‘Design for Giving’

With thanks and appreciation to all the staff who worked so hard to make a success of the meeting for Principals and the Press Conference. Turnout was a bit on the low side with fears of swine flu etc. However, the enthusiasm levels made up for any lack of guests.

Design for Giving is, undoubtedly, capturing the imagination of many children and that interest level will continue to grow in coming weeks.

My thanks to Gayatri Chaliha, teacher of Vasant Vihar campus for the report of the meeting below.

Ms. Kiran Bir Sethi
Founder/Director, Riverside School, Ahmedabad which is promoting
the School Design for Giving Contest
Ms. Sethi spoke with great feeling and enthusiasm about the nationwide Design for Giving Contest that has been initiated by the Give India Foundation. Through a short and simple video clip she demonstrated the feeling of joy that stems from an act of giving, however small and seemingly inconsequential …
Design for Giving is about formulating
In this endeavour, children are the agents of change. Children can be the change they would like to see … and be changed in the process because, as she says, one cannot give without changing. Everything done under this programme has to stem from the children – what problems do they see around them that they would like to do something about? How would they go about finding solutions for these ‘problems’? … She inspired the children and brought home to them the fact that they do not have to be 18 years of age, or rich or powerful be able to act and give (this contest is open to the 10-13 years age group).

Explaining the procedure involved, the STEPS of the process were outlined and they are : –

The ‘solutions’ referred to above should have the following features:
 They should impact large numbers of people
 The ideas should be fresh and original. The word Ms. Sethi used was ‘audacious’ ideas!
 It should be over within 1 week (Whether this is something that the school or children would like to take forward for longer is a different issue)
 Need to note how you are changed by the change you have wrought

All stories of change are to be submitted by October 15th, 2009. The winner will receive the award from Dr. Kalam on Children’s Day.
Apart from the tremendous impact of an endeavour of this magnitude (the toolkit for registration itself is in about 7 languages as it involves schools across the country!) Ms. Sethi elaborated upon her attempt to give this another more lasting direction. The stories that will be born out of the Joy of Giving Week will be converted into a curriculum (also in 7 languages …) so that others can learn from these stories, be inspired and hopefully, carry this movement forward.
In the end there was a video of what some children from the Riverside School set out to do and accomplished – and it was a revelation! From the number of stakeholders that just … multiplied to include the rest of the school to parents as well, to the happiness and levels of energy generated amongst the children, those giving and those receiving …


