‘The Creative Educator’ Contest Details

Are you an exciting educator? Do children listen to you with wonder? Do students look forward to your classes? Do you do magical things to make your teaching interesting? If yes, here’s a chance for you to win the ‘CREATIVE EDUCATOR’ contest!

All you have to do is:

Submit a lesson plan based on a story/narrative and stand a chance to win some cool prizes!female teacher writing various high school maths and science for

How to enter the contest

  • Pick a classroom topic/theme/subject/grade of your choice.
  • Pick a children’s/ young adult story (from a storybook/ the internet/ or any other source) that relates to the topic.
  • Think up a lesson plan using the story.
  • Send the completed lesson plan to info@ever-after.co.in on or before 25th Sep, 2014.

Don’t forget to

  • ‘Like’ our Facebook page and/or ‘Follow’ us on Twitter. If you already are connected to us, then jump to the next step.
  • Refer this contest to more teachers like you by sharing and tagging them in the poster. You can also tag friends, colleagues, family members who would love to take part in this contest.

Winners get

  • The title of ‘Creative Educator’ :)
  • Flipkart e-vouchers worth Rs.1500, Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500
  • Their plans featured on the Ever After blog/facebook page/twitter feed.
  • Discounted entry ticket to our ‘Teaching Through Story’ Workshop on Sep 27th and 28th at Atta Galatta.

Contest Guidelines and Format for Submission

All teaching ideas submitted should include the following:

  • Story title, author, source
  • A gist of the story if it is not available in the public domain
  • Submit entries in MS Word or Google Doc format
  • Content Area(s) (if applicable, ex: language arts)
  • Lesson Objective (what do you want the students to be able to do, explain, discuss, etc., by the end of this lesson?)
  • Lesson Assesment (how will the students show that they “get it” or can do what you hope?)
  • Grade Level(s) or Age Group(s)
  • Duration (ex: one 45-minute period)
  • Theme/Topic (ex: Water, Ascending Order, Condensation, Mughal Empire etc.)
  • Materials Needed (ex: felt pens)
  • Supplementary Materials (any worksheets, video links, etc.)
  • Step-by-step activities
  • In these links you can VIEW, DOWNLOAD and use a suggested lesson template that includes all of the above requirements.

And remember

  • The lesson plan that you devise must be 100% original.
  • One contestant can submit only one lesson plan based on one topic and one story.
  • Winners will chosen by experts from the Ever After’s curriculum design team.
  • The contest is open to teachers, educators, parents and tutors.
  • This contest is open to residents of India only.
  • Ever After’s decisions will be final and binding with regard to the contest.

Go on. Create away!

Madras Day 2014 Special: Children’s Books Based on Madras

I love Madras (now Chennai), my birth city. Once a quaint little port town, it has now metamorphosed into a bustling metropolis of South India.

Madras was born on August 22, 1639 when Francis Day who belonged to the East India Company bought a small piece of land (where Fort St. George stands now) from the then Vijayanagara king, Penda Venkataraya. The said piece of land was under Darmerla Venkatapathy, a local Nayak ruler who granted permission to the British to build their commercial establishments on his land.

The British built Fort St. George in 1640. As the Madras Day website says, ” Out of the fort grew settlements. Then the villages around it were brought together. And then, the old and new towns linked up. And then we had the city.”

This grand city has a vibrant cultural and historical heritage. Madras boasts of filter kaapi, idli-sambar, kanjivaram sarees, carnatic music, bharathanatyam, beaches, temples, educational institutions, heritage buildings, poets, litterateurs, kolams, Tamil cinema and much more alluring delights. Go to Chennaiheritage.in to know more about the city’s rich culture and heritage.

So, as the Madras Day 2014 celebrations kicked off, I asked my friends and fans on Facebook to suggest children’s books based on Madras and depicted even remotely the people, life, culture, geography and traditions of Madras. Below is the list that I compiled with inputs from my friends and followers.Thank you everyone for helping me compile this booklist.

Flat Traack Bullies  - Children's Book based on Madras by Balaji Venkataramanan

Picture Credit: Amazon.in

Flat Track Bullies written by Balaji Venkataramanan, published by Duckbill books is a YA book that traces the life events of a teenage boy in Chennai as he turns his nondescript summer vacation into a thrilling adventure. This book is packed with references to the City’s summer life.

Madras Booklist - 123, I Love Chennai by Rupa Jacob

Picture credit: itchingtoread.blogspot.in

123 I Love Chennai written by Rupa Jacob is a brilliant book that portrays the city through a counting book. Ideal for 1-3 year old children, this book helps them count from 1-10 using photographs of different things unique only to Madras: 10 Filter Coffees and 7 Toppi Dosas!

Madras Booklist - Where's the Cat by Manjula Padmanabhan

Picture Credit: Amazon.in

Where’s the Cat? written and illustrated by Manjula Padmanabhan and published by Tulika. There is no mention of Madras in this book, but the book’s illustrations has strong resemblances to Madras especially the school girls uniform which very similar to Etwarts School’s!

