Document local culture in the area and create curriculum modules that teach children about the local culture. Back in September, the task seemed daunting. I was a complete newcomer to the community. Anything I learned about the community in ten months, I felt, the children would have known about since they had learned to walk.
In January, my project took a twist. Influenced in part by several exhibits both inside and outside of Sawai Madhopur, my mentors and I decided to develop a cultural exhibit on the area. The last few months I’ve been conducting workshops with the children that cover research and documentation of local culture through mediums like pictures, cartoons, stories, film, and photography.
And here’s what I’ve realized: introducing curriculum modules that teach children about the local culture does not mean creating lessons that teach the children about their own culture. It means creating workshops that encourage the children to engage with their environment, that teaches them how they can document what they see, how they can express it–both for themselves and others.
Because the thing is, at every step of the way during our workshops, the children were already documenting culture. There was one five-year-old, whose aunt pointed out that her designs were inspired by Mandanas–a local art form she would have seen her mother practicing. There were other children who wrote comics about grazing buffalos, people’s goats. And, of course, a single theme came up over and over again–nature. During the film component of the workshops, I asked the children to explain what was special about their village. In one village the children highlighted the different trees, in another the different fruits. Nature is a key part of culture here.
So to sum up, I’ve realized that creating curriculum modules that teach children about culture is really about providing the resources so that the children can teach each other (and other people who are interested!) about culture. Everything’s already there that is needed to document culture–the children experience culture, experience history every day–and they’re already documenting it in many ways. What’s left to do is to create the structure, the environment, and the resources to bring that kind of documentation forward so that the children can create history.