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Yoga is an essential life-skill that will help children navigate through social and emotional challenges in school and beyond – Alexandra De Collibus

Certified Itsy Bitsy Yoga Facilitator and owner of Sweet Pea Yoga, Massachusetts, Alexandra De Collibus believes yoga is an essential life-skill that will help children navigate through social and emotional challenges in school and beyond. Parvathy Jayakrishnan discusses

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What are some of the key benefits of yoga for children?

The benefits of yoga for children are plentiful. Through practicing yoga, children can develop skills that will serve them emotionally, physically and spiritually throughout their lives. By helping children learn regular meditation, intentional breathing, and a robust ‘asana’ practice, they are practicing patience and single-minded focus, improving their physical and emotional awareness, and cultivating resilience. As a teacher of children, I look at these as essential life-skills that will help children navigate through social and emotional challenges not only during their school years but later throughout their professional and personal lives.
Yoga is something children and adults can practice anywhere—the breathing, the concentration, the way we choose to act or react to situations and conflict, the poses, the meditation, the constant self-discovery and inquisitiveness—it’s all portable. No yoga mat, clothing, or special pillow is necessary. Both children and adults will encounter emotional, social, societal, spiritual, and physical challenges or conflicts. Though the context, the “stakes”, and the perspective may be different, both can draw from what they are learning through yoga to help them navigate the waters in a way that feels authentic and honest.

How interactive is your method of teaching kids yoga?

Once in school, children can begin to feel that the things that make them different from their peers (sometimes the very unique qualities that we adults admire and love about them), become things that they don’t like about themselves. As a yoga teacher, I try to facilitate a class where children can build up their inner resources and develop a strong sense of self. I always aim to introduce my young students to a variety of simple breathing and relaxation techniques, postures that can make them feel strong, calm, or joyful, and various meditation exercises. For example, after we practice a new meditation technique, I invite them to reflect on what they did or didn’t love about it, how it made them feel, whether there were any surprises from the experience, when and how we apply and practice this meditation outside of our yoga classroom.
I want my students to learn to trust themselves, their feelings, develop their own experiences. I invite them to think deeply about what it is we are doing—to pay close attention to how their body or mind responds to a particular mediation approach or breathing exercise. How the poses make them feel and why they like them (or don’t). In class, I draw attention to how their answers differ in response to a pose or mediation and celebrate that a child’s experience with yoga is not one size fits all – what Sarah is experiencing is different from what Arnav felt and there is no expectation that everyone will have the same "answer". Everything I teach in class is chosen as a way to help my students develop their own inner compass by asking them to bring their own attention to how a pose feels, how far to stretch, recognising in themselves when they need to challenge themselves, and learning how to care for themselves through relaxation, meditation, or movement.

What is the response that children generally give to learning a new skill like yoga?

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They are thrilled! Kids love learning new things and they enjoy using their body. Although in yoga the goal is to nourish and strengthen ourselves internally, kids are more external by nature so it's not surprising they are most enthusiastic about physical practice of yoga–’the asana’. I introduce a variety of meditation techniques, concentration exercises, and breathing techniques (‘pranayama’) in my classes and kids love learning those as well but those things are harder for kids to put into words. So I try to explain the ‘why’ of these practices in a way that they can understand. I want them to have context for why the breath is so essential to yoga, why the concentration exercises benefit us in our meditation or balancing. I introduce these practices with no prior expectation for what they can do or what they will get the hang of.
Kids are always full of surprises—they regularly surprise and thrill themselves with the postures they can do, and they soak up the mediation and relaxation techniques surprisingly well. Not every technique is easy for every child but with enough variety, it seems there is always at least one or two that a child will strongly connect with.

Do the occasional conflict situations arise when dealing with children?

I rarely encounter resistance to learning yoga but of course sometimes a child will grumble when he realises we are about to practice something they especially struggle with. Though most kids love meditation, it's common there may be a child or two in class who find the practice of sitting still and "watching the breath" very, very difficult because the act of stillness itself is challenging. I just remind them that adults find meditation challenging too and some days we can access that peaceful stillness and some days it's harder. I try to reinforce the idea that we are always changing and growing and we should accept ourselves when we can balance for 30 seconds in ‘Vrksasana’ (Tree Pose) and also not get frustrated when the next week our ‘Vrksasana’ can't seem to stop tumbling over. We have some days where things flow for us and other days which can be bumpier. It's normal.

