New Projects, New Adventures

The past few weeks have been intense, with extreme highs (like celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi with our students) and quite scary lows (like Kelly ending up in the hospital with Dengue fever).  We’ve all taken a step back to be thankful for our blessings, from health to children’s games and everything in between.  Our students are now sitting their exams and being away from them has made me realize how much they anchor us in our life in Hyderabad. I’ve felt pretty lost without our regular routine of laughing, learning and producing with the students!

As much as I love Hyderabad, I’m very excited to be heading to Tamil Nadu with Emily for our Communities Rising adventures. This should be a challenging couple of weeks, filled with projects, interesting people and of course a whole new group of students. I’m looking forward to posting about our experiences and sharing some new videos!

Our students met the challenge of moving from photo stories to video projects with new confidence and bright ideas. We’ve explored a wide range of formats and concepts, from public service announcements and silent films to full-blown dramas.  At Railway 8A, we divided the class into two groups and had each produce their own videos. Interestingly, the group with all the girls who love to dance ended up acting, while the group with the girls who aren’t as interested in dance ended up dancing!

A highlight of the short video production at Railway was when Prabhaker and HM called one of our students at home to congratulate her on her good work in the video. Her joy at this recognition was infectious and very gratifying. There were many benefits in dividing into two groups, such as getting to work more closely with each student and ensuring maximum participation, but the best part was the fact that some of the shyer, quiet girls were able to come into the spotlight.  While the videos address completely different issues, they share a similar theme: bravery. Fighting for your rights and recognizing that your own talents and interests are of value require the kind of strength in character that we hope all our students will develop. They certainly seem to be on the right track!

We had decided long ago that the public service announcements were the way to go at Audiah Memorial for our short videos, because these students seem to have an endless supply of ideas along this line (perhaps stimulated by our early “cause and effect” lessons). These students recognize that “consequences” can be interesting to portray on camera. Since we were sliding into festival season at the time of pre-production, they were especially excited to make videos about their favorite celebrations. On our first day of shooting for the Sankranti PSA, I was dismayed to discover that our main actor was absent. Looking back, I realize that this was actually a blessing in disguise, as it required one of our shyest students to suddenly become the main character. Rahul really stepped up and it was so nice watching him finally relax and have fun in front of the camera. I enjoyed teaching the students about silent film and showed them some classic examples that amused them.  While Sankranti production took several lessons, the Diwali team tends to be a bit more focused and was able to finish filming in one day—incidentally, the day that my parents visited the school. This was truly special for me to show off the students in action!  Both PSAs address actual dangers that our students and their families face during what are otherwise joyful times. Every year, explosions from fireworks cause serious harm and small children flying kites from the rooftops are in serious danger of falling or being electrocuted. I feel that our PSAs captured the spirit of each festival while expressing a subtle message to enjoy carefully.

At Bansilalpet, Emily and I wanted to have a lesson about point of view to kick start our brainstorming session for the short videos.  We thought of a way to demonstrate how individuals can see the same event differently. We split the class in half and lined them up on either side of the room while we stood in the middle. Then we hugged each other, while I smiled at one side of the class and Emily pretended to cry while facing the other. We asked the students to describe what they saw. They were surprised to discover the difference! My group of students came up with a story that looks at the perspectives or opinions of three people in one family: a grandmother, a mother and a daughter. I enjoyed this project because I felt I was gaining a small glimpse into some of the family dinner conversations of my students.

Below are several of the short videos, and the rest will be posted to our Vimeo and Youtube channels in the coming days. Goodbye to Hyderabad for now, but our return will mean launching into our final projects, a trip to Google headquarters and reaching new heights with our students!

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