Learning by Playing it Forward 1: Learning about Trees

By Ananth Raghunandan

Learning by Playing it Forward 1: Learning about Trees

Learning by playing it forward means sharing our explorations with others. Recently, I started my Youtube channel, Ananth’s Adventures to share what I am learning and to give ideas to parents, teachers, and neurodivergent learners on different tools and techniques for learning. The SpecialSaathi blog is another way I play it forward. Thanks to Shilpi mam for encouraging me to blog.

In this blog post, I want to share my project on trees. I have shared two videos on my Youtube
channel. I hope you enjoy the videos and use them to teach your child about trees!

The Tree Song Video

Exploring Trees with Thinkblocks Video

LIFESMART Project Planner

Since I have started creating resources regularly, I have also started using the LIFESMART
planner to organize my projects.

The Planner is organized into four sections:
I: Lesson/ Project Goals and Activities
III: Narration Tools and Techniques
IV. Progress and Next Steps

A key feature of the planner is that the LIFESMART elements are used to organize outcomes for the project. The four LIFE components (L: Learning daily, I: Interests, F: Family interactions, E: Engagement with Community) are consistently used to think about the outcomes of every lesson.
SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-framed) goals are written to address these LIFE goals. Finally, the longer-term impact of projects on the Six Cs (Connections, Conversations, Clarity, Choice, Competence, Coordination).

Trees Project Plan and Progress

1. What is the goal of the lesson/project?
To teach how a tiny seed becomes a big tree with many parts such as the roots, trunk, branches,
leavers etc. The goal is to wonder about the miracle of the tree adnd to appreciate what trees give
us. Thanks to my friend Kabir Vernal for a beautiful painting of a child looking at a tree.

2. Describe the activities in the lesson/project.
– Learn the tree song dance and create a video
– Create a video on the use of Thinkblocks to describe trees.

3. List the roles of people involved in the lesson/project.
Tree song lesson is by Sri Ujwal Jagadeesh, Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD)
Facilitator and Faculty/Artiste
Trees using Thinkblocks created with Dr. Dasaratha Rama

4. How does the lesson/project address the four LIFE goals:

L: Learning daily
Narration (retelling or communicating what we have learned) is an important tool for
learning. I have used movement and visual tools such as Thinkblocks since 2007. Both
types of tools increase learning and are fun to use. Now, I have more opportunities to
practice narration daily as I create videos for the LIFESMART community.
I: Interests
I am very interested in dance and music. So learning and teaching with movement and
music is more fun than just reading books. I also found Thinkblocks more fun than just
reading from a book.
F: Family interactions
I enjoy doing the tree song and other dances with my nephew. My nephew is one and a
half years old. He does not understand the whole song. But he loves it when I jump
around and even tries to copy some movements. When I was young, I used to learn with
movement and visual tools with my mother.
E: Engagement with Community

I have fun learning these songs for my nephew from my teacher. Now I can also share it
with the LIFESMART community. My mother and I are also creating video lessons on
Thinkblocks and other tools.

5. Write SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-framed) goals for the

Recording the Tree Song
S: Specific: Record the tree song with my teacher
M: Measurable: Post a video of the song on Youtube
A: Attainable: The project was easily attainable because I have to learn enough to imitate but do
not need to perfect it like a dance for a performance.
R: Relevant: This project was relevant to goal of enjoying my time with my nephew
T: Time-framed: I had to finish the project before leaving for London.

Recording the Thinkblocks Video
S: Specific: Describe the parts of the tree, relationship between trees and people, and the miracle
of the tree growing from a tiny seed using Thinkblocks.
M: Measurable: Post a 3-5 minute video on trees with Thinkblocks on YouTube
A: Attainable: The project was easily attainable because I have used Thinkblocks for many
years. I have also been practicing making short videos for a few months.
R: Relevant: This project was relevant to goal of creating resources for the LIFESMART
T: Time-framed: I had to finish the project before leaving for Bergen because my Thinkblocks are in London.

6. Describe the Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) tools (movement and
dance, music and rhythm, storytelling, drama, arts and crafts) used in the lesson/project.

