Letter from Papa -- "Best school in the world!"

Dear Ratna,

The kids are on vacation but come every day. The ambiance of the early morning class in the park was heavenly - I got the same feeling as I get when I drop you early mornings at Flint Hill.

You may not have been here for a while, but they are sitting in this park, and enjoying what very few kids in India are able to experience, because of YOU.


To Gyaan Ghar's supporters, this message applies equally to you. 54 students from underprivileged backgrounds in a small industrial town across the world are enjoying an enriching extracurricular education with your encouragement and support. Thank you so much.

Letter from Papa -- "Your kids are so precious!"

Good morning! - though it is still 4:30 am your time when I write this.

Just spent 20 minutes talking to about 10 of your kids - a few more than those you see in the picture. They are simply amazing! Tremendous confidence, joie de vivre, enthusiasm to learn, and positive energy. I felt totally rejuvenated after the interaction. They asked a lot about you, and when I showed them a few group photos on my BlackBerry with you in them, they made it a game to see who is first able to find you on the small screen.

Have a blessed, awesome day.

Your Poppy

Multi-cultured Masterminds

In the month of November, students were given a research project focused on promoting leadership, honing public speaking skills, and encouraging diversity.

Each child was to select as her topic either Abdul Kalam, Jawaharlal Nehru, or Guru Nanak, and write a piece on the figure, to be presented to the class.

After sharing their first drafts, students explored the process of revising their writing by taking their essays back home, having received suggestions on both content and presentation, to brush them up a bit.

Final drafts will be presented in December.

In selecting the research topics, Gyaan Ghar teachers took care to choose figures each well-known but from very different backgrounds. Allowing the students to take their pick regarding whom they researched fostered an open-minded, diverse environment in the classroom.

I look forward to reading the final products, and maybe even watching some presentations via webcam. Keep up the great work, guys!

Diwali Mubarak!

On October 26, Gyaan Ghar students opened their mouths and minds for our annual Diwali celebration. This year's theme was Multiculturalism and Open-mindedness, along with Creativity . . .  as always!

First, the class painted beautiful rangoli decorations all over the sidewalk around the school.

After this decorative folk art covered every inch of ground to be seen, the class looked on as two students acted out the Lakshmi Puja, a prayer to the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity.

At snacktime, the class enjoyed typical Indian sweets while discussing the story of Diwali according to the Sikh and Jain traditions, in addition to the Hindu tradition enacted before. Learning about these "alternate" stories was a way for students to explore how people of many faiths celebrate the same holiday for different reasons, and everyone has a story to tell.

The day was fun, educational, and yummy for all!

You'd be astounded to know how far a dollar goes.

Since the summer of 2008, Gyaan Ghar Learning Center has been operating due to the generosity of the teachers and students of Flint Hill School. Each year, the school would allow me to host a fundraiser through which, by paying $5 each, students could raise enough money to sponsor the Learning Center for a year -- about $2,500.

Having graduated, I now must find a new means of raising funds to educate the 56 students who are presently enrolled. As I plan fundraising events and look into corporate sponsorship, I also ask you all to consider making a contribution to Gyaan Ghar's mission, to give bright but underprivileged children a head start in life.

You'd be astounded to know how far a dollar goes.

$20 can buy school supplies for all students for an entire year.
$30 can cover the salary of a part-time arts teacher for 1 month.
$40 can sponsor events such as field trips and award ceremonies for 2 months.

Every little bit helps.

 Thank you.
शुक्रीया |
ਧਨਵਾਦ |

Checks payable to: Gyaan

60 New Lajpat Nagar
Pakhowal Road
Ludhiana, India 141002

A Reflection

When Michaelle Wilson, my inspiring supervisor for my Senior Project at EPA, learned about Gyaan Ghar, she was impressed with the initiative and, as many are, with the fact that that I had come up with the idea at such a young age. But for the first time, it occurred to me that perhaps I had come up with the idea because I was so young. Would I take on the same project now? I sure hope so. But for children, logistics do not exist. There are goals, and there is fruition -- with not too many steps in between. And this is one of my aims for the students of Gyaan Ghar: that they be able to imagine, that they be able to dream dreams they consider but a few steps away from becoming reality. In short, that they be able to remain children for as long a time as the rest of us do, regardless of where they come from.

Ruminations and Separations . . .

This morning, students discussed last night's ceremony: what went well and what we would like to change in the future. The energy in the class was very positive, and all had had a great time last night. For next time, students shared that they would like to brainstorm different activities to do during the show in addition to dances, songs, and poetry recitations.