Actor, Activist and Brand Ambassador for the School Design for Giving Contest
Mr. Rahul Bose had the assembled audience, especially the children, riveted from the word ‘go’ – and we all know how hard that is with children especially this age group!! He spoke their language – in more ways than one.
Mr. Bose begun first by sympathizing with the children, appreciating how they must feel at that moment – like so much cattle herded into the hall, and how unappealing the subject under discussion must be to them … He had felt the same, he said, when involved forcefully in SUPW (Socially Useful Productive Work) which had been the equivalent, when he was in school (and many of us staff as well, if we care to recall), of what was being attempted by this contest. However, as it had yielded neither the all-important “marks” nor was a requisite for graduating to the next class, he had found it boring and uninspiring.
He proceeded then, to two stories gleaned from his experience of travelling through the country, one about the lack of communication facilities on one of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands devastated by the tsunami because of which they could not be informed of what was to come, and the second about two former IIT students who, while travelling in Bihar, came across a village which had no water, and begun an endeavour that involved digging a canal and went on to starting a school, etc. These two pioneers were shot to death, finally, for the simple reason that they were lent helping hands by people who were experiencing the joy of giving and doing to the extent that they forgot about the differences of religion and caste between them, and that was not acceptable to the political forces active there as they banked on these very differences for their survival …
In the manner of the Panchatantra and Jataka Stories, he used these stores as analogies to show to the children and Principals/ teachers present that had he been allowed, when in school, to choose what he would like to do with the one hour of SUPW time, and how he would like to go about doing something useful and productive for others – he would have done something about the situation described in the stories above. And it would not have been so meaningless then … What was therefore unique about the School Design for Giving Contest is that it gave the children that choice. “The brilliant part of all of this is – there are NO RULES!” he told the children. It was all up to them. And if they really did feel, then the ‘imagine’, ‘do’ and ‘share’ would follow. However, if they did not feel, then there was no point getting involved. Too often education is focused only at the head and not the heart, but this experience could change all that …
The Home work he set for the children was to try harming someone the next day, and also try helping some one, anyone. And to “compare and contrast” the differences!! Helping, they would be sure to find, would be a great feeling that would make their “hearts big and strong” – a feeling like no other. That is what the “Joy of Giving” is all about.
He sympathized with the Principals present regarding the vastness of the curriculum they had to get through in the year and the concomitant problems of that. Yet, he made an appeal to them – “If not now, WHEN? If not us, then WHOM?”
The “two Indias” were brought into the discussion – the one represented in the hall by children who … were not poor and did not have to worry about the next meal, and those who were not as fortunate and had to worry about every and indeed any meal. He spoke of the 100 million such children, around the same age as those in the hall, and appealed for even the smallest deed that could benefit them in any way.
Perhaps the most important message conveyed in Mr. Bose’s speech was that of magnitude. The message was that the magnitude of the act envisaged, or how far-reaching or sustainable it might be – these were not to be considered for this endeavour. It was important just to make a start, however small. And the ‘small’ would all add up and contribute in our attempt to turn around the fate of our people and our country, now likened to a gigantic rock fast making its way downhill, to make it simple for the children. He said in his own lifetime, it might not be possible to see the rock stopped. Just to slow down its journey downhill would be an achievement. The children, though, might have the good fortune to be instrumental in not just stopping the descent, but also turning it around on a path uphill
In the question and answer session in the end, when asked what did become of the two stories he had spoken of, Mr. Bose informed us that in Bihar, although the canal had been dug, was operational and the village did have water, the other projects, the school and toilets for women had been stalled. And as far as the Islanders were concerned, Mr. Bose’s organization had helped fund mobile phones for them …


Seatbelts not Cool?

There are things in this world that threaten us that we can’t really control. There are other things that threaten us that can be limited in their potential impact by the choices we make. Like the choice to ensure that we and the people we care about wear seatbelts.

The following video is shocking. However, when you have known people who have had this kind of experience you understand why it is shocking. I share it here because i care about the people in the Shri Ram community and want them to be empowered to make choices that protect them.

If you thought that was shocking and have now resolved that in future you will wear a seatbelt when travelling in the front of a car, the following video is, in some ways, stronger. It shows the tragic effects of not wearing belts in the back of a car. And …. think about it, everyone now buys cars with rear seatbelts fitted, but when did you last put it on?

Made you think?

I really hope so. Because I long for a day when the person who won’t put their belt on is called ‘uncool’.

TSRS Soccer Reaches New Heights

From our soccer correspondent, Mr Keshav Dutt,

TSRS, Moulsari Campus made history by becoming the first ever school from Gurgaon to win the Pre Subroto Cup State Championship by beating St. Sophiya School, District Hissar 1-0 in the finals!

This means the boys have qualified for the National Subroto Cup Championship to be held in the month of October 2009 at Ambedkar Stadium, New Delhi, where the winner schools of all the states and schools from abroad will compete against each other.

Aryaman Anand, Arjun Dutt, Avyay Gujral, Aditya Mallik and Siddharth Mukherjee played outstandingly through out the tournament. The credit goes to the whole team as they fought brilliantly against all the odds like over age players, muddy ground, poor refereeing and under the boiling temperature.

Well done lads, you’ve done yourselves and TSRS proud and we wish you all the best in October.

Go Shri Ram Go!

Subrato Cup


Subroto Cup Indian Ex

Science Can Be Tricky

The following are all alleged to be things written by students in science exams and assignments. Whether completely true, or not – they are amusing for a Sunday morning!

