Service-Learning series (part 1) by Dr.Dasaratha Rama and Ananth Raghunandan
Over 25 years ago, I was the editor of a monograph on service-learning published by the American Association of Higher Education (AAHE). This monograph was a part of a series of monographs on service-learning published by AAHE.
Service-learning integrated community engagement and academic learning. Integration of academic learning distinguishes it from volunteering.
I was also an Engaged Scholar with the Campus Compact, an association in the US dedicated to higher education civic and community engagement whose members include thousands of presidents, faculty, researchers, students, and civic and community engagement experts at colleges and universities.
These early efforts continue to influence how I engage the world and also how I encourage Ananth to engage the world.
Fast forward 25 years…
Service-learning is an approach for empowering neurodivergent learners by encouraging and guiding them in community engagement. As Ananth develops communication skills through theater arts, he is using these skills to create resources for the community. As he learns digital storytelling and web development skills through his coding and other skills, he uses these skills to create something of value to the community.
Ananth may not have had access to institutions and formal service-learning programs in the same way as his neurotypical peers. However, he has been fortunate to have excellent mentors in theatre arts and dance, and a community that encourages and appreciates his contributions.
Our current Projects
1. Creating e-books for RASA
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. He has been blessed to learn from senior facilitators and to explore different forms of TAHD experiences. These e-books and associated resources (videos) are our effort to pay it forward. We want to share our journey and show why and how TAHD can be used to achieve a range of outcomes for neurodivergent learners.
Read our first e-book Teaching Values to Neurodivergent Learners using Theater Arts here.
2. I have encouraged Ananth to create his Youtube channel, Ananth’s Adventures. By sharing our experiences, ideas, and lesson plans, we hope to provide useful resources for parents, neurodivergent learners, and others. Ananth’s regular story of the month and other video projects have helped create a video presence. Thus, I had a space to share my video for the e-book here.
Ananth is also a blogger for SpecialSaathi. View his posts here.
These experiences paved the way for our collaboration on the e-book series.
3. Ananth is now an ambassador for Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) and RASA (Ramana Sunritya Aalaya). Dr. Ambika Kameshwar has done pioneering work in not only using Indian theater arts as a vehicle for learning but also by creating an eco-system for artistes of differing abilities to learn together and perform.
Co-creating Magic with TAHD Facilitators
TAHD ingredients (dance, drama, storytelling etc.) play a critical role in TAHD explorations. While parents can use TAHD tools, skilled facilitators can choose the right combinations of tools to create the right experiences for learners of differing abilities. We are grateful to Dr. Ambika Kameshwar, Dr. Vaishnavi Poorna, Ms. Usha Sankaran, and Sri Ujwal Jagadeesh for their encouragement, guidance, and support in Ananth’s TAHD explorations.
We are delighted that we have the opportunity to work with the RASA team to engage the community in exploring the value of TAHD and in charting a path forward together.
Tips for Parents
Seek ways to engage your community with your child. Many neurodivergent learners have interests and talents in the visual and performing arts, and in other areas. Use these interests to create opportunities for engagement.
Dr. Dasaratha Rama is a professor and home educator. 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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