The tree song uses music and movement to teach the parts of the tree. There is also a story of how seed becomes a tree. We can expand the lesson by telling stories about trees by enacting stories about trees and by drawing or painting trees.
Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) has been developed by Dr. Ambika Kameshwar, Founder/Director of RASA (

7. Describe other tools (e.g., visual mapping tools) used in the lesson/project.
This lesson introduces DSRP (Distinctions, Systems, Relationships, and Perspectives) method and the Thinkblocks tool. According to Dr. Cabrera, DSRP are the four universal patterns of thinking. We have used DSRP and associated tools for many years as a way of structuring information in consistent ways.
DSRP and Thinkblocks are creations of Cabrera Research Lab (

8. How is the process of imitation, repetition, memorization, and improvisation used in the
Imitation: I learned the tree song by imitating the teacher.
Repetition: I repeated it a few times because I was going to do the video with my teacher. When I
do the video myself, I have to repeat many times until I can do the movements well, and until I
can narrate the story well.
Memorization: I did not have to memorize the movements or the song for the video because I
was doing it with my teacher. But as I do it with my nephew, I will memorize it.
Improvise: My mother and I improvise in different ways as we do the song with my nephew.

9. Describe your progress on the lesson/project.
I completed the tree song video and we have tried it with my nephew a few times. We will
explore it when we see him again.
I have completed my Thinkblocks video and shared it on my YouTube channel.

10. How is this lesson/project growing Six Cs?

· Grow Connections: Our connections with the teacher and community are evolving
through the story of the month and other video projects.
· Participate in Conversations: We have regular conversations to plan the story projects.
· We clarify goals and activities for the story of the month project and other video projects
over time.
· Make choices with ease and confidence. I chose the story for the first narration and we
have continued to choose stories and make other choices as we have progressed.
· Evolve knowledge and skills (competence): I am developing multiple skills. One of the
most important skills is listening to and retelling stories or reading and retelling stories.
· Coordinate activities (workflow, routines): We are also collecting and curating resources on Ananth’s Youtube channel. We coordinate the story of the month projects including the development of the Youtube channel.

In this blog post, I shared a lesson about trees and a lesson/project planner. Join the conversation on LIFESMART Parenting group ( for more details.

Author Ananth Raghunandan


The Golden Mongoose

Please watch the video of the Golden Mongoose Story below and follow me on Ananth’s Adventures. I will be sharing one story each month for parents to enjoy with their children.

This story is about how Ramana Maharshi’s silent presence attracted people and even animals. I am grateful to Sri Ujwal Jagadeesh, faculty and artist at the Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning for his encouragement, guidance, and support of my story of the month project.

Thank You Shilpi mam for encouraging me to share my first story on my birthday on December 2, 2022 on Special Saathi. In March, I practiced the story of the Golden Mongoose. I shared this story on Youtube on World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, 2023.

Thanks to Vinayak Raj, Morpheus Nag, and Dhrov Tikoo for their creative representation for The Golden Mongoose story .

What is Silence?

My mother and I also did a short role play and narration to explain the idea of silence. Silence does not mean absence of speech. Watch the video to explore what Ramana Maharshi refers to as silence and think about how a silent mind can help neurodivergent learners overcome stress and achieve calmness.

Activity for Parents and Children

My storytelling project is a Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) project. TAHD was developed by Dr. Ambika Kameshwar. Use the five TAHD tools to explore The Golden Mongoose story with your child!

Movement and Dance

There is a short dance piece in the story narration itself. In addition, you can also try this longer movement activity

Music and Rhythm

The movement activity includes music.


Watch the Golden Mongoose story with your child and encourage them to tell the story.


Enact the story. Assign roles for Ramana Maharshi, the golden mongoose, and devotees.

Arts and Crafts

See the creative representations by CreativeSaathis and draw the story while narrating!

We hope you enjoy the story! Share your explorations and additional ideas as comments or email

Author Ananth Raghunandan


Tantrums at Twilight

Tantrum or Meltdown?

Dear parents,

Read the story and figure out whether it was a tantrum or a meltdown. Distinguishing tantrums and meltdowns is very important for parents of neurodivergent children.