When I introduce a more challenging pose such as ‘Ardha Chandrasana’ (Half Moon Balance), the children seeing the demonstration of this pose for the first time may be nervous – it looks so complicated! They might be fearful of falling out or making a mistake…or feeling embarrassed in front of their peers if they can't do it. I remind them that we call it a yoga "practice" not a yoga "perfect" and although there are certain alignment and safety measures we want to take in the pose, the pose is about maintaining the focus and steady breathing and finding a place where we ‘feel’ great in the pose…it's not how we ‘look’ in the pose.
I remind them that falling out of a balance is not a mistake – it's an important part of learning the pose better and that it allows our body and brain to work together to figure out the puzzle of how to do the pose.

Would you choose yoga over other sporting activities?

I think it is important to mention that the number one reason parents name for why they are having their child take yoga is because of anxiety and/or stress. It doesn't matter whether the child is five or 12 years old, it's a common theme that many, many children suffer from anxiety and stress. Parents recognise their own stress and they care deeply about helping their child learn skills to help them manage and navigate stressful social, emotional, and/or academic situations. I don't think my students are unique in this regard – I do think what they are experiencing is also common among their peers who I might never see in my classes.

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Because anxiety and stress are serious issues for the emotional health of my students, I do take a serious approach to teaching yoga. Our classes are certainly joyful and fun but anxiety is a very real and serious thing and my students deserve to learn effective ways of dealing with it. To this end, I teach a classical approach to yoga by drawing on the thousands of years’ old tradition to help us guide our way towards inner peace and a deeper connection to the whole. My students learn both, the Sanskrit names of every pose as well as the common English names, and I aim to give them a strong foundation in yoga from which to grow throughout their lives long after they have graduated from my classes.

In your experience, do kids balance yoga with other sports?

Many of my students also participate in local team sports. At this age (5-14 years) it's very common in the US for children to play on seasonal soccer or softball teams. I also have many students who dance (mostly ballet) several times a week. When sports or dance is a student's primary interest, I might hear from the parent that their child has joined my class because they are trying to address a sports/dance issue – need increased flexibility, or performance anxiety. These families are not looking to replace their child's sport with yoga.

I also have many students who have tried many team or solo sports through the years and they just never enjoy them. These parents might be especially concerned that their child doesn't enjoy physical activity at all and they worry about their child's health or body confidence. In my experience, I have found these less-active students completely thrive in yoga. Yoga removes the competitive, performance nature of sports or dance, and places the focus not on the external but on the internal – nourishing oneself from the inside out. It is a rich environment for a child to grow confident in their body. We celebrate ourselves from the inside out.

Have you tried yoga with children with special needs? Does it benefit them in any way?

This is a great question. I have not taught yoga classes that specifically focus on working with a special needs population. I have seen these classes offered but very rarely in a private class setting (i.e. studio) and it is most common that there is a special needs-focused educator that will attain yoga certification with the aim of integrating yoga into the work she is already doing with her students at a school or private therapy practice.

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It is not uncommon to have a child or two in my class who may have a special need or a specific condition–these children might be joining class after a year of cancer/chemotherapy treatment, struggle with debilitating panic attacks, have childhood arthritis, have Obsessive-Compulsive disorder, or have autism. In most cases a parent will call me before registering their child to explain what they're looking for in a class for their child and I will explain how our class structure is, what degree children will need to participate, interact, etc. Children with more profound special needs will often benefit from a smaller class size or even a one-on-one setting. My classes typically include 8-12 students and each child would need to be able to participate with a degree of independence. When I share what an hour of my class is like to a parent, they can usually gain a sense of whether it's the right fit for their particular child. If we're unsure, we'll usually agree to a week-by-week basis with regular, honest communication about whether the class is a compatible fit for the child. In cases where my class wasn't the best fit, it's usually pretty clear that the child requires a smaller class size and more individual attention. The issue generally has nothing to do with yoga itself and more to do with class size and perhaps working with a yoga teacher who is also a special needs educator to best tailor the class to the child's needs.

