another student is making excited queries about Malwa cuisine as part of the presentation.

The students of these grades & all other grades have learnt Indian folk dances like Karam, Margam Kali, Ghoomar, etc. from dancer and theatre person Mahesh Pande who is visiting the school to teach folk dances. The students are also working on presentations on various facets of their chosen state. Pande has been visiting The Peepal Grove School for several years now and has held workshops in Western and Indian folk dances. Mahesh Pande holds folk dance and theatre workshops in different schools across the country.

“Dance and teaching dance are spiritual journeys for me. I feel that dance complements education and without it, any learning is incomplete. I believe in learning with all the senses. When I teach dance, I’m in a way planting a seed for a new approach to learning. Teachers in the school, whether they teach language, history or science, are expected to see the impact and replicate the model. If that happens then I have succeeded,’’ says Pande who holds a repertoire of 300 dance forms from across the world!

Mahesh Pande had a sense of his calling when he was in school. “I happened to take part in a SWOT analysis in Grade 8 and the three vocations presented before me were that of a dancer, a teacher and a chef. ‘Why not both?’ I thought,’ shares Mahesh”. After graduating from his alma mater Rishi Valley School, he joined Kalakshetra Foundation to pursue his passion for dance. A few European embassy representatives who attended the convocation found his work impressive and at the age of 22 he was in the Netherlands teaching classical dance. However, he knew that his primary love was folk dance that he had learnt while in school. He used his fellowship to travel around Europe and learn folk dance forms. "If Bharatanatyam has meaning, then folk dance forms also must mean something, I thought to myself,’’ says Pande.

Later he got an opportunity to visit OGrow, a Krishnamurthy school in Ohio and he performed dance dramas on mythological themes. The school wanted it every year. So, he continued to travel in the US and his contacts grew at a time when there was zero digital access.

After a few years of working as teacher and cultural coordinator at schools, he took a break to freelance. He began to go wherever he was called. He also continued his learning in theatre and Yoga alongside. He was fortunate to have learnt from the best in the land–classical music from ML Vasanthakumari for seven years; mridangam from Palakkad Mani Iyer (both happened to be teaching in Rishi Valley School). His teacher in Kalakshetra was Sharada Hoffman, a direct disciple of Rukmini Devi Arundale, the founder of the institution. He learnt Yoga from the legendary BKS Iyengar himself at Pune.

Asked why he did not become a professional choreographer, he says dance for him is not just dance. “It is therapy and a tool to educate. My goal is to bring about a marriage of art and academics. Students should not see facts in isolation. They should perceive with all their faculties. The more you make learning visible, the more the students learn,’’ he says.

He converts a lot of educational content into musicals and dance dramas for schools. This has included stories, poems, Shakespearean plays and even concepts from science as required by schools. “I write scripts and add dances. This way, a child who is disinterested also pays attention and learns,’’ he says.

“Teaching is a profession which has ample space to be creative. A teacher can just take the stage and perform what she is teaching. And the child immediately understands,’’ he says. He is heartened to see boys and girls who have never danced transformed by the experience. Another thing he finds rewarding is the fact that he is becoming an emissary for dying Indian folk dance and music forms to the new generation. Students love the experience. “I loved learning Bhangra this year. Dance hour with students across grades is a magical experience. It doesn't matter whether it is western or Indian,” says a boy in Grade 10. “I love dance for the sake of dance and not something that has to end in a performance”, adds a 12th grader.

Mahesh is ready to leave for his next destination: another residential school for a dance workshop. His itinerary is endless and he doesn't seem to mind it one bit as long as he can share the joy of learning through dancing with the young students in various schools.

— Sreelatha Menon, Faculty @The Peepal Grove School

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Lessons in Losing and Winning

What does it mean to be a successful athlete? Is success only about winning or can there be some learning involved as well? I might be able to answer these questions by sharing a few lessons that athletics has taught me.

I look back to an incident from when I was a child trying to overcome my fear of the monkey bars. I would go to the park every day and attempt to swing from one side to another. It felt like a daily failure, falling each time, but I kept persisting and overtime the continuous efforts reaped rewards and soon I was able to swing to and fro on the monkey bars. This incident was just the beginning of many lessons that I learned throughout my athletics journey.

