THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

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We are trying a new strategy with our three top students, to try to move them forward in hopes of their skipping a grade.  Our learning disabilities teacher works with them separately when she is here, helping them to accelerate their school learning, but also using other strategies to broaden their knowledge base and skills.  They follow the newspaper and clip out interesting articles; they "research" information related to what they are learning in school.  This is also the kind of education I had envisioned for all of them when we started.  So the small group becomes the prototype.

I spend more time in the classrooms now.  Sometimes I just go and sit and listen; sometimes I have something to add; often I just sit and feel wonderful.  The girls love when I visit the classroom — just having me quietly sitting there.  Yesterday the trio (the accelerated group) had asked about cotton, and where it came from, which led to the special teacher talking about cotton trees she had seen when she studied, and that led to my talking about the cotton fields in South Carolina when I lived there.  So that took us to my computer and I Googled cotton plants and we looked at pictures, shrubs in fields, but maybe also trees when they are not being cultivated.  We talked about spinning and weaving.

Then the girls asked about silk, and that took us to silkworm images online, and then a site that talked about the killing of silk worms for production of silk. That didn't sit well with the girls and we went to the site about Gandhi and silk, and to "Ahimsa silk" which is also called Peace Silk and is made without killing the worms

The girls didn't quite understand abut the cocoon.  So then I brought out the new book I'd bought, "The Very Hungry Caterpillar."  It's a special edition with cloth and silver paper, and natural fibers, written in English and Braille.  I'd walked away from it for months because of the cost, but two weeks ago I gave in, and bought it.  So I brought the beautiful volume out and the girls read it in English.  When they finally came to the cocoon the caterpillar builds before it becomes a beautiful butterfly, they understood.  They understood that Ahimsa Silk is made from the empty house while regular silk is made from the house with the worm still inside. 

The lesson wasn't over.  We went to look at Ahimsa Silk online and it was clear that this was much more expensive.  I said I'd try to find a saree, but we talked about cost, and the environment, and compromises we make over meat, leather and how hard that is when you care about animals — each of us who thinks about it, finding our own place, and even changing over time.  We use cloth diapers but when we go out we use Huggies, or Pampers.  No, it's not good for the environment, but it's much easier and cleaner, but more expensive.  It's a compromise. And then I came to the topic of pads, what women's lives are like if they have to spend hours and hours scrubbing cloth. That one was easy for all of us!

This is learning as I had imagined it would be here at Shishur Sevay, but was unable to put in place until now.  Precious time has been lost, but all we can do is more forward.

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