More about Alexandra De Collibus…

Owner of Sweet Pea Yoga in Massachusetts, USA, Alexandra De Collibus is certified in EmPowered Kids Yoga (EPK) and a certified Itsy Bitsy Yoga Facilitator (CIBYF). She developed Sweet Pea Kids Yoga for children for ages 5-14 years, where children attend class in a group of their peers without a parent. She feels strongly about honouring the long tradition of yoga with her students and her classes adhere to a more classical study of Hatha Yoga than most kid’s yoga classes in America. She has faith that American children can embrace a classical approach to learning yoga, and she hopes that they will carry on that tradition in a meaningful way. Yoga does not need to be simplified or reinvented as "play" in order for kids to be drawn to learning it and to build a deeply personal connection with the practice, is her staunch belief.

This article was originally published in the July 2017 issue of ScooNews magazine. Subscribe to ScooNews Magazine today to have more such stories delivered to your desk every month. 

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Read How A Former Student Helped His 77-Year-Old Teacher Living In Car

A teacher lost his job and home to pandemic but was saved by his former student. Here’s how

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Jose Villarruel, a teacher from California, recently received a 27,000/- dollar cheque from his former student named Steven Nava. Nava found 77-year-old Mr. Villarruel living in a car and immediately decided to turn his situation around. After helping the teacher in his capacity, he then took to Twitter to share the unfortunate story asking for help. 

 

 

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Mr. Villarruel has been a teacher all his life but when the pandemic hit and schools were forced to shutdown, his working hours were cut into half and so was his salary. This directly resulted in him losing his home and he was forced to live in his old run-down car. Luckily, when Nava found out about him, he formed a GoFundMe page to raise $27,000 for his dear teacher in distress

It was Mr. Villarruel’s 77th birthday when Nava presented him with a cheque and told him how his old students and some compassionate strangers on the internet came together to crowdfund the amount. 

“I’m still trying to digest the entire experience, it’s extraordinary, totally unexpected,” Mr. Villarruel told The News Outlet

Nava’s kind gesture is clearly a reciprocating result of Mr. Villarruel’s teachings during their classroom days. The value this educator created years ago has now come back to him in the form of love and respect that he truly deserves. 

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Why Is This Kids’ Book About A Bus Adventure So Special For This Norwich Teacher?

She had a life-long dream of writing and publishing this book.

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Wendy Davison is a primary teacher in Norwich, England, with over twenty-eight years of teaching experience. Practising in Bignold Primary School, her love for students and books recently inspired her during the pandemic to publish a children's storybook. 

Mrs. Davison and her husband own a big blue Mercedes bus that could be used as a travelling home. But since the pandemic had everything locked down for the majority of 2020, they could not set out for an adventure themselves. This did not mean that Mrs. Davison would not let her creativity take a ride on the bus. 

She had a life-long dream of writing and publishing a book, what better than a book for her students, she thought! And so, during the pandemic, she sat down and created ‘Ernie’s Journey.’ Earnie is the name of the big blue bus she owns. She made the van the main character of the book which is a rhyming adventure story through Norwich for children. She also used the book for storytime with her students which they absolutely loved! 

‘Ernie’s Journey' is said to be a celebration of local areas of interest in Norwich City, which the children may also look forward to searching for the hidden canary on every page. The book is written and designed solely by Mrs. Davison. Talking about it with Eastern Daily Press, she said, “I’m not an artist, but I persevered and had many happy hours drawing, painting, thinking and researching how to improve my skills. Although my computer skills are generally quite basic, I muddled through and used photoshop to improve my designs. Eventually family and friends encouraged me to publish my book and again, I self-taught myself to learn how to do this.”

It is rumoured that the book, after being proven a hit amongst children, might have more adventures to come. Clearly, Mrs. Davison’s life-long dream is making us and a lot of children happy.

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‘Soul’ Movie Protagonist is a Real Life Music Teacher From Queens

Peter Archer, a music teacher from a middle school in Queens, is the inspiration behind the movie Soul’s main character

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The latest 2020 animation film ‘Soul’ is produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. The protagonist, Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx), however is not all animation and fiction. He is based on a teacher from Middle School 74 in Bayside, Queens, New York, named Dr. Peter Archer, who retired recently and is the actual soul of the movie ‘Soul.’

“It began with Pixar research,” Dr. Archer tells TODAY. “They found me out and conducted several trips to New York and brought me on board as a consultant to authenticate things a bit, because I am a middle school band teacher and I am also a professional musician.”

Pixar got in touch with Archer and observed his classes. In fact, they even measured the classroom to make the movie’s classroom look as realistic as possible. Archer says that it is his classroom (modified) that is shown at the beginning of the movie. It is also his expertise they needed since he has taught for over 30 years as a school band teacher. And since he is also a performing musician, he talked to them about handling both, teaching and performing, making it one of the reasons Pixar was interested in his expertise. "So they wanted to understand how I balanced both a career as a performer and an educator as well,” he says.