“The body consists of three parts – the branium, the borax, and the abominable cavity. The branium contains the brain, the borax contains the heart and lungs, and the abominable cavity contains the bowels, of which there are five – a, e, i, o, and u.”

“To collect fumes of sulphur, hold a deacon over a flame in a test tube.”

“Water is composed of two gins, Oxygin and Hydrogin. Oxygin is pure gin. Hydrogin is gin and water.”

“The moon is a planet just like the earth, only it is even deader.”

“A super saturated solution is one that holds more than it can hold.”

“Mushrooms always grow in damp places, and so they look like umbrellas.”

“A permanent set of teeth consists of eight canines, eight cuspids, two molars, and eight cuspidors.”

“The tides are a fight between the Earth and moon. All water tends towards the moon, because there is no water in the moon, and nature abhors a vacuum. I forget where the sun joins in this fight.”

“Liter: A nest of young puppies.”

“Rhubarb: A kind of celery gone bloodshot.”

“Vacuum: A large, mansion where the pope lives.”

“To remove dust from the eye, pull the eye down over the nose.”

“For a nosebleed: Put the nose much lower then the body until the heart stops.”

“For dog bite: put the dog away for several days. If he has not recovered, then kill it.”

“To prevent contraception, use a condominium.”


Blog goes black – who can figure out why?

Bengal Tiger Consultation

Last week I had the good fortune to attend this fascinating conference which was supported by The Shri Ram School. However, on this occasion, rather than write about it myself, I asked some of the students who attended to do so. What follows is the write-ups from two of them, Priyanjali Mitra and Rishika Sahgal, both of Aravali.

Their observations are thoughtful, articulate and reflective of the very full and interested role they took in the discussions over the two days. The students of TSRS were not mere bystanders and observers. They asked searching, probing questions and took a full and active part. They also conducted themselves in ways that brought great respect for our school and were a credit to TSRS.

We are hoping for many interesting things to come out of the TSRS presence at this conference including a possible online collaboration with a school in New York on environmental issues.

Here are their articles;

