Unexpected outcomes

Sonali Bhatia

Art is fun, right? Of course! It’s enjoyable to paint, sketch, draw – in short, to create. But what if the fun could be extended, and art could become a shared experience and have a deeper meaning? Dream A Dream firmly believes that art is a powerful tool with which to teach life skills.

Dream A Dream was founded in 1999. It is a Bengaluru-based charitable trust that seeks to empower children from vulnerable backgrounds by developing life skills while sensitising the community through active volunteering. The aim is the creation of a non-discriminatory society, where similarities are recognised and unique differences are appreciated. Over 11 years, Dream A Dream has impacted the lives of 10,000 children, with support from over 2000 volunteers, who represent an increasingly sensitive community.

So what is the Dream Creative Art Programme all about?
“We teach children from class IV to IX different techniques of creating art, but we don’t stop there,” says Neha, life skills facilitator. “We have a reflection circle after that, during which children link the art activity to situations they face in life.”

How does this work?
“Take the Magic Thread Activity, for example,” Neha elaborates. “The children take a piece of string and dip it into the paint of their choice. They place the string on a piece of paper, and fold the paper. Then, they zig-zag the string through the folded sheet. When they open it out, they are very surprised at what they see!”

The responses pour in – “I see a butterfly … I see a flower …” but it doesn’t stop there. The facilitator then takes the discussion forward, to whether the children expected this result or not. “No, we didn’t! We are surprised!” they say. They then move on to unexpected things that have happened to them in their own experience.

Here’s what one child has to say:
“One day in school, I had just completed writing my test and was sitting silently in my place. The teacher saw that I had completed my test, so she called me and asked me to carry some papers and keep them on her table. I did what the teacher told me. When I was not at my desk, my friend who was sitting next to me took my paper and rubbed all the answers that I had written. I could see that my answers had been rubbed off and I saw him and knew he had done it. He later admitted to doing it, but I didn’t have time to rewrite my answers ….and I failed in that test! I didn’t really think that my friend would do something like this! It was unexpected! I asked him why he did it, and he didn’t answer. I told the teacher and my mother about the incident the same day. The teacher said that she would give me marks on the day of the Parent-Teacher meeting, not before that.”

The facilitator is then able to extend the discussion and involve the rest of the class. What is their reaction to the incident they have just heard? “We should not do this … it is very bad … if someone is your friend, they should not hurt you … friends should be good to you, this is a bad friend …”

How did the child handle the situation?
“That boy said sorry and he will not do it again, so he is my friend again and I also teach him lessons which he does not understand in class.”

Starting from ‘art’, the children have gone on to talk about injustice, friendship and forgiveness – all in relation to something that has actually happened to one of them. They can relate to what has happened and the emotions of all concerned. This kind of discussion helps them cope with things that happen to them, at home and in school. They may not be able to discuss these things otherwise, due to lack of sympathetic people or lack of opportunity to bring up the topic.

The Dream Creative Arts Programme has been successfully running at Dream A Dream since 2002. It is a long-term, focused, curriculum-based programme aimed at developing life skills, using a variety of arts and crafts. Through art, children learn to value their own uniqueness, to appreciate their individuality and express themselves. Working in teams also helps build their team-skills, sense of worth, responsibility and discipline. Run with support from artists, facilitators and volunteers, the program is highly popular with children and develops critical life skills in a fun-filled, unobtrusive environment.

Sessions framework

  • Wake Up (20 Mins) – An activity to check the energy levels of the children, like clapping to a beat
  • Team Prayer
  • Life Skill Activity (45 mins)
  • Reflection Circle (15 mins)
  • Wrap-Up (10 mins)
  • Game – a simple game in which everyone can participate easily
  • Team Prayer
  • Dream Thank You Cheer

The Dream Creative Arts Programme is easy to implement in all schools, and leads to some unexpectedly positive results!

Inputs from Betty Augustine. She manages the Dream Creative Arts programme. She can be reached at betty.augustine@dreamadream.org.

The author is a Bangalore-based educator and freelance journalist. She can be reached at sonaliarun@gmail.com.

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