The true spirit of “Inclusion“ was seen today when children from various schools, including special needs organizations, walked together on Thiruvanmiyur beach as a part of an event organized by Nandavanam – Center of Excellence for Children with Developmental Challenges – to mark the International Disability Day (3 December). Nandavanam is CSR Initiative of Newgen Knowledge Works.

The event which started on a warm and sunny Monday morning at 9.00 am included beach walking and beach games. It was a wonderful sight to see children from both mainstream and special needs school participating enthusiastically. Children walking hand in hand was a delight to watch.

Dr. Veera Panch, mentor and doctor at the Nandavanam School, addressed the gathering on the benefits of bare-foot beach walking. Parents, teachers and children shared their valuable feedback about this programme. After this, the children dispersed to participate in various games that were organized by Nandavanam.

Traditional games were organised in a manner that special needs children could play them. Each child was able to play about 4-5 games that were organized, and finally the children participated in a live art performance. Mr. Jayakumar, a renowned artist from Newgen KnowledgeWorks, painted the whole event on canvas, and he ensured that the children took part in this collaborative effort.

Over 300 children from the following schools participated in the programme:

  • Nadavanam – Center of Excellence forChildren with Developmental Challenges
  • Swabhiman Trust for Autism
  • Wecan for Autism
  • V-Excel Educational Trust
  • Asha Niketan
  • Swabhobhina Special School
  • Mirra Foundation
  • Neev Montessori
  • Nandavanam Learners Club
  • Fatima Matriculation School – Kodambakkam
  • Yogitha Academy – Perambur
  • St. Anthony’s Matriculation School.
  • Abacus Montessori

Traditional beach games were organized, including:

  • SEASHELLS: Come collect seashells with us and create collage pictures that are fun, memorable and whimsical.
  • SEEKERS: Be a team player to find the hidden treasure.
  • ACTIVE PLAY: Bring on your best aim to stack the “seven stones”.
  • KINGS AND QUEENS: Become a royal by building your own castle.
  • CHINESE FOOTBALL: You may not have played football like this before.
  • ZIGZAG: Get ready to hop, skip and run in a loop.
  • BALL WALKING: Work with a buddy to get the perfect balance..
  • BASKET BALL: Play basketball with a backward twist.
  • BALANCE BEACH WALKING: Keep your head high and walk the line.
  • SAND AND PEBBLES: Get your hands dirty to find the smoothest pebble.


Module 2: Day 1
Sensory processing, learning style and attention: Ms. Subha Vaidyanathan

The second module started with the teacher’s feedback about their experience that was a direct result of the last module training.

The first session of the day by Ms. Subbha Vaidyanathan on sensory processing, learning style and attention.

Ms. Subbha started the session with the following question:

  • What is needed for a child to grow?

She talked about the role of nature as well as nurture in child development. She explained in detail the following areas of child development.

  • Physical Area – The role of gross motor, fine motor and oro-motor skills in learning was discussed
  • Sensory Development – Visual and auditory procession and perception were discussed. Subtopics like memory, sequential memory, and closure of visual and auditory memory were discussed in detail.
  • Speech – The importance of onset of speech was discussed in detail.
  • Language – The difference between speech and language was discussed along with the importance of pairing in a classroom and how learning happens mostly through pairing.
  • Play – Importance of play and stages of play like solitary, parallel and interactive play.
  • Behavior – Oppositional, separation, anxiety, timidity, bullying, school refusal behavior were discussed.
  • Executive function – Role of executive function in learning and real life was discussed.

Some of the principles of development that were stressed upon are that all areas of development and learning are important. Learning and development follow a sequence. Development and learning proceeds at varying rates. Children learn in a variety of ways. Play is an important vehicle for the development of self-regulation and promoting language, cognition and social competence.

Post-tea break, Ms. Subbha discussed learning difficulties and learning disability. She started with the identification of LD child and what is learning disability. She talked about some of the misconceptions that surround children with learning disability. She emphasized on what cannot be termed Learning Disability. Early indicators and some of the sample works of children with LD were shown and discussed. Some of the common Learning Disability like dyslexia, ADHD, ADD, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia were discussed in detail. The primary and secondary effect of LD were also discussed.

She talked about to whom the child should be referred as a part of referral system and discussed different scenarios and options available with the teachers to help the child with LD.

Movement: Dr.Suchitra Ramkumar and Micky

Post-lunch session started with movement exercises, a participant taught the class a new variation of the exercise taught during the previous module. The exercises from the previous module were practiced again.

