India can’t get enough of the Granny Cloud

One of the grannies remarked to me that it wasn’t like travelling with a group of people you’d never met before – more like friends you’d known for years.  At times the bus resembles a raucous out of school trip, with much laughter, leg pulling and tall tales being told.

Everywhere we go we’re bowled over by the warmth of the welcome and the effort that the children, co-ordinators and local communities have gone to. There have been beautiful dancing, origami creations, thoughtful presentations by the local co-ordinators, and even magic tricks!

In Chandrakona we ate the best meal I’d had since coming to India – simple, fresh produce perfectly cooked from vegetables that came from a plot just behind the lab with eggs from the chickens who roamed freely around the buildings.

I also have a feeling there might be a mind reader living near the Korakati SOLE lab. As we bounced along the track I looked up at the huge coconut palms whizzing by and remarked to Mousumi next to me that I would quite possibly give my right arm for some fresh coconut water right now. We were barely past the welcome line when that’s exactly what we were all handed. It was quite possibly the best thing I have ever tasted.

This is no luxury tour of India. Every day we’ve been heading off the beaten track, eating as the locals do and often travelling that way too wherever possible. However, a few hours in a ramshackle bus with fans serving as decoration rather than any practical use made us truly appreciate the  luxury of the air-conditioned version!

Korakati was always going to be the most adventurous of all – a bus, boat crossing and then a bumpy ride along a track on a van rickshaw through villages for half an hour to reach the lab.

My (relatively) young bones felt every bump – and there were many, there’s a reason it earned its nickname The Boneshaker, of the van rickshaw as we hurtled along the track to Korakati but all I could see from those in front of us were wide grins as they clung on and enjoyed the ride. Our grannies are made of stern stuff!

Even so, we have had a few treats along the way. The fresh coconuts handed to us just as we stepped into Korakati, for example, was exactly what we needed as temperatures soared to over 30 degrees.

The group ranges in age from 17 (granny Denise Well’s grandaughter who has been allowed to take time out of school for this ‘educational’ visit!) to those in their 70s. We have grannies from Germany, France, Spain, Egypt, USA, UK, India and United Emirates.

The overwhelming feeling I will take from this trip is of seeing first hand just how much the grannies mean to the children. Having them here in person obviously means the world to these children, who have build up strong rapports with their ‘own’ grannies over the last few years.

There have been long, long days on the road where we are all weary and yet I rarely hear more than the odd grumble about aches and pains or the heat. These amazing individuals (not forgetting the wider Granny Cloud who are with us in spirit and living it vivaciously through the social media posts) are an inspiration to us all. I only hope I have half their stamina when I reach my retirement.

This blog post was written in February 2016, during the Granny Cloud Tour, India.

Phaltan: two years on it’s an international affair

Today (3 December 2016) is Phaltan Lab’s 2nd birthday. The Granny Cloud was active at this location for over a year before the lab was set up and today we share this lovely blog from Granny Edna Sackson, who knows the children there well. We find out what happened when her class in Australia linked up with India for some lively sessions over Skype! This summer, she also got the chance to meet the children in person for the first time and you can read more about it at her blog link below.

“Hands on heads. Now shoulders. Where are your shoulders? Well done!”

This is the first time Jess and Tyler, two Aussie Year 6 students, interact via Skype with preschoolers at Kamala Nimbkar Balbhavan (KNB), Phaltan as part of the Granny Cloud project. The little ones on the other side stare wide eyed at these two strangers on the screen. Who knows what they they are thinking!

On the Phaltan side, the session is facilitated by 13 year old Shruti, whose English and computer skills were enhanced by her own Granny Cloud experiences over a number of years. She confidently guides, encourages and translates as required. This is part of an experiment to introduce this kind of exposure at a much younger age to gauge its impact.

After a while, the children begin to warm up and join in, first one, then another, as Jess and Tyler slowly introduce the body parts and sing the song “Heads and Shoulders, knees and toes’. Their excitement is evident through their muttered exchange of observations in between… ‘Heads and shoulders… the one in white is joining in!.. knees and toes… oh wow look at the little one in the middle!.. heads and shoulders…they’re getting it!… knees and toes… look, look they’re all doing it!!…’”

It’s an adrenalin rush that I recognise from my own Granny Cloud sessions, even now after all these years, that comes from a rewarding exchange with children when you see it’s going well and they are responding.”

After the session I ask the girls what surprised them. “How quickly they caught on. It was really awesome that we got to teach them. Can’t wait till next week!” And from the other side? Prasana, who’s researching the effects of early interactions of this kind: “It was wonderful. The little ones warmed up so quickly.”

Read more about Edna’s experiences with children and teachers at Phaltan on her blog, What Ed Said:

Blog post: The day I met my kids
Blog post: A different workshop 

Edna is an educator, workshop facilitator and learning consultant. She is also Teaching and Learning Coordinator at an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme( PYP) school in Melbourne, Australia.

Photos courtesy of Edna Sackson.

Paradise School Goa

Paradise School is about giving children the skills for 21st century living, and its director maps the curriculum to the IGCSE curriculum (they will also be aiming for International Cambridge Board accreditation). It is located in Aldona, Goa, India.

TED Lab – Phaltan

Located in the small, historic town of Phaltan, this lab is approximately 115 km from Pune in the Satara District of Maharashtra in Western India.

It is housed in a site where the Granny Cloud has already been used by the middle school for a year. Continue reading