Service learning 3
This is our third article in our series on service-learning. As noted in my previous articles, service-learning 1 and service-learning 2 Service-learning is an approach for empowering neurodivergent learners by encouraging and guiding them in community engagement.
Paying it forward means that rather than repaying someone we give to someone else.
Paying it forward is a useful concept for service-learning. We learn daily from many teachers and mentors. Given the differing abilities and challenges of neurodivergent learners, many educators invest much time and effort learning about and coaching neurodivergent individuals. On the other hand, many neurodivergent learners may not be able to find the right mentors and learning experiences.
Paying it forward is an important mechanism for service-learning for sharing experiences, sharing information about teaching methods and environments that work, recognizing contributions of teachers, mentors, and others, and fostering conversations on inclusion.
Playing it Forward
We have modified the concept of paying it forward to playing it forward. We explore (play) with mentors and others in inclusive spaces, and share our explorations with neurodivergent learners, parents, and others.
This notion of playing it forward drives Ananth’s Youtube channel, Ananth’s Adventures.
Lessons from Teachers
Ananth’s dance teacher, Sri Ujwal Jagadeesh, senior faculty and artiste at the Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning, Bengaluru plays an important role in our playing it forward efforts.
First, he shares many lessons with Ananth on Ananth’s Adventures channel. Slowly, some parents have started exploring these videos with their children.
Second, he guides Ananth in the story of the month video project. In earlier videos, Ananth practiced stories learned in class for creating videos. Now, Ananth integrates movement and music snippets from dance class in his storytelling.
Third, Ananth’s video project has become possible through the efforts of Sri Ujwal Jagadeesh and other RASA (Ramana Sunritya Aalaya) mentors. Ms. Usha Sankaran, senior facilitator for RASA started Ananth off on his Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) journey. Her storytelling and other lessons helped Ananth develop narration skills for his video projects. She continues to coach Ananth on his video projects.
Dr. Vaishnavi Poorna coached him on three theatre performances. Ananth practiced body language and other skills in these performances.
The work done for over a decade by Guru Harija Sivakumar and Professor Kalakshetra Mohanan prepared Ananth to benefit from teachers and mentors in RASA.
The RASA Ecosystem
Ananth is blessed to have an eco-system like RASA for pursuing his interest in the arts. We are truly grateful to Dr. Ambika Kameshwar, Founder and Director of RASA for creating such an eco-system and for creating the TAHD framework. Ananth is able to chart his path forward with confidence because of what she has created over the last 30 years.
100- Days of Anatomy and Body Awareness Project
Varied experiences in the RASA eco-system as well as prior learning experiences have come together in our 100-Days of Anatomy and Body Awareness project.
This project was launched on August 20, 2023. We are playing forward what we have learned from many others including:
●Our knowledge of Anatomy and Physiology through Ananth’s explorations while he was doing his diploma in Medical Records and Hospital Documentation.
●Our knowledge of Distinctions, Systems, Relationships, and Perspective (DSRP) method and Thinkblocks. Dr. Rama is a certified leader in systems thinking, mapping, and leadership under a program developed by Cabrera Research Lab. She learned DSRP and tools under the guidance of Dr. Derek Cabrera and is happy to be able to play it forward with Ananth through his videos!
●SpecialSaathi eco-system has brought connections and ways to engage other neurodivergent learners. We are very grateful to Morpheus Nag for creating the artwork for this blog post at short notice!
Dr. Rama is also grateful to two mentors who have helped her discover and follow this path. Dr. Edward Zlotkowski, a pioneer in service-learning actively encouraged and guided her initial service-learning explorations. He also invited her to be the editor of a monograph on service-learning which planted a seed that is an integral part of her work.
Dr. Rama is also grateful to Bernard J. Milano, retired President of The KPMG Foundation and The PhD Project for supporting her study of The PhD Project model. The PhD Project is an organization in the US that seeks to diversify business school students by diversifying the front of the classroom. Will such a model have application when we consider the situation of neurodivergent learners?
So far, parents have responded favorably to Ananth’s video and other shares. Some have suggested that he can teach dance to children!
Our Playing it Forward Path
Ananth’s Adventures Youtube channel supports our other service-learning projects. These projects further expand the scope of how we play it forward and engage others in the RASA eco-system.
1. One of our major service-learning projects is to create a series of e-books for Ramana Sunritya Aalaya (RASA). Ananth experiences the magic of Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) explorations daily. Videos on Ananth’s Adventures Youtube channel are an important resource shared in our e-books.
2. Ananth is now an ambassador for Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) and RASA (Ramana Sunritya Aalaya). The Youtube channel is an integral part of Ananth’s work as a TAHD ambassador.
Tips for Parents
Engage neurodivergent children/adults to play it forward by doing service-learning projects. Clarify how you can create value for the community and identify the value to learners participating in the project by playing it forward.
Dr. Dasaratha Rama is a professor and home educator. She was the editor of a monograph on service-learning published by the American Association of Higher Education. This monograph was a part of a series of monographs on service-learning published by AAHE. She was also an Engaged Scholar with the Campus Compact, an association in the US dedicated to higher education civic and community engagement at colleges and universities. She is currently doing a certificate in Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) from RASA (Ramana Sunritya Aalaya).
Ananth Raghunandan is a student ambassador for RASA and TAHD. Ananth Raghunandan will be starting a diploma in Bharatanatyam shortly.
Their journey from homeschooling to collaborators and co-creators continues!
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