Madras Booklist - Susheela's Kolam by Sridala Swamy.

Picture Credit: Prathambooks.org

Susheela’s Kolam written by Sridala Swami and published by Pratham Books is all about Kolams, an integral part of the culture of Madras and other parts of South India.

Madras Booklist - The Dog Who Wanted More by Soumya Rajendran and Arun Kumar Kaushik

Picture Credit: Amazon.in

The Dog Who Wanted More written by Soumya Rajendran and Arun Kumar Kaushik is the latest and the first middle grade title published by Karadi Tales. The story is set in Chennai.

Madras Booklist - Mayil Will Not Be Quiet by Soumya Rajendran, Niveditha Subramanium

Picture Credit: Tulikabooks.com

Mayil Will Not Be Quiet written by Sowmya Rajendran and Niveditha Subramaniam, illustrated by Niveditha Subramaniam and published by Tulika Books. This is a pre-teen story about Mayil Ganeshan. From Saroja Patti to Rajinikanth movies – two things very Madras – Mayil has an strong opinion on everything. And where does she give vent give to all her thoughts? In her diary, of course.

Madras Booklist - My Friend The Sea by Sandhya Rao

Picture Credit: Amazon.in

My Friend the Sea written by Sandhya Rao and illustrated by Karuna Sesh and Pervez Bhagat is a book about a little boy’s feelings about the sea, after the city is ravaged by its fury in the 2004 Tsunami.

Madras Booklist - Trash! On Ragpickers and Recycling by Gita Wolf and Anushka Ravishankar

Picture Credit: Amazon.in

Trash! On Ragpicker Children and Recycling written by Gita Wolf and Anushka Ravishankar, illustrated by Orijit Sen and published by Tara Book depicts Madras, the city through the eyes of a ragpicker boy as he lives on its streets and ekes out a living, picking trash from its alleys.

Madras Booklist - Excuse Me, Is This India? by Anushka Ravishankar and Anita Luitwiler

Picture Credit: Tarabooks.com

Excuse Me, Is This India? written by Anushka Ravishankar and Anita Leutwiler, published by Tara Book is brilliant book to introduce kids to the people, places, sights and sounds of India and of course, Madras too. This book has been illustrated using quilts made from Indian fabrics.

Madras Booklist - Ponni the Flower Seller by Sirish Rao

Picture Credit: Tarabooks.com

Ponni the Flower Seller  and Babu the Waiter, both written by Shirish Rao and published by Tara Books features the City’s people and their work.

Mylapore (out of print) by Tara Books, is a book that features children’s views about Mylapore, a prominent neighbourhood of Madras.

That’s all for now. Do you know any more books based on Madras/Chennai? Do let me know please.

 

 

Connected Learning and Storytelling

Making Learning Applicable in the Digital Age: Combining Connected Learning and Traditional Storytelling

Connected Learning is something that I am deeply passionate about and firmly believe in. Simply put, Connected Learning is making learning applicable and education useful in the digital age by using the power of technology and digital resources in learning and teaching.

Here is a video from the Connected Learning Alliance that explains how Connected Learning is all about making learning relevant.

Learning and teaching using the Connected Learning method:

Children today are becoming increasingly connected to the online world. They are on social networking sites, they are forming online communities which they use as a platform to discuss topics of their interest. They create multiple online identities, share and seek online content with amazing ease and keen interest.

Given this situation, how can we do make learning useful and relevant for our children in the digital age?

As parents and educators here’s what we can do –

First, based on your child or students’ interest show them where and how to harness the vast resources of correct online information. Give them access to informative and age appropriate websites, books, journals, videos etc.

Next, show them how to research a topic of their interest – either from their curriculum (Chemistry, Language Arts) or something that they are simply passionate about (Astronomy, Cooking).

Then guide them, teach them and show them how they can use multiple forms of information – text, pictures, videos, and narratives to create their own digital content. This digital content is the final product or a digital documentation of their understanding and learnings about an issue, a topic of interest and importance to them. It is a digital story visualized, produced and created by the learner

What’s more, digital content produced this way can also be shared with friends and fans across the globe. Isn’t this a wonderful way to learn and spread knowledge in this digital age?

Connected Learning and Storytelling:

I believe, for Connected Learning to be truly an effective learning and teaching method for students and teachers alike, we must first understand what lies at the crux of Connected Learning: Individual perspectives and storytelling. Connected Learning requires all the elements of Storytelling to weave together little chunks of information to form a larger narrative that is crafted entirely based on the learner’s perspective.

At Ever After, we have an after-school program based on Connected Learning called the Digital Storyteller. This program has been designed for the curious, inquiring minds of 12-15 year olds with a penchant for wanting to know explore complex topics, learn more and investigate things their way. The Digital Storyteller infuses modern technology with traditional storytelling to teach kids the nuances of creating a digital story complete with a plot, narrative, visuals and music. The Digital Storyteller program strengthens visual literacy, writing skills, improves analytical thinking and develops the all essential 21st century