Our journey to Tamil Nadu was a wonderfully enriching experience. I was able to learn about and participate in a culture that is both vastly different from and in some ways the same as ours. Language, customs, educational practices, art and music, social differentiation, economics, government, religion, food (loved it!), climate, and health care were only some of the aspects of South Indian life that we explored.
Perhaps more importantly, it was the human connection of our similarities that I think of often. It was enlightening to interact with workers from various NGOs, gain understandings, and hear their views on problems that are both local and worldwide in scope, such as land use issues, globalization, women’s empowerment, and AIDS education. Our talks with Gandhian philosophers and teachers were a heartwarming reminder that many groups in this world are actively working to promote peaceful solutions to conflict. A favorite photo of village children, laughing and caring for younger siblings, reminds me that love and laughter are universal.
Having the opportunity to see a variety of educational settings, from special needs schools to colleges and village schools to private schools, was quite insightful. While it was difficult to not dwell on the differences in facilities and materials between our schools and theirs, it was impressive to see the love of learning and the use of what was available to enhance education. The students in my kindergarten class have really enjoyed learning about Southern India this year. Artifacts, from books to lunch pails to puppets to rupees, along with photos have provided hands-on involvement for lessons. Lessons range from describing a child’s life in an Indian village to the making of kolam designs. As kindergartners, they are naturally curious about similarities and differences in world cultures.
In all, our trip was a remarkable experience. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in the project, especially with such a great group of people.
Thank you Rachel, Eveline, and Judy for your organization, knowledge, caring, and commitment.
And thank you CESCI, our peaceful, green oasis.
Kathy teaches kindergarten in River Falls, WI.
Go to Kathy’s lesson plans: (Elementary+):