Having graduated from the music program at Queens College, Archer wanted to work with a symphony orchestra. Becoming a teacher was a happy accident when he was given an internship offer. “People have this notion that people who can’t play teach … it’s a negative stigma of sorts attributed to musicians not able to find employment,” Archer says. He was held back for a moment because of this stigma but then took the internship and loved teaching while still continuing to perform. 

His experience not only helped the moviemakers but also his students. “The fact I was out there and performing at the same time, and the fact I could bring in the reality and make things really interesting for them [the students] … that is so powerful,” Archer explains. 

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This film is the immortal acknowledgement for a teacher, for Archer. Undoubtedly, the educator community will never forget and neither will the students!

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How Social Media Supported This Bengaluru School During Financial Trouble

After a tweet by a fellow of Teach For India went viral, the Bengaluru school suffering from financial issues was able to raise funds

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A tweet for help was sent out on 17 Jan 2021 by Teach For India fellow Shreyasi Rao. The tweet was regarding a school having financial troubles since last year. As it is evident that the education field is not doing too great since the pandemic struck, some schools, that are working for the betterment of the children from lower-income groups, are doing even worse. Elite English High School, Neelasandra, had a similar situation with children from economically weaker sections of society.

Rao shared the post with crowdfunding links and an overwhelming message. The tweets went viral around January 19, 2021, and the academics achieved their goal of gathering Rs 6.5 lakh. The tweet read, “My colleagues and I are trying to raise funds to cover about six months’ worth of pay for teachers and running costs to keep education free for all students. Amounts as little as Rs 100 could go a long way.”

The school was suffering economical issues since the mid of 2020 because many parents could not pay the fees anymore due to job losses. Even with no pay for teachers from June 2020, the imparting of education did not stop. “We worked beyond school timings whenever these kids had access to smartphones,” Shreyasi mentioned. The dedication and plight of these teachers did not go unnoticed by the people on social media. The fundraising was a success according to the principal, Sakline Abbas. “We never faced difficulties before the pandemic. Through the Milaap Fundraising platform, I am glad that we have support to sustain ourselves till June,” Abbas mentioned.

Cheers to the power of social media and our community. 

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Local Politician Starts ‘Zero Contact Mohalla School’ in Maharashtra 

Pradeep Deshmukh, a local politician turned teacher at the ‘Mohalla School’ in Chandrapur, plans on starting more such schools

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‘Zero Contact Mohalla School’ is located near the municipal primary school in Wadgaon ward, Chandrapur, Maharashtra. The headteacher here is Pradeep Deshmukh, a corporator/local politician, who’s also the brain behind this initiative. 

Deshmukh, who is well-known for his innovative enterprises, is the reason this school began the previous year. He worries about the education of children who belong to low-income families because, unlike children of private schools, they could not afford to attend online classes. Due to school closure, these ‘mohalla’ kids suffered a huge loss in studies which is why Deshmukh himself decided to start taking classes.

“While students of private schools are attending online classes, these children from poor strata of society are completely cut-off from studies. Even as schools are shut to prevent physical contact among students, these children can be seen playing together against all Covid norms,” said Deshmukh. 

Deshmukh, along with other volunteer teachers, begins school every day at 8 am and teaches children from pre-primary to grade 8 till 10 am. According to him, this school was the pilot for this kind of project and he plans on developing more such ‘Mohalla Schools’ in his ward for underprivileged students. His attempts saw great enthusiasm from the kids as well as the parents since the beginning of the school saw over 80 children craving studies. In a country where politics is known to be infamous for bringing immense trouble, Deshmukh’s endeavours have become a light bringer for these children during these difficult COVID times.

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Indian Teacher Wins International Award For Storytelling Pedagogy In 2020

A teacher from Vijay Nagar, Maharashtra, wins the HBN Creativity & Inclusive Award

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2020 saw more than a lot of destruction. It saw how resilient the education community can be and to what lengths a teacher would go to teach their students. Balaji Jadhav, a Zilla Parishad teacher in Vijay Nagar, Maharashtra, who had 40 children in his small classroom, found an innovative way to teach. Jadhav’s students come from lower-income families and could not afford smartphones and gadgets to keep learning like the rest of the world. But he didn’t let a small thing like money come in between him and his teaching and hence, decided to keep the learning going on via conference calls. 