For over 25 years Sanctuary has been writing and campaigning for India’s wilderness areas. The Fifth Consultation-Ecosystems, Climate Change and National Development was held on July 28-29th at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Teen Murti House in New Delhi.
The inaugural session had eminent speakers and parliamentarians namely Mr. Jairam Ramesh(MOEF ),Dr. Karan Singh(Member Of Parliament) and Mr. Salman Khurshid(Minister-Corporate Affairs).Bittu Sahgal-Editor of the Sanctuary Asia magazine delivered the keynote address where once again he stressed on the importance of conservation and preservation especially in an era of climate change.
The conference was spread over 2 days and had a host of agendas from critical wildlife habitat, wildlife trade, internal security, science and conservation to ecosystem services ,legal frameworks, the Ministry of Environment and Forests(MOEF) and the Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority(CAMPA).
There were certain very exciting and informative sessions and we as students took note of certain points that we pondered over the course of the conference.
In the inaugural session, Valmik Thapar presented a simulated view of the Panna Chhatarpur area in Madhya Pradesh which is now a completely degraded land. He wanted to devise a plan to renew this land within 2 days of the conference. This seemed an interesting idea and it finally boiled down to the creation of a Green Forest Zone or a Green Economic Zone the principle of which everyone agreed on as there was a need for controlled managemnet.state of the art protection, air and just settlement for villagers as they are important stakeholders and subsidy for non-carbon energy use.
Some interesting points came up during the course of the day like Dr. Ullas Karanth pointing out that we need to prioritize our battles and that science and technology will be an imperative to protect forests.
Naturenomics by Mr. Samir Menon is a very important concept which relates to capital formation for a region or organization through the creation of ecologically driven assets in a sustainable manner.
Dr Annupriya Gundameda( IIT B) stated that payment for ecosystem services is a plausible way out.
Belinda Wright(WPSI) spoke extensively on tiger trade and poaching and its relation to India’s internal security. She gave absolutely relevant examples of poachers hand in glove with the timber mafia, cannabis growth in Corbett and armed insurgency in Simlipal.She rightly said that Indian trade in endangered wildlife was a ‘wildlife version of blood diamonds’; it being a 10-20 million dollar industry.
Dr. Ullas Karanth also spoke of the need to have inviolate spaces and a sound core buffer strategy.
On day 2,related agendas were discussed where Salman Khurshid stated that preservation of forests and tigers had an inherent link with preservation of eco-systems. The most important comment he made was the need for political empowerment as regards conservation of wildlife.
Later in the day, Vinita Rai,Former Member Secretary of Administration Reforms Commission brought up the issue of a flawed examination system for the Indian Forest Services. She stressed on the need to test aptitude in the examination. The ministry should be open to scientific input and expertise from abroad. A healthy tiger population in a particular park did not necessarily imply that the officers were efficient and functioning well. There was need for innovation in the service and specialization at least 10 years into the service. This would also help bring back the public spirit and the attractiveness of the service would increase. Another very interesting point that was discussed especially for me was the fact that intake of candidates should not be restricted to science gradates as a lot of experts felt that management skills, public relations etc were equally important in the service.
Finally at the end a few suggestions that were agreed on in principle were the creation of a Green Forest Zone(GEZ),a cess to be levied on energy and raw material usage and environmental education as a subject to be evaluated with the correct curriculum and teacher training.
In the evening at the closure of the conference,Mr. Kapil Sibal came in for an interactive dialogue. It was solely based on environmental education and education in our country-how it is at present and how it ideally should be. He says that there was no use in having a 9%GDP growth in the economy if it did not sustain the earth. He also stated that the government and the community were not engaging in enough dialogue. We need to look at communities as sustainable units. He very rightly pointed out that communication of scientific principles was based on theorems whereas the correlation between nature and science matters the most.
These were the valuable pointers that I took back from this conference. For someone who has been doing the little that she can in this field which is extremely politicised,polarised and where passion can sometimes lead to deadlock as matters are brought to the table, this conference enabled me to gain a lot of knowledge that was way beyond what any textbook could have taught me. It has broadened my horizon on matters pertaining to ecosystems, climate change and tiger conservation. Mr. Jairam Ramesh was truly impressive as a speaker and what remains to be seen is whether he converts this honeymoon into a long lasting relationship by fulfilling his promises.Mr Kapil Sibal made me rethink about a lot of things and as I pondered over the meaning of education and how much we have truly learnt, a thought came into my mind. Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher ‘standard of living’ is worth its cost in things natural, wild, and free. For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television, and the chance to find a pasque-flower is a right as inalienable as free speech.”

Priyanjali Mitra, The Shri Ram School, Aravali

Saving the Bengal Tiger Conference

Having been part of the conservation of tiger effort for 6 years, we always look forward to a tiger consultation, and this was no exception. During the consultation held on the 28th and 29th of July, we not only discussed some of the problems faced by the dwindling tiger population, but also discussed possible solutions. It was a platform for people from all walks of life to come together- forest officials, ministers like the minister of Environment and Forest, Jairam Ramesh, the HRD minister Kapil Sibal, eminent conservationists like Bittu Sahgal, Valmik Thapar, Fateh Singh Rathore, economists, scientists, police personnel and students. Of all the problems discussed during the 2 days, we knew some, learnt some and were motivated to work towards eradicating all.

Saving the tiger involves saving its ecosystem as well as curbing global warming and climate change, things which are all closely interlinked. An economist said, “Agriculture provides only 16.5% of our GDP and is growing at a measly rate of 3% per annum. It also contributes maximum to pollution because of the extensive use of fertilizers which pollutes the ground water. Agriculture also uses 80% of the water supply in the country. Yet, most government projects for rural development involve promoting increased agriculture production. However, India already has sufficient agricultural product to meet its food requirements, but 20% of food is wasted during storage and distribution. Thus, the government needs to increase efficiency of farming, food storage and transport, not increase production”

A hotly debated topic was the relocation of villages from inside national parks. Everyone reached consensus on the fact that resettlement cannot be forced on to the villagers and the villagers’ lives outside must be better after resettlement than before.

