THE ASCENT CAMP FOR CHILDREN
The Ascent Camp is designed to be an intensive learning experience for the children and not merely a fun and adventure camp, though a lot of fun and adventure would certainly be involved. We offer this Camp not as an extension of “classroom” learning but a value addition to the child’s learning experience, aiming at a heightening and deepening of the child’s understanding of him-herself and the world s-he lives in.
Most of the Camp facilitators are educators with well established credentials and have all worked in alternative education streams for many years. It was a shared feeling of dissatisfaction with the existing school structure and curriculum, and a need for integrating the “school” experience with real-life experience that drew this group of educators together to launch this camp program. The vision that inspires these camps is to “de-school” the learning process and allow the child to learn directly from life itself.
The philosophical intent is simple: that learning doesn’t happen in snippets; it cannot be pigeonholed into subjects and classes. Learning happens naturally as the child engages deeply and creatively with life and nature, with self and community, free of artificial and imposed structures.
Such a thing will not be possible for all children at all times, but it can certainly be made possible for some children some of the times—and these need not be only “vacation” times. Our belief is that any school that believes in progressive meaningful education can surely spare twelve days for an experience of this kind. We are confident that the children will come back richer and happier.
Our syllabus-driven formal education, intent on hammering facts, figures and concepts into the child’s head, hardly leaves the child any space to feel the universe around—the sights, smells, shades, textures and tones that make this fascinating fabric of life.
Through these sessions, consisting of early morning treks and nature walks, we enable the child to tune in to his or her own sensorial experience consciously and fully and thus to open to a living experience of a wider, more exciting world; to learn to observe, to listen, to feel, to notice, and delight in, the myriad fascinating details of Nature and weave into their daily activities this heightened awareness.
We take up detailed observation of the local flora and fauna (including daily bird watching) and their natural habitats, in these sessions.
SESSIONS ON MENTAL DEVELOPMENT:
In these sessions we explore various themes from science, mathematics, history and literature to develop in the children a wider and deeper interest in these subjects. The aim in these sessions is to enable a deeper and more personal understanding of their universe, world and self, beyond what their school syllabuses would ever allow. As a consequence of such an approach, the children would also develop a better understanding of, and perhaps keener insights into, the subjects and topics of their usual school curriculum.
In these sessions, we also give some time to the children to clear up some of their own confusions and questions related to their own school study. Special time is also given to the academic process—how to study, remember, plan and prepare for examinations.
These sessions are conducted in an interactive, workshop format; the stress is therefore on developing the skills of questioning, listening, interacting, logical and critical thinking—skills that we feel are sadly lacking in most children, irrespective of their academic performance in the classroom.
EXPRESSIONS AND COMMUNICATION:
These sessions are for developing expression and communication skills in the children. In these sessions, every child is encouraged to express their ideas and insights coherently and consistently, invite questions and interact as a group to arrive at a clearer understanding of the given topic or theme.
These sessions involve individual and group presentations, debates, and guided group discussions. Individual presentations are in both, written and spoken, modes. Critical feedback is given to every child and the progress over the duration of the Camp is closely followed and feedback given.
Creativity is not merely the act of writing a poem or drawing a picture. It goes deeper. Creativity is a state of being open to new experience and being able to respond to them in newer and different ways, thus, with each step, being able to break out of the established grooves of experience and response that most of us fall into.
The activities through which we explore creativity in these sessions are drawing and painting, craft and origami, using stimulating themes from sacred geometry and nature; theatre, dance and movements. Through these activities, we consciously help children to tap into their intuitive and abstract intelligence, a critical aspect of their development which is hardly given any attention in the normal school routine.
Sacred Geometry: Sacred geometry explores patterns in nature which are instances of an omnipresent order and harmony in nature, visible in flowers, shells, crystals, plants, beehives, and even the human body. These patterns have been expressed in the magical-symbolical language of folk sayings and fairy tales, myth and religion, art and architecture.
Theatre, dance and movements: The body expresses most concretely and visibly the degree of freedom and creativity the child possesses. Most children, we observe these days, perhaps because of the “adult” world they live in, are quite inhibited in their physical and emotional expression. Worse, there is an unconscious and unexamined resistance to physical expression of any kind.
We use creative theatre forms and techniques, free flow dance and movements, tai-chi and martial arts to break through the child’s psychological crusts and awaken him-her to the natural expression and joyfulness of the body. The aim of these sessions is to enable children to develop freedom of physical expression, grace, balance and beauty in the body. This is a very significant aspect of the child’s growth because grace and beauty in the physical form is directly related to refinement and harmony in the emotional nature of the child.
CENTERING: DEVELOPING INNER QUIETUDE AND CONCENTRATION.
These sessions are meant for “teaching” children deeper ways of relaxing, and experiencing their inner quietude and peace. For most children, this becomes an opening to an entirely new dimension of their being which they carry for years afterwards. Most children are completely ignorant of their inner, more intimate selves caught up as they are in the fast-paced consumerist life of today. We feel that getting back in touch with the inner, quieter life is of the deepest importance for children if they are to learn to live intelligently and sanely in the years to come.
Through these short but intense half-hour sessions conducted daily, we teach the children to learn to focus, to experience their own inner silence, and to develop the ability and sensitivity to experience life quietly and totally. This gets naturally reinforced during their morning treks and nature walks.
VITAL DEVELOPMENT: ATTITUDINAL AND LIFE ISSUES
As a real-life application of all that the children learn here every day during the camp, we use the more relaxed, quieter post-dinner sessions to focus on and contemplate as a group, children and facilitators both, on critical issues that matter to the children today, and those that will matter to them in the years to come.
Some of the concerns we will take up for these discussions are: environment and personal responsibility; career and social responsibility; competitiveness and stress; relationships; freedom, discipline and responsibility. Other topics suggested by the children themselves during the camp will also be taken up.
The stress in these sessions will be on serious reflection and critical thinking, and not on arriving at conclusions or prescribing “ideal solutions” to life’s problems and contradictions.
Duration: 7 days, off-site residential camp.
Age: This camp works best for children between 14 and 16 years. This camp may also be customized for older children, above the age of 16.