Jadhav started calling 10 children at a time and would teach them on calls, and he would use storytelling as the way of teaching. 

In the beginning, he would call his students in the evening as well and ask them to narrate the previously told stories, the older students would get writing the story as assignments. Jadhav is now making up story learning material for educational topics and also recording them for children of neighbouring Zillas. This teacher does not only want to help his own students but is offering the stories to other teachers and students who may benefit from his and his students’ recorded stories.

For his efforts, he was recognised internationally when he won the international HBN Creativity & Inclusive Awards announced on 24 December 2020. About 2500 entries from 87 nations were sent for the award that appreciates ideas for creativity and innovation or traditional knowledge practices. Only 11 participants could win the award and Balaji Jadhav, a teacher from a small Zilla in Maharashtra, India, won hearts with his practices! We’re thrilled and proud! 

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Top Humanitarians That Educators Should Follow On Social Media

The list includes The Gates Foundation, Sonu Sood, Sridhar Vembu, Michelle Obama, Manish Mundra, Ratan Tata, and Roshni Nadar Malhotra

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The list includes The Gates Foundation, Sonu Sood, Sridhar Vembu, Michelle Obama, Manish Mundra, Ratan Tata, and Roshni Nadar Malhotra

Who: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Bio says: We’re impatient optimists working to reduce inequality

X-Factor on the internet: Melinda Gates directly speaking to the audience, sharing her inspirations and why we need to take immediate actions to protect human capital that comprises health, education, economic opportunity and voice. 

Viral post: “The foundation has committed a total of $1.75 billion to the COVID-19 response. This figure includes commitments announced this year, funds channelled from other foundation programs, and financing to make products affordable and accessible in low- and middle- income countries.”

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Current take-on: Women workers who’re suffering disproportionate effects from COVID-19 

Favourite hashtag: #GivingTuesday

Top 5 accounts followed: UN Women, Toyin Saraki, Nikhil Taneja, Brene Brown, Amika George

ScooNews loves: The videos of the leaders, christened as Goalkeepers of the Sustainable Development Goals by the foundation, talking about accelerating the progress toward ending poverty and fighting inequality

Follow at: @gatesfoundation (on Twitter, IG & FB)

Who: Sonu Sood

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Bio says: OUR SERVICES ARE FREE. नि:शुल्क सेवा

X-Factor on the internet: His hope-filled and emphatic replies to everyone tweeting to him

Viral post: Him gifting tractor to Andhra Pradesh family after a video of girls pulling plough went viral and arranging for conveyance for the low-income migrants who were stuck in the metro cities when the lockdown was announced in India.

Current take-on: His book ‘I am no Messiah’

Favourite hashtag: #KhudKamaaoGharChalaao

Top 5 accounts followed: Narendra Modi, Ilaaj India, UNDP India, Barkha Dutt, Mahendra Singh Dhoni

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ScooNews loves: He’s been listed under '2020 hottest vegetarians' by PETA India

Follow at: @SonuSood (Twitter), @ActorSonuSood (FB), sonu_sood (IG)

Who: Sridhar Vembu

Bio says: CEO, Zoho

X-Factor on the internet: Glimpses of his everyday life which includes photographing native snakes and driving autorickshaws

Viral post: “On the subject of exams and grades. For kids coming in with very low self-esteem, as most poor rural kids do, exams just serve to confirm their already low feelings of self-worth. I can identify with it because I used to battle these emotions as a kid.”

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Current take-on: Disadvantage in the present educational system in India

Favourite emoticon: ????

Top 5 accounts followed: Narasinga, Vincent Rajkumar, Varsha Joshi, Vani Kola, Ryan Bethencourt

ScooNews loves: He moved from San Francisco to a village 650 km away from Chennai, India, to start a school for children of low-income families during the pandemic

Follow at: @svembu (Twitter)

Who: Michelle Obama

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Bio says: Girl from the South Side and former First Lady. Wife, mother, dog lover. Always hugger-in-chief.

X-Factor on the internet: Barack’s impromptu but lovely & candid appearances on her feed

Viral post: “…We’re all seeing what also happens to so many professional women, whether their titles are Dr., Ms., Mrs., or even First Lady: All too often, our accomplishments are met with skepticism, even derision. We’re doubted by those who choose the weakness of ridicule over the strength of respect. And yet somehow, their words can stick – after decades of work, we’re forced to prove ourselves all over again. Is this really the example we want to set for the next generation?”