Brain Basis of learning : Dr. Suchitra

Dr. Suchitra asked the participants to summarize the morning session to establish the role of categorization. Headings and subheadings were created from the summarization. Then the participants were asked to present their idea of the brain to help understand the circuit of understanding.

The structure of the brain and the number of neurons, nerve connections, and cell connections were discussed. Brain cell connectivity was explained with examples. The following topics were explained along with examples.

  • Introduction
  • Understanding
  • Consolidation
  • Assessment
  • Reinforcement

Module 2: Day 2
Multiple Intelligence: Ms. Shirin Mammen

How smart am I? How am I smart?

Ms. Shirin started the session with the possibilities of the above-mentioned question. Then she proceeded to explain Multiple Intelligence. The following questions were discussed:

What is intelligence?
What do we mean by intelligence?
Who in our opinion are intelligent?
How is intelligence shown by a person?

The traditional view of intelligence was discussed and the emergence of MI was explained. She explained the concept with the house and various doors to get inside the house. Development pathway is there for all intelligence and there is a start-and-end potential for all intelligence.

The following intelligence was discussed in details. Each intelligence was discussed with video clipping and follow-up questions to strengthen the participants understanding of the same.

  1. Linguistic Intelligence
  2. Logical/ Mathematical Intelligence
  3. Bodily kinesthetic Intelligence
  4. Musical Intelligence
  5. Spatial Intelligence
  6. Naturalist
  7. Interpersonal
  8. Interpersonal
Each intelligence abilities, core competencies and professional choices were also discussed.

The participants were also provided with a questionnaire to determine their intelligence.

The post-lunch session started with movement. A different variation of the previous day's movement was taught and practiced.

Physical Characteristic of LD child: Ms. Shruti Bhat

Ms. Shruti explained the relationship between physical and learning. She proceeded to explain the heterogeneous nature of LD children and the behavior to look for in the classroom. She discussed various topics like Visual-Spatial Disorder, dysgraphia, Motor Dysgraphia, Spatial Dysgraphia and the affects of Dysgraphia, Attention and handwriting problems.

Empathetic Teacher : Dr. Suchitra Ramkumar

Dr. Suchitra started the session with the following representation.

She explained the structure of the brain as reptilian brain, mammalian brain and cortex.

She talked about the reasons that children with LD suffer the most in the school. She discussed the difference between the other difficulties and specific learning difficulties.

The workshop commenced with an inauguration ceremony. Forty-one (41) teachers had registered for this 8-day training. The venue was St. Bede's Anglo Indian Higher Secondary School, No: 37, Santhome High Road, Santhome, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600004.

The following people attended the inauguration ceremony.

  • Mr. Micky Joseph – Nandavanam
  • Dr. Veera Panch – Nandavanam
  • Ms. Arthi Kuppuswamy - Nandavanam
  • Dr. Suchitra Ramkumar- Resource person
  • Mr. Senthil Kumar, Chief Financial Officer, Newgen Digital Works
  • Fr. Paul Raj – Director Niraivagam Psychological Services.

The ceremony began with the lighting of the lamp by Mr. Senthil Kumar, Fr. Paul Raj, Dr. Veera Punch, Dr. Suchitra Ramkumar and a participant. After the lighting of the lamp, Dr. Suchitra Ramkumar spoke about the conception, the thought process and the objective of the workshop.

Next, Mr. Senthil Kumar gave an inspiring talk based on his experience with one teacher who contributed significantly to his growth in life. He wished the participants to be inspiring teachers and to contribute their best for the overall well-being of the children.

Finally, the inauguration was concluded with a Vote of Thanks given by Fr. Paul Raj.
Module 1: Day 1
The training programme commenced with introductions between the participants and the faculty. The participants were asked to put forth the difficulties they experienced in teaching, classroom management and with their students. The participants responded enthusiastically.

Education as Healing Process (1) – Dr. Veera Panch

Dr. Veera began her session with a thought-provoking question on ‘what is the role of a teacher?’ She further went on to talk about the need to impart knowledge with love and care. She explained the relationship between home, school and world, a model as proposed by Rudolf Steiner. Home prepares for school and school prepares for world.

She proceeded to explain the child who is being educated as someone who not just carries the hereditary traits but also an individual with a spiritual dimension. She continued to discuss the importance of the period between 0 and 7 years in child development. This age group is fundamental in organ development and discussed motor milestones and speech milestones. She explained the long-standing impact on health when a child in this age group is stressed.

She then talked extensively about the developmental stages of a child in terms of both physical and soul development.