Another topic hotly deliberated was the growth of urbanization. For India’s development urbanization is inevitable. Thus, the government needs to build more cities instead of the current trend of expanding cities to bursting point. Sanjeev Sanyal of WWF said that we need to revive small town India, relook urban design and build small, dense efficient cities instead of the spacious garden cities we have been building till now. Also, there must be facilities to promote the most important mode of transport- walking!

One of the most important issues discussed was a need to revamp the ministry of environment and forest. In Bittu Sir’s words, “today, wildlife is like a tick on the dog of environment!” The ministry needs to be bifurcated into 2: a ministry for environment and another ministry for wildlife and forest. Also, there has to be a radical change in the IFS. The syllabus of the exam and the recruitment rules need to be changed. During the last year of the training phase for IFS officials, candidates must be trained for specialization in either of the following fields:
• wildlife,
• forestry,
• people oriented projects
• reclamation of degraded land.

We must also have GEZ (Green Economic Zones) just as there are SEZs to promote economic growth, we need GEZs to achieve the minimum forest cover required for a sustainable future.

Most of all, all the delegates realized the importance of innovation in the field of wildlife protection, especially for saving the tiger, because “if you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got!”

Rishika Sahgal
Class 12 S
The Shri Ram School Aravali

Caring Confrontation

In these times of so much debate and discussion about children’s vulnerability to bullying, ragging, aggression and other inappropriate behaviour educators have to be ready to explore all avenues for what can be done to find the best ways to minimise destructive and negative behaviours and replace them with good, healthy ways.

Whether as a child or an adult, a sense of alienation or ‘aloneness’ can be one of the worst and most debilitating feelings for anyone. In schools, despite the ‘crowds’ such feelings can come about in many ways, driven by a sense of competition, by a sense that only some can succeed in relative terms (for which others would inevitably have to ‘fail’ or perform less well.

A scarcity mindset can so easily create beliefs that success and achievement are limited and reserved for the few. I believe we need to develop a real, strong sense amongst our students that if they are in competition with anyone, it’s with “them out there”, the rest of the world and not with their colleagues inside the Shri Ram School community. In fact, all their interests can best be achieved if, within the community they are really there for each other, really giving each other genuine support and help, boosting each other up, helping ensure that all achieve to their highest potential.

With these thoughts in my mind i really loved this article from Educational Leadership online magazine, so wanted to share it.


Caring Confrontation

Design for Giving Contest

The Joy of Giving Week (27th September to 3rd October) is a great concept in its own right.

Joy of Giving Week

However, the Riverside School, Ahmedabad have added an additional element which really lifts it to a new level of awareness. What they have created is a contest between teams of students with a teacher for guidance from at least 30,000 schools across India to generate ideas for “Giving” projects, which they will then go ahead and implement. That will see at least 1,50,000 children between the ages of 10 and 13 engaging in acts of kindness, thoughtfulness and whatever giving ideas their creativity leads to.

The Shri Ram School has been asked to act as a nodal link for schools in Delhi and the NCR. We have a really enthusiastic team of teachers from Phase III and Aravali – Chetna Maam, Rashima Maam, Janani Maam and Rina Maam who are working really enthusiastically to make sure that as many schools as possible come on board to celebrate the joy of giving, the joy that a child can gain from doing something for others.

Design for Giving

There is still time to get lots of schools on board. So, please pass the word on to as many schools as possible across India, sending those in Delhi and NCR our way.

We also intend to put together as many teams as possible from within our own school to join in the contest, to unleash their creativity and imagination and to hopefully get a lot of fun out of doing things for others.

Are you Smoving?

Something a bit different, but it appealed to me:

So let’s all Smove !!

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