I Dream of a School

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I dream of a school that encourages healthy competition and brings out the best in children but also which lays stronger emphasis on collaboration with a feeling of ‘we first’ rather than ‘me first’. One where a subject like community service would be compulsory from the early years and would create awareness of the need to work toward a greater good rather than one’s self sufficiency alone.

 I dream of a school where children who display genius in language, science and math get a path to reach their maximum potential but also where standardization is no longer the law. A school where those who are clearly not on the same path are given equally promising alternatives, that are actually useful in daily living, that resonate with their aptitudes, preventing loss of self-esteem & confidence, giving every child a fighting chance at realizing their abilities.

 I dream of a school that ensures that while the intellect is enhanced with the best auditory and visual tools, methods like the full body integrated learning technique, which is the most natural way to learn, are also used to develop the same. As Sir Ken Robinson puts it, the body should not just be seen as a medium to carry that huge brain everywhere.

 I dream of a school with the best facilities and highly equipped classrooms but also one which will bring children closer to nature, where they are allowed time to just get in touch with the earth and are happy to be all immersed in it with the freedom to be messy.

 I dream of a school where children are groomed to be innovative, to find new ideas for the future that would enable making and selling things to provide better living for us all but also one which teaches sustainable environment with equal emphasis. Promoting minimalistic living to reduce manufacturing and in the process providing a future to this planet is an urgent need. A school where ‘Growing your own food’ is an important subject taught throughout the school years would bring an understanding of what it means to actually nurture what we have as well as reduce over consumption and wastage.

 I dream of a school which lays tremendous importance on the quality of its early childhood education and care. One that introduces left brain skills with the best possible teaching tools but which understands that ‘earlier is not better’ and sees kindergarten as a place to work on the right brain which has its biggest growth spurt up until age 7 – a place to sing, dance, play, explore, get creative, interact and indulge in practical learning with a carefully planned transition from home to school.

 I dream of a school where children are taught to be one with society but also to strongly love who they are, and understand the value and the privilege of being unique rather than feel the pressure to fit in. A space where each child can bring their individual abilities to class and be celebrated for it so that being ‘the odd one out’ becomes ‘the special one in’.

 I dream of a school where children are patted on the back for a job well done but not labeled by the jobs they do or don’t do well – instead they are given the freedom to explore their potential without being limited by prejudice based on their current performance.

 I dream of a school where there is discipline yes! But also where a closer look is taken at what seems to be an ‘imperfection’ in a child – cause very often what we deem to be an issue with the child is actually an urgent expression of something we ourselves are not doing right for that child.

 I dream of a school that is proud to be Indian but also remembers that we are citizens of this world and all cousins in one way or another and that there is just so much to learn from each other and so much beauty and strength in diversity and yet unity. Communal Harmony is the need of the hour and acts of prejudice have become an everyday news item. A subject called ‘The World is my Oyster’ could have students exploring enriching aspects of other countries or cultures that we could adopt here at home and aspects that we could contribute to the world.

 I dream of a school that is run as a profitable enterprise but not to the point where the profit is its end and it loses its heart and purpose – a school that changes the definition of success – one that, by its own example, teaches that it’s not how rich you get or how high up the corporate ladder you go that measures your worth but how much humanity you possess and how much of a difference you strive to make to a world that desperately needs healing. Each day children could pick one selfless thing that would make someone else happy and then make it happen.

 I do not know how and when this school of my dreams will materialize but I’m determined to do my bit of trying to be that teacher and mother that works towards this cause. And I know for sure that someday it will find its way into existence, because every beautiful reality started with a dream!

 By-Swara Patel and Priya ColacoIMG_2688.jpg

 

 

I Dream of a School

A 5 minute magical tool for maximum brain activation! (A must read! it definitely works!)

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Let’s start with explaining the much talked about Right brain and Left brain.
Say you are organizing your kitchen or office desk which is currently in a mess.