Some Insights shared by Dr. Veera Panch

  • The smaller the child is the more he learns from and through love.
  • It is important to know the developmental stage in a child so that we know what a child can learn and what a child cannot learn.
  • Children’s unwillingness to listen can be due to over knowledge.
  • Every stage requires the correct amount of intervention for the child’s spirit to unfold.

Movement: Dr. Suchitra Ramkumar

Post lunch, the training began with a a session on movement by Dr. Suchitra Ramkumar. The participants enjoyed it immensely.

Inner Development of the child in relation to physical growth – Ms. Anandhi

Ms. Anandhi talked about the inner life of the child and the need to teach languages, math and subjects to strengthen the inner life. She further talked about the need for story in child education as a requisite for inner life of a child. She discussed various genres of stories.

She worked with the participants using various activities, exercises and movements to teach children tables, letter recognition, letter formation, sound of the language and to help children understand the sense of rhythm. She ended the session by telling the participant a story.

The day ended with a 10-minute session by Ms. Arthi summarizing the day’s session. This was used as a reflective time for both the participants and the trainers alike.

Module 1: Day 2

Education as Healing Process (2) – Dr. Veera Panch

In older times
There lived in the souls of Initiates
Powerfully the thought
That by nature every person is ill
And Education was seen as a healing process
which gave the child as he matured
The health to be a true human being

- Rudolf Steiner

Dr. Veera Panch started the session with a recap of her previous day’s session and explained in detail soul development through the stages. She explained the above-written verse. She made the participants do an activity involving pebbles and a plant to help them understand the relevance of awakening the feeling in children to help them understand and learn better about observation.

She talked about the seven virtues of a teacher in detail.

  1. Imaginative
  2. Sense of truth
  3. Responsibility
  4. Initiative
  5. Interest
  6. Compromise
  7. No stale
In the end, she gave the following verse for the participants to carry forward.

‘Receive the child in reverence, educate him in love and send him forth in freedom’

A Holistic Approach to Language and Math Learning – Ms. Anandhi

Ms. Anandhi started the session with a recap and reinforced that stories are the soul food. The child can understand the complexity of life with stories. She talked about developing the inner morality of the child and about thinking being the inner movement.

She taught various child-friendly activities to introduce aspects of language like sounds, grammar, spellings and math.

Movement: Dr. Suchitra Ramkumar

Post lunch, the training began with movement by Dr. Suchitra Ramkumar. The previous day’s movements were practised to achieve mastery so that the teachers in the classroom could impart the same. The next progression for the movement exercise was also taught.

Teacher as a Reflective Practitioner – Dr. Suchitra Ramkumar

Dr. Suchitra Ramkumar conducted this interactive session. She asked the participants three questions based on which the whole session was conducted.

1. What does ‘education’ mean for me?

Some of the answers by the participants

  • Learning new things/ everybody around/ everything
  • All around development of attitude, morals, creativity unfolding
  • Preparation for facing life
  • Moulding of a person
  • Helping to implement learning
  • Knowledge Development
  • Being a good human being
  • Removal of immorality

2. What would I as a teacher do, If I owned my own school?

Some of the answers by the participants

  • 5 hours school (3 hrs main subject and 2 hrs activities)
  • Starting age for children should be 5 years instead of 2 ½ years
  • Freedom to teacher in terms of methodology
  • Activity-based curriculum for better understanding of application rather than knowledge
  • Curriculum based on child’s need
  • No exams
  • More play time
  • Reduce class strength (25-30)
  • 5 periods a day
  • No interference from Management
  • Create Activity Room

3. What is my view on children?

Some of the answers by the participants

Innocent / naughty / true/ sensitive/ loving/ curious / cheerful / smiling flowers/ shining flowers/ joyful/ active/ fearless/ chatterbox/ cure/ accepting/ forgiving/ they are gift/ wise/ image of god/sponge/ non-judgmental/ stubborn/ expressive / kind hearted/ lazy / playful

Answers to each of the above-mentioned questions were discussed in detail by the participants and Dr. Suchitra Ramkumar.

The day ended with Ms. Arthi summarizing the day’s sessions, day’s reflection and a brief about the next module.

The participants were asked to give feedback. The questions for the feedback were as follows:

  1. What are the 5 things that you learned or that touched your heart during the two-day training module?
  2. What are the 3 things that you will carry forward in your teaching?
  3. What are the 3 things that did not work for you in the workshop?
  4. Any suggestions?
A Day at Nandavanam
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The six-day module is all about understanding and experiencing the processes involved in learning. We will be looking into how children learn and various skills required for academic success.
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