Current take-on: Right to vote and girl education

Favourite hashtag: #IAmBecoming

Top 5 accounts followed: Obama Foundation, Dr. Jill Biden, Better Make Room, Valerie Jarrett, Girls Opportunity Alliance

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ScooNews loves: Michelle Obama Podcast on Spotify

Follow at: @MichelleObama (Twitter), @michelleobama (IG)

Who: Manish Mundra

Bio says: Dreamer, Film Maker, Writer, Painter, Wildlife Photographer. @drishyamfilms – AnkhonDekhi/Masaan/Waiting/Dhanak/Newton/Rukh/Kaamyaab

X-Factor on the internet: Photos of wild animals from his travel diaries 

Viral post: When he delivered PPE kits in key hospitals of India ‘to fortify our Heroes,’ sent money to people who couldn’t afford surgeries due to the sudden lay-offs during the lockdown and raised money on social media to bring everyone together as a community

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Favourite hashtag: #Wildlife

Top 5 accounts followed: Conde Nast Traveller, Sheryl Sandberg, Citizens Foundation, India Foundation, Daisy Gilardini

ScooNews loves: His Hindi poetry under the hashtag #मनकीबातें

Follow at: @ManMundra (Twitter), @mundramanish (IG)

Who: Ratan Tata

Bio says: Chairman Emeritus, Tata Sons. Chairman, Tata Trusts

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X-Factor on the internet: Heartwarming stories and photos of his adopted stray dogs

Viral post: When he committed 500 crore rupees for personal protective equipment for frontline workers, Corona testing kits, respiratory systems for emergency patients, and training of health workers.

Top 5 accounts followed: Tata Trusts, Anand Mahindra, Kalam Centre, The Wall Street Journal, Barack Obama

ScooNews loves: His throwback photos from his early entrepreneurship days

Follow at: @ratantata (IG), @RNTata2000 (Twitter)

Who: Roshni Nadar Malhotra

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Bio says: Chairperson of HCL Technologies, India. Trustee – ShivNadar Foundation. In 2019, TEDx Speecher

X-Factor on the internet: Heartwarming photos and videos with students of Vidyagyan Residential School

Viral post: When the HCL Foundation awarded the ‘HCL Foundation Grant 2020’ to nine NGOs across the categories of Education, Healthcare and Environment receiving a grant of ₹5 crores each. The remaining six finalists across the three categories also received ₹25 lakhs each, taking the overall Grant to ₹16.5 crores.

Current take-on: Providing quality education to underprivileged students

Favourite hashtag: #HCL

Top 5 accounts followed: Malala, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai, Justin Trudeau 

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What ScooNews loves: Her constant motivation for women to explore their career and contribute to the GDP of the country

Follow at: @roshninadarmalhotra (IG)

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India’s First Teacher Wins Global Teacher Prize in 2020

Ranjitsinh Disale has announced to share half of his prize money with other finalists

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Ranjitsinh Disale, a teacher from Paritewadi, Solapur, teaching primary school kids, was announced the winner of The Global Teacher Prize 2020 on 3 December 2020. He’s been acknowledged for his unique teaching methods and for promoting girls’ education in his school’s district. Interestingly, he’s designed a quick-response (QR) coded learning system for students of his school. 

Even before winning the award when Disale was amongst the top 10 finalists, he had decided to share 50% of his prize money with his fellow finalists to support their incredible work at an off-chance if he wins. He said, “Teachers are the real change-makers who are changing the lives of their students with a mixture of chalk and challenges. They always believe in giving and sharing. And, therefore, I am very pleased to announce that I will share 50% of the prize money equally among my fellow top 10 finalists to support their incredible work. I believe, together, we can change this world because sharing is growing.” 

When Disale began his career, the school he went to for the first time was being held in a run-down building with not enough facilities or learning opportunities. He saw the books were in English, which was difficult for the children to understand. He not only translated the class textbooks into their mother tongue but also embedded them with unique QR codes to give students access to audio poems, video lectures, stories and assignments. For this, he himself learnt Kannad, the local language, for the sole purpose of accomplishing these tasks.