Athletics became an integral part of my life here at The Peepal Grove School. I have been given opportunities to test my capabilities. I am learning how to remain consistent and resilient during tough days and situations. Sports has taught me to remain consistent and to have the courage to keep trying whether it’s academically pushing myself in a challenging subject, working on a friendship or even working on improving my confidence. I am understanding that sometimes no matter how consistent you are, results do not come as fast as you expect them to and it’s in times like these that you just have to continue to do what you’re doing with the same interest and effort. It is becoming evident to me that I have to stick to things even when I feel hardest-hit and not quit when things become challenging but instead learn to enjoy these challenges.

Winning gold medals at the State Level (CISCE Athletics Meet) has only motivated me to set a higher benchmark for myself.

I am grateful to The Peepal Grove School for giving me opportunities and the space to grow and improve. I was given constant support throughout, especially when I failed.

—Tanuja K Parijatam: Grade 12 (Batch of 2024), The Peepal Grove School

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Chandrayaan-3: A Journey of Pride and Wonder

As the nation awaits the historic landing of Chandrayaan on the moon today, I can’t help but reminisce July 14, 2023 with awe and wonder. This was the day when the students of Grades 10, 11 and 12 of our school had the privilege to witness India's big moment: the Chandrayaan-3 launch at Sriharikota. We were ecstatic and immediately dove into newspapers and labs to learn more about this special mission.

Chandrayaan-3 was India's second attempt to land softly on the Moon. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was leading the way to make it a success. The mission aimed to study the Moon's geology, minerals and exosphere - all to help us understand its origin and evolution.

The significance of this mission made us immensely proud. Despite the past challenges, Chandrayaan-3 was a symbol of India's determination to explore space. With careful planning, we were getting closer to revealing the Moon's secrets.

Finally, after a week's anticipation, we embarked on our journey to Sriharikota at 6 in the morning. The heat and lack of cold water tested us, but our excitement and hope kept us going.

The day of the launch was unforgettable. As the spacecraft soared, we felt an overwhelming rush of emotions. Witnessing this historic event was an honor, and it brought tears of pride to my eyes. I realized that moments like these bring out an unseen side of ourselves, and for me, it was a deep sense of patriotism.

The journey to Sriharikota was long and challenging, but every moment was worth it. We had the privilege of witnessing one of India's proudest moments. The memories of Chandrayaan-3 stayed with us, like stars shining brightly in our minds.

Now, when I look up at the moonlit sky, I can't help but think about that tiny spacecraft, on its way to our Moon. Chandrayaan-3 has filled us with wonder and curiosity, reminding us of India's spirit of exploration.

This mission will be celebrated as a testament to India's pursuit of knowledge and scientific excellence. For all of us on this journey, it will forever be an inspiration and a cherished memory of our country reaching for the stars.

—Chitra Anand: Grade 12, The Peepal Grove School

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A Dream - Living And Working At An Alternative School Like PGS

When we embarked on the task of being parents, little did we know about raising a child. But of one thing we were sure, we wished for him, of course, the BEST!

By best, we didn’t mean any of the material toys and gadgets that money could buy. We meant to stay as close as possible to the nature of our child and so attentive to his needs that he could grow into a confident young boy.

We always dreamt of an alternative school education for him and we admired the Indian way of blending tradition with education; discipline with responsibility. Especially, knowing that only human mind has rendered life so complicated, we have been in search of simplicity, when time was ripe for a change and after having lived 7 years in Mysore, life played one of its favourite tricks of “coincidence” by placing into our hands the autobiography written by Sri M.

The seed was sown and the dream grew into reality when we got an opportunity to live and work at The Peepal Grove School – a founded by Sri M in 2006.

We live at The Peepal Grove School, the best a parent could wish for his child. Surrounded by the simplicity and yet grandeur of Nature, the hills are plentiful to walk on and the ever changing landscape gives rise to new discoveries with every step.

Being an Alternative School, children receive education in creative and innovative ways by highly dedicated teachers, whom we admire. They live in a safe environment, where drugs and alcohol are only read of in books. And yet, there is a spark in the eyes of all these kids and teenagers. There is a smile that, far from the city distractions, only true happiness and contentment can draw. When we say that we live in India, most people look at us with great curiosity, some with fear, others turn their back with indifference.

Marina Bergamin & Sergio Martinez Pose at PGS, an Alternative School in India

We can just say that we have been lucky enough to be called to live here, in India, and feel blessed to be a part of this wonderful family at PGS.

Matina and Sergio both thought Hatha Yoga and Spanish at The Peepal Grove School, an alternative school in India. Marina also loves taking students on treks and Sergio is a dedicated cycling enthusiast who regularly takes students on cycling expeditions.

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