Greetings to all those who are reading this post which will take you through my personal experience & learning as a volunteer with Avalokitesvara Trust, Ladakh in the month of July.
Allow me to brief you a little about my educational background for a better & contextual experience of my maiden visit to Ladakh. I am a board game enthusiast, a graduate of Fine Art (printmaking) & a post-graduate in Film & video Communication Design from NID, Ahmedabad. Like any other person from a creative background, I too dreamt of visiting Ladakh while studying in Chandigarh almost a decade ago. The dream finally got realized this summer & here is how it happened.
I travelled with FOL (Fountain of Learning) team from 7th to 13th July, 2013 during which we setup four reading rooms; two each at Lamayuru & Ridzong. Lamayuru lies 127 kms west of Leh on the main Leh-Srinagar highway & Ridzong is about 75 Kms from Leh. There is a nunnery, located about 2 km from the monastery, is called the “Jelichun Nunnery” or Chulichan (Chomoling), where, at present, 20 nuns reside. At the time of our visit there were only two, since the summer vacation had already commenced.
In all we spent about four days in Lamayuru, which were split between a Monastic School & a Govt. Secondary School.These schools mark the beginning of my love to teach board games. An incredible journey of laughing, learning, playing, creating. Engaging everyone in a group play is something that is definitely much more than packing a room with a group of children. It was interesting to see the curiosity of children grow at different stages as I introduced them to a few games at beginners level.
Approach & methodology
Just to warm up and break the ice, we had a basic skill and logic based game session with the young monks & their two teachers. They all were in the age group of 7-14 years and all of them were boys who were active, energetic and open to learning.
An hour and a half long game sessions on two days included skill based games & beginners level abstract strategy games. The teachers were also engaged in the process of learning some advanced level games, which could be used even after we left, and when the student is ready to take on a bigger mind challenge.
The games played included Jenga- a skilled based stacking game; Park it Right- a logic based speed testing game; Cross and noughts- beginner level strategy game; Achi- two player abstract strategy game; Reversi- also known as Othello is a two player strategy game of intermediate level, Flip the card- a memory based game to strengthen recalling power. The basics for these games were very simple and easy to follow for most. Along with other FOL team members Deachen, Phuntsog, Diskit & Gawa we sat in small groups and engaged with children to play these games.
Observation & Experience
During my short interaction with the children at Gompa school & Govt. School in Lamayuru, I get a sense that it is easy to get to minds of children through game play. Four days in two schools has been just the beginning & first step towards being the change I wish to see. Play is every child’s right & it is essential for the social, emotional & their physical wellbeing.
Here at these schools the children were very responsible and helped their friends to understand things that they themselves grasped easily. It was a delight to see such close knitted relationship amongst them. Such sessions definitely help children to break away from a routine and engage in play with an all new pepped up spirit. In my opinion such modules should be held more often at primary level where a child’s mind is ever ready to learn things from the space around him. It is through self-exploration and learning that there is intellectual growth of a mind. Twisting and turning, swinging and singing was the perfect way to end the session. Hoping to visit them again next year with more games & a lot more fun. Mr Konchog Tsering is one of the teachers at the Gonpa School. He teaches Bodhiscript and helps children with their other routine activities. He indeed was very able host with a warm smile & a kind heart. He himself took keen interest in the board games & was happy to learn the same for the benefit of his students.
Overall, it was an elevating experience that words alone cannot express. I hope in years to come there would be more games alongside the books in the reading rooms. May we all contribute in our little ways towards providing quality education where it is needed the most.