Recognising his work, earlier, he was given 2016 Innovative Researcher of the Year award by the Indian central government and National Innovation Foundation’s Innovator of the Year award in 2018. In fact, his school, too, received the Best School for the district in 2016. In addition, Disale was also recognised by the CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, who wrote about his work as one of three stories from India in his book Hit Refresh.

While his dedication has so far brought full attendance to the school and increased learning outcome to 98% before completing the school year, he is also making sure to stop all the child marriage practices in the area. 

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‘Forest Man of India’ Becomes A Part Of The US School Curriculum 

According to a new change in the school curriculum in Connecticut, United States, the children are learning about Jadav Payeng, ‘The Forest Man of India.’

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Jadav Payeng, fondly known as the 'Forest Man of India,' is known for planting the entire Molai forest all by himself over the course of a few decades. This forest is situated on the Majuli island in the Brahmaputra river near Kokilamukh, Jorhat district, Assam.

You might know Payeng as an environmental activist and a Padma Shri awardee, but the stories of his contribution to conserving the environment are not limited to the Indian boundaries. Currently, school students in America are discovering about this legend through their curriculum.

Sixth-grade students of Green Hills School, Bristol, Connecticut, are studying Payeng's life in their ecology lesson. Their teacher, Navami Sarma, from Assam (India), tells Deccan Herald, "Here, educationists prepare curriculum for particular classes of the school under the districts. Payeng's life journey was incorporated into one such curriculum. It was an extremely proud moment for me, too, as I see Payeng’s contributions being recognised globally.”

The story of Payeng is very interesting. He once saw many dead snakes on the sandbar of Brahmaputra river that died due to heat, after being washed offshore. He was only 16-year-old at the time and decided to plant 20 bamboo seedlings in the area. In 1979, the social forestry division of Golaghat district launched a scheme of tree plantation on 200 hectares at Aruna Chapori. Payeng became one of the labourers who worked under that project. In fact, he chose to stay back after the completion of the project even five years later. During this time, he not only looked after the plants but also continued planting more trees on his own. His efforts gradually transformed that barren land into a lush green forest which is world-famous now.

The Molai forest’s area is larger than that of Central Park’s in New York, US. This homegrown forest is now home to animals like Bengal tigers, Indian rhinoceros, reptiles, deers, rabbits, monkeys and several varieties of birds, including the exotic vultures. 

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Payeng recently told The Sentinel that instead of events and functions on government finance for environmental awareness, people should be taught about it in a more effective way. He said, "The world should observe seven days of lockdown every year to maintain the ecological balance of the earth."

Sarma says, "Payeng single-handedly grew an entire forest where many animals have returned to live. He inspires our students to learn about and protect the environment. If every person does a small act, there can be a big impact on the environment."

It is indeed a proud moment for India to see one of our own being acknowledged globally and inspiring educators and young students in the far west.

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School Paints The Pathways For Isolated Zones To Bring Happiness

A school in Sydney was given a makeover when its isolation zones were painted to bring some colour for the children.

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Brookland Elementary School in Sydney is getting all sorts of appreciation for the way they transformed their outdoor zones. On reopening, the school was divided into 14 separate outdoor zones to keep the classroom bubbles isolated. This is how the school took its pandemic health safety measures. The students would exchange their playing areas in a period of seven days with another cluster.

To brighten up their classroom bubble and to bring some change and joy, Principal John Boutilier, along with the home and school committee, decided to paint the sidewalks.

From bright green vine with huge leaves to diagrams in rainbow colours, there are a lot of designs one can admire. The sidewalks have been decorated with flowers and even the seven chakras on the flower petals are dedicated to ‘Yogic Studies’.

The Principal, while talking about the zones and the project, said, "This is the way a playground should look, isn't it? It's so colourful."

This initiative was a result of discussions amongst the home and school committee along with the principal as they were worried for the children to have nothing to play with. Some parents showed concerns about what the children will do when their bubble is near the sidewalk. But after the painting of the zones principal, Boutilier told The Chronicle Herald, “I was here in the yard the other day and they were all playing hopscotch, running up and down (the sensory paths).”

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This project was taken over by the home and school committee handling the task of finding volunteers and funding for the project. They asked artist Ryan Robson to design the zones, and the volunteers did the painting. "We've had a lot of big asks this year and we've got everything. We've been very fortunate to have the support that we do,” said Principal Boutilier. He added, “Pathways to Employment came and did the work, it took them one day, I was amazed to come back to this.”

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