We went on to about etiquette: first, that it is important to afford classmates your full attention while they perform and second, that we all have to remember to pick up after ourselves and our parents after a meal. Because many attendees had left litter on the lawn after the show, the students planned a kid-run "Clean-Up Committee" who would deal with the waste next time.

Lastly, we discussed old and new projects that the class would enjoy either doing again or doing for the first time. Old favorites were painting and making pen holders and decorative lamps, and new suggestions included making face masks, learning photography, and working more with computers. (I have submitted a Technology Proposal to Flint Hill, so we may be receiving some recycled laptops soon!)

We had one last tournament of Rock, Paper, Scissors and a photo session before we said our goodbyes -- and I promised to return soon in winter!


Tonight was the night of our grand SPRING AWARDS CEREMONY! The children's performances were phenomenal, and I was highly impressed at their level of skill and professionalism throughout the show. While their dances, songs, and poems were, of course, magnificent, it was also especially touching to see older students helping those younger with their hair and make-up, and reminding them when it was their turn to go on.

The night was fun for all, and performances were followed with dinner for students and their family members. Many proud parents approached me and thanked me for knowledge and enjoyment offered to their kids by Gyaan Ghar! I look forward to seeing the students one last time before I leave tomorrow morning.

Preparations . . .

The kids came over around 5 today (they had already attended class as usual in the morning while I was en route from Chandigarh), and we enjoyed an afternoon of laughter and games. When Priya and I arrived, we implored the students to show us the choreographed dances they had been preparing for the upcoming show. Kajal Didi, however, insisted that they surprise us at the Annual Spring Awards Ceremony to be held tomorrow. Shivani and Divya did, though, give us a sneak preview of one combination set to the classic "Piya Piya."

We commenced game time with a rousing tournament of Rock, Paper, Scissors -- the old favorite. Manisha was declared the winner.

Next was another Name Game. Each student had to introduce herself and choose one object she had "bought" from the "market," starting with the same letter as her name. For example, Ratna bought rasmalai, Parveen a pineapple, Savita a cycle, etc. Each student would then have to recall the names and articles bought of each of the students prior to herself (making the activity very challenging indeed for those whose turn came later). What was amazing was that Jyoti, one of the very youngest, was last in the circle, and was the only student to name all her classmates and their purchases without any hesitation or outside help!

Following this exercise were Follow the Leader and Ratna Didi Says -- with students facilitating both. We were then called outside by Gill Auntie for a short dress rehearsal, during which some of the boys showed me their Bhangra moves. Needless to say, I was highly impressed.

Felicitations . . .

Students started today with Bhangra drill: the Dholi (drummer) arrived around 8 to teach the children some typical moves. He was followed, shortly thereafter, by a "Pand" troupe -- a traveling players ensemble of traditional Punjabi entertainers. This group regaled the class with riddles and jokes, and had us all keeled over with laughter.

We retired to the classroom to play a few quick student-led games before we had to say goodbye as I departed for Chandigarh. Students will be working hard over the next few days as they prepare for next week's Awards Ceremony. In this spirit, we had a brief discussion on what constitutes a captivating stage presence ... which I'm sure these kids will have mastered by the time of the show!!

I can't wait to be back!

Salutations . . .

It's so great to be home and back in the classroom! I am very proud that Gyaan Ghar students remain engaged, motivated, and highly excited about learning. They are currently on holiday, and come to class at 10 every morning, brushing up on academia and participating in additional activities for about two hours daily.

Today's class started with the washing and drying of chairs to be used in the lawn at our annual Spring Awards Ceremony on the 31st. Once this had been done, the students welcomed me into the classroom to catch me up on what this exciting year has held, and to introduce me to their new classmates.

We spent most of the lesson playing icebreaker games, including the Name Game; Ratna Didi Says (our version of Simon Says); Follow the Leader; and Rock, Paper, Scissors. I was pleased to see students (some of whom were new to these activities) volunteering to lead the games, rather than simply following along.

Next, students separated into smaller groups to start practicing their individual performances for next Thursday's Awards Ceremony. I sat down to chat with our oldest student, Vandna (grade 9) about how her year was going. Vandna joined Gyaan Ghar last year after attending our Spring Awards Ceremony as an invitee of her friend Kajal. She had approached me after the ceremony to share with me what an inspiration our school had been to her, even though she was not formally enrolled. She joined soon afterward, and I am pleased to see that she seems to be enjoying not only her time here at the Learning Center, but also her experience at her full-time public high school. Her hunger for education was very inspiring and reinvigorating to me, and I was lucky to have had a chance to talk to her for a few minutes about school, work, and life.