Please do not go by the title. We just call it Tantrums at Twilight because Meltdowns at Twilight does not sound right. So please read the story to figure it out.

Thanks to Morpheus Nag for his creative representation of tantrums/meltdowns.

A visit to New Haven
In October 2007, I was going to New Haven to visit my brother. My brother started studying at Yale university in 2007. I am fond of my brother and I was excited to be able to visit him in New Haven. I got ready and told everyone to leave for the airport.

When I reached the airport, I heard that the flight got delayed because a bird hit the engine. They said that the flight will leave at 12 pm. I made my dad keep on asking the agent when they are going to board. Then, I started getting a little anxious. Then, I started getting upset about the delay. I was hoping that we would still make it to the hotel before sunset. For some reason, going in a car after dark used to bother me. Since this was a new place, I was even more upset. When I heard about a further delay till 2 pm in the afternoon, I freaked out even more. My mom said “What can the airline do if a bird hit the engine?”

Finally, the boarding started. When I reached New Haven, I was wanting to go quickly to the hotel before it got dark. By the time my dad rented the car and started driving on the highway, there was a massive traffic jam. Then, I got extremely upset. I insisted that if we do not make it to the hotel before dark, we have to stop driving and just sleep in the car. My mother said that it is more dangerous to sleep in a car near a gas station than it is to drive to the hotel.

When we reached the hotel, I insisted that my dad had to get Aneesh (my brother) right away from Yale. My dad said that he was tired and wanted to rest. I then kept insisting that my dad had to get Aneesh that same night. So my dad went and got Aneesh. I was happy to see Aneesh. We all slept peacefully.

Dear readers,

If you read my previous posts such as Wailing in Washington, you can probably guess that this is one more story that my mom and I used to act when I was young. Of course, she played Ananth and I played some other roles.

Do you think this was a tantrum or a meltdown? Do your children have tantrums and meltdowns? Join the discussion in our group here.

Author Ananth Raghunandan


The Story of Vivekananda – The TAHD Way

RASA Day 2023

RASA (Ramana Sunritya Aalaya) teaches theater arts to individuals with different abilities. They use the Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) approach developed by Dr. Ambika Kameshwar, founder of RASA. I have been learning theater arts with RASA since 2020.

This is my second performance for RASA Day and my third drama performance with the Ramana Sunritya Aalaya (RASA) theater group. The previous two plays (Jatayu Moksham and Krihna Dootam) were in Tamil. But this play is in English with a Hindi song!

Thank You CreativeSaathi Morpheus Nag for the beautiful portrait of Swami Vivekananda.

Now, I am familiar with how RASA theater productions work. When I did my first play, it was much harder because I had no idea how the process worked. I also did not know anyone in

RASA. I was an online student and had not met other students. But now I go to RASA and know many of the students there.

I enjoyed RASA Day 2023. I liked hanging out with my RASA group before the performance. I also met people from the Ramana Maharshi Centre for Learning (RMCL) group. When I was with the RASA group waiting for the show, teachers from RMCL also came and said hello to everyone. I was also happy that my two grandmothers, aunt, and my mother’s cousin’s family attended the event. Some of my relatives watched the performance by livestream.

Watch the recording of RASA Day 2023. My play Swami Vivekananda starts at 2 hours and 1minute into the video.

Preparing for the performance

My aunt volunteers at the Ramakrishna Math. As soon as she knew that I was going to participate in this theater production, she got me some books about Swami Vivekananda.

I started reading the books. I also watched a video of a prior performance. I listened to the audio and learned my parts.

Imitate, Repeat, Memorize, and Improvise

This is my third drama performance. In each performance, we follow the imitate, repeat, memorize, and improvise process.

Imitate: We learn by imitating Dr. Vaishnavi Poorna, our drama teacher. We have to learn how to position ourselves on stage, how to coordinate movements with other students, and how to coordinate movements with music. We learn these elements through imitation.

Repeat: I repeat my part daily with the video. My mother helps me practice at home. Sometimes, she stands in the place of other characters to help me practice.

Memorize: As I practice, I memorize my part. I check and make sure I remember my part completely.

Improvise: Even if you are well-prepared, we have to be prepared to improvise! Things don’t go exactly as planned on stage.

Swami Vivekananda and Ramana Maharshi

Since I learn about Ramana Maharshi in my dance classes, I am curious about Swami Vivekananda and Ramana Maharshi. How were they similar? How were they different?

100 Days of Reading

After finishing this performance, I will be starting a 100 Days of Reading project. During this project, I plan to read about Ramana Maharshi and Swami Vivekananda. I also want to read the Ramayana and Mahabharata since my previous performances were from Ramayana and Mahabharatha. I will start my reading from what I have learned through Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) experiences. First, I will finish reading the books on Swami Vivekananda that I started during the play.


Ray I. 2006. The Story of Vivekananda. Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata 700013. ISBN 978-81-85301-65-5

Swami Raghaveshananda. 2022. Swami Vivekananda Pictorial. Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai,

Theater arts is not just about performances. Once you know the tools of TAHD, you can use them in many ways. For example, I am planning to use my TAHD experiences to enrich my reading experiences. As mentioned earlier, interactions with family member and community. To learn more, join our group here.

Author Ananth Raghunandan


Dancing with my Nephew

Movement Activities for Children

I have been reminiscing and enjoying Raffi songs with my nephew, Ishaan in London. I vividly recall my cousin learning those songs when he was young.

So when my teacher, Sri Ujwal Jagadeesh suggested taping some Ramana rhymes for parents to do with children, I was interested because I could do it with my nephew. Since my nephew was expected to visit us soon, I was motivated to learn this song. Even when my nephew was only a few months old, he would sit on my mother’s lap and watch my dance class for more than half an hour. So I thought he might enjoy the movement activities.

February 7, 2023

Today, I was dancing with my 1 1/2 year old nephew. We did many dances. I am sharing some of the videos so parents can try with their children.

Thanks to Nikhil Thotam for the detailed body parts picture. Parents can also use this picture in their lessons.

If you are doing the body parts song with an older child, you can also draw and color a body parts picture. Since my nephew is only one and a half years old, we did the songs in a certain way.

Overall, he enjoyed doing the songs with my mother and me daily. He started interacting with me quickly and he would come up to me and raise his hands because he wanted me to carry him. So, I plan to learn some more songs from Ujwal anna ((anna means elder brother in Tamil. In RASA, we refer to teachers as anna and akka)). Then, I will have more activities to do with Ishaan when I visit him in London.

Pada Beda

First, we did the pada beda or the movements of the feet. My mom carries the baby while I do the movements. My mom does some of the movements. Ishaan enjoyed the pada beda. He kept looking at my feet when I did the different movements.

View the Pada Beda video below:

Animal Song

My role was to sing the song and to dance. My mother carried Ishaan and did some of the steps. Ishaan watched me with great interest especially when I sang the song. If I only danced, he would look at me for some time, and would look at the computer some time.

See the animal song video below:

Body Parts Song

In this song also, my role was to sing and dance. My mom roamed around with Ishaan behind me for La, La, La La La. We noticed that Ishaan would touch his eyes and nose sometimes when we did this song.

See the video below:

Fruit Song

I had not practiced this song with Ujwal anna. But we still played the song and did some actions.

Theater Arts4LIFE

Family interactions is one of the four LIFE pillars (L: Learning daily, I: Interests, F: Family interactions, E: Engagement with community).

Movement facilitated daily learning (L). I always start my day with a walk and dance. For the last two weeks, my dance routine was different and I was dancing with Ishaan rather than my usual routine.

I love dance and have been learning Bharatanatyam for over 10 years. I am now able to explore my interest (I) in different ways due to the Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD approach used by Ujwal anna.

The movement activities enabled me to interact better with my nephew. Ishaan wanted me to carry him daily. Even before he left for the airport, he wanted me to carry him even though it was early in the morning and he was half asleep.

My teacher and I started creating these videos for parents to do with children. So the videos are also a way for me to engage the LIFESMART community and the SpecialSaathi community (E: Engagement with community).

Dear parents,

How do you use the arts to engage your child? How does your child use arts to engage others?

Join the conversation here and let us know!