The Essar Foundation organized the Bal Vividha festival to celebrate "diverse approaches to learning" at Timdi Village in Gujarat's Jamnagar District between 17 February and 19 February 2012.
Bal Vividha aims to encourage children, parents and teachers to embrace the idea that learning occurs in non-structured environments and its basis is the child's own desire to ask questions. Such an approach expands the scope of learning beyond the curriculum, infusing the process with a sense of joy both for the child and the teacher and exploring alternatives that can make the classroom a friendlier place for children.
Almost 3,000 children from 22 schools across 17 villages participated in the festival, which was a unique initiative to engage kids in interactive learning forums and open their minds towards newer learning platforms. This also resonates with the objectives of the Essar Foundation. Essar believes in nurturing curiosity and bridge the knowledge gap by supporting use of alternative methods of teaching such as theaetr, story-telling and other creative tools.
Bal Vividha comprised interactive sections presenting the opportunities for children to learn new things. There was a section on books and innovative toys for children. These books feature content written for children growing up in contemporary India, as well as classics which have stood the test of time. Such a collection of books subtly encourages children to think about who they are and their relationships with the people and environment around them.
The toys, primarily made by traditional crafts-persons, use organic materials like wood, lacquer, bamboo and cotton fabric. Apart from the pleasures of play, they provide an opportunity to the child to establish a personal connection to regional craft traditions. These toys have various pedagogical strengths as well: principles of physics (balance, torque, centrifugal force, etc.) are grasped intuitively, mathematical and strategy-making skills are encouraged, spatial skills and hand-eye coordination is strengthened, and fantasy play and story-telling abilities are developed.
There were workshops on origami and paper folding for children. The objective was to induce an appreciation for origami that enhances motor skills and has a soothing effect on the mind. Its varied applications range from learning simple geometry to making paper decorations to designing complex structures.
There were innovative games like Snakes and Ladders based on a heath theme–a child getting onto a box scored by unhealthy foods gets lower down the ladder and the one eating right gets higher up.
Bal Vividha also provided a platform for Kesarji (Kishore Chandra A Joshi), a much-loved 70-year-old poet of the Saurashtra region, known particularly in the area around Jamnagar for his programs featuring children's songs. A teacher of English from Porbandar and a visiting professor in the B. Ed college, he has settled down in Jamnagar after retirement. The compositions of the poet, who follows the oral tradition, straddle local culture and festivals. He also writes children's songs describing seasons, shapes, food, colors and numbers. He enjoys doing interactive performances where he sings to children.
Taking their feedback, he goes on making up new verses at the spur of the moment. His presence was one of the highlights of the festival.
Filmi Chasma, a film festival featuring short films made by children and for children, was also held. Another highlight of the program was the inter-school competition involving 21 schools. More than 400 kids from the primary schools participated in the song, dance and painting competitions, as well as plays, kite making and decorations.
Bal Vividha is a first of its kind event in Saurashtra that is in line with the Essar Foundation's initiative to encourage and enhance learning among children.
The program was attended by the Jamnagar District Collector, Sandeep Kumar, who spent almost two hours watching the programs. He was delighted with the initiative of Essar Foundation.
The Jamnagar media too showered praise on Essar for coming up with such a program. All local dailies and Rajkot-based papers, such as Nobat, Khabar, Aalkal, Bhoomi, Aaspass, Lokvat, Good Evening, Divya Bhaskar, Sandesh, Jaihind, Phoolchhab, Akila, and Sanj Samachar, provided good coverage with photographs.
Local cable network, Jay, telecast an interview with the Foundation Team.