–Your left brain gives you information as to how things were when organised (existing facts with information presented in piecemeal ). The right brain will tell you how else it can be done (presenting new facts while seeing things as a whole).

–The left brain will tell you that the work has to be done in the next 20 minutes (Order, control). The right brain will tell you that the work needs more time then you have now, so may be part of it can be done tomorrow (Free, flow).

–The left brain will quickly count the number of utensils/files which will fit in a given space and would start working on it (Number and analysis).  The right brain will think of how beautifully it can be arranged (Art, aesthetics).

–The left brain will find the most convenient way to organise the space (Practical). The right brain will work out a more creative way to organise the same (imaginative).

So what we understand from above example is that it is necessary to use both hemispheres of the brain to be proficient to the maximum at any task. While the left side of the brain recalls the details, the right side of the brain remembers the gist of an experience or the big picture.  The more we access both hemispheres, the more intelligently we are able to function.

Left brain- heavy- world
Somehow we have ended up working with the left brain or logic brain most of the time as most of the organised learning in school , college and  at work makes us left brain heavy  and thus most of the time we take decisions that are left brain driven.

The magic tool
So what activates both sides of the brain simultaneously ? ‘The magic of movement!’

Yes, Movement is the magical tool.

–Movement like dancing (in which we constantly try to coordinate both sides of the body in different and challenging ways). Other  activities include running, walking, crawling , swimming- as these movements also use both right as well as left sides of the body and hence also activate the cerebrum( left brain, right brain and corpus callosum – the white matter between the right brain and left brain which integrates both sides) to the maximum and integrates them instantly. In fact as we move we also facilitate growth of new nerve cell and activate a part of brain called hippocampus which is responsible for   long term memory.

How the brain functions
Motor control of our body is an important function of the cerebrum . The sensory – motor functions on the right side of the body are controlled by the left hemisphere of the brain and those of the left side of the body are controlled by the right hemisphere. The movements suggested above, work both sides of the body evenly and involve coordinated movement of both eyes, both ears, both hands and feet as these are being used equally.  As a result both hemispheres are activated, cognitive function is heightened and ease of learning, thinking, and analyses  increases. Left brain riight brain motor pic

This tool can be used by all

–A teacher who wants to increase her students’ attention and retention

–At the office, a catalyst when required to come up with prompt creative ideas

–A parent who’s need is to multi task with ease A ‘movement break’ (just like a Kitkat break) could just save your day!

Disclaimer
I am not a specialist in brain development or even qualified in this area of expertise. I am, however, a dance educationist who each day thrives to ensure that our dance curriculum is developmentally appropriate and progressive. I am a  dance and movement therapist with a genuine and passionate interest in making a difference in people’s  lives  through movement and dance and have been pursuing this relentlessly over the past five years.

Something  to think about
From the age of 4 ½ to 7 years a child’s right brain hemisphere  begins to develop and enlarge while the logic brain doesn’t enlarge until age 7. Let’s then reflect on our education system which at this age begins with the alphabet and number recognition followed by reading. This might not be a problem if we involve image , emotion and movement but strangely we do the exact opposite!

I am three, I was not built to sit still,
Keep my hands to myself, take turns,
Stand in line, or keep quiet,
all of the time.
I need: motion, novelty, adventure.
Let me play, dance & move around.
Trust me I am learning.

That ends my blog but for those who want more, following is a list of some more facts about the right brain and left brain.( Extract from the book Smart Moves-Carla Hannaford)

Left Brain ( Logic Brain) Right Brain ( Gestalt )
Starts with a piece first Sees whole picture first and then deals with pieces
Parts of language Language comprehension
Syntax, Semantics Image, emotion, meaning
Letters , Sentence Rhythm, Flow, Dialect
Number Image, intuition
Analysis – liners Intuition- estimates
Looks at difference Looks at similarities
Controls feelings Free with feelings
Planned- structured Spontaneous thinking
Sequential thinking Simultaneous- fluid
Language oriented Feelings/ experience oriented
Future – oriented Now oriented
Technique Flow and movement
Sports ( hand-eye ) foot placement Sports ( flow and rhythm)
Art ( media, tool use, how to) Art( image, emotion, flow)
Music ( notes, beat, tempo) Music ( passion, rhythm, image)

So take a ‘movement break’ and watch the magic happen right before your eyes!

Swara Patel
Artistic director & Co- founder
Rhythmus HappyFeet
www.rhf.dance

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Love Yourself. Dance.

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“When the WHY is clear, the HOW is easy.” ~ Anonymous.

I was recently watching an amazing video from Simon Sinek, who talked about the importance of finding your why in life – the purpose, cause, or belief that inspires you to do what you do.
Like the why for…

  • Mother Teresa was to spread love among the downtrodden and bring them some respite from pain and suffering
  • Bill Gates was to make information accessible for all
  • Mahatma Gandhi was to use non-violence to win independence for India

As I watched Sinek’s video a few times, it struck a chord deep within me. I realized how finding my why – and then working on it – was the real cause of my happiness today.

Through my search and the ensuing struggle, emerged a clear direction. Dance had always been a source of joy but by taking a leap of faith I found that it could transform my life in ways I had not imagined.

As I look back at it all, the pain, the passion and the victory which has caused me to love myself so much, I cannot help but imagine a world full of people who truly and completely love themselves and achieve this through movement and dance.

To Love Yourself…Dance

Before you get puzzled as to the connection between dance and loving oneself, let me explain…

As a student of dance therapy, I have realized how psyche (mind) and soma (body) are inseparable.
Research demonstrates that movement is the young child’s preferred mode of learning, and that children learn best through active involvement. (Hannaford 1995).

Studies on brain development have proved time and again that every wiring in the first year of a child’s brain happens because of movement.  And this cycle continues till we die. As we grow, we also discover other ways of learning and somehow the most innate way of learning through movement takes a backseat.

Adding movement to the learning process helps develop all the parts of the brain (lower, mid and upper brain) and also leads to mind and body integration thus enhancing cognitive, social, emotional and aesthetic skills.

My training in dance has also helped me understand how freedom in expressing emotions is closely related to one’s emotional development. Humans are naturally designed to show every emotion felt through body movements.

For instance, if we feel the emotion of fear, we tremble, and our eyes widen or close. When we are sad, we show it through tears, and a closed posture. Happiness is expressed through high energy levels and an open body posture. All these expressions are deeply ingrained in our psyche.

So when we train a child not to cry when she really wants to, and not to show aggression when she really feels angry, what we are unknowingly doing is blocking her natural mechanism of releasing emotions through body movements. These emotions thus get stored inside her body and create muscle tensions all her life.

emotions

Now, knowing these two facts of how brain development and emotion release is closely related to human personality development, let’s see its relevance to movement and dance.

Raising a Happy Child

People function to their full potential when they complement their brain development with lots of movement and learn to express through their body. And as you read this, I’m sure you would completely agree that these two innate needs can be fulfilled through movement and dance.

As a child learns to move freely, develop a range of movements, sees them not as a way to reach somewhere or win or lose (as in other structured physical activities like sports), but for the sheer sense of expression, she starts developing a healthy mind. Her brain also starts functioning well, and she develops a positive body image, high confidence and self esteem, and in turn learns to love herself.

I can personally vouch for this, given that I have been through this amazing cycle in my own life and have witnessed so many of our students experiencing this.

My why has now evolved – I dream of inculcating an understanding and increasing awareness about the connection of movement and dance in human development and promote learning through movement and dance especially to children in their growing years.

A wise man (or maybe a woman) once said that if you want to address a problem, address it at the roots. For me, the roots go down to the school. And that’s why the dance activities and lessons we incorporate in our curriculum at Rhythmus HappyFeet are all aimed at changing the way the education system has perceived learning, especially in the early formative years of a child (pre-schoolers).

Dance is, I believe, one of the best ways to raise a child who is happy, confident, and one who learns to embrace life to its fullest. And dance is the way a child learns to love and respect her body and love her truly and completely.

This is my belief, my dream, my why….

Swara Patel

Artistic director & Co- founder 

Rhythmus HappyFeet

P.S. To know more about how your child can benefit from dance and the therapy it provides, please email me at thehappyfeetacademy@gmail.com, or connect at www.facebook.com/rhythmushappyfeet1, or visit www.rhf.dance

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Your Child and Dance – Top 5 Questions on Choosing a Dance Class…Answered

swara and zara

In my interactions with a lot of parents who meet me while deciding to put their children in dance class, I have received countless questions on how they (parents) should go about choosing the right dance and class for their little ones.

Some parents are worried whether their child’s age is ripe for learning dance. Then there are others who ask about the best dance forms. And then there are some who question the relevance of dance in a child’s life.

While I will try and gradually answer all those questions on this blog, here are my answers to the five most asked questions.

Q1. What is the right age to start training in dance?
There is a school of thought that believes a baby responds to music even in the womb, with movement. After birth, the response is even more obvious and music brings a definite and more profound reaction in the child’s movement. Then, as the child’s motor skills develop, the movement becomes more defined.

However, in my experience of teaching toddlers, I have learned that a child aged 3 years is just about ready for a structured dance class. At this age, he/she is able to understand and follow instructions and will also find it easier to settle into a new class environment (with less separation anxiety).

Even at age 3, a child struggles with simple moves like jumping, hopping and changing direction. But early exposure leads to a greater ability to understand one’s body and how it moves and enhances motor skills.

Q2. Which is a better dance form- Indian or western?
Any dance form, if learned systematically and in depth, produces similar results. What is more important is the quality of teachers and training and the child’s interest. If a child learns any one dance form thoroughly, he or she will be able to adapt to other dance forms with greater ease.

Q3. How long does a child take to learn a dance form?
As the old saying goes, “Practice makes a man perfect.” This is also true in the case of dance training. Learning a dance genre has many similarities to academic and athletic training. Skills must be built incrementally – just like more time you devote to studying, the higher the level of learning.

For instance, if a child devotes only one hour per week to learning maths, it will take far longer to get the desired outcome than if the child devotes one hour every day to study the same. Children with natural aptitude for mathematics will also achieve a higher level of skill faster if they put in the work. And no child, no matter how great the natural aptitude and talent, can master long division until they have mastered addition, subtraction, and multiplication.

The same holds true for dance. You must start at the beginning, attend classes faithfully, and work to master the skills as they are introduced. Each skill builds muscle memory and the proper bodily strength to take a student to the next, more difficult dance movement. This is a constant process over a number of years.

Q4. Will my child get confused if two different dance forms are introduced simultaneously?
Confusion might be an initial issue. But in the long run, the child will have a deeper understanding of his/her body and how it moves. So it is absolutely fine to learn two dance forms simultaneously. The child will soon discover that there is no right or wrong way to move – there are just different ways to move. Having said that, focusing on one dance form for a longer period definitely brings great results.

Q5. What are the advantages of learning dance over other physical, extracurricular activities?
The focus of dance is on creativity and not on winning or losing. It involves using both sides of the brain – one half for balance, co-ordination and technique and the other half for creativity. It encourages a child to express emotions freely through his/her body and makes him/her confident. It is therefore one of the most ideal activities to introduce your child to at an early age.

I hope the above post answers some of your biggest questions about your child and his/her dance training. Please feel free to leave a comment and/or your questions, as I am sure there are still many more of them which you might have with regards to your child’s dance education.

Swara Patel
Artistic Director -Rhythmus HappyFeet
http://www.rhf.dance

Your Child and Dance – Top 5 Questions on Choosing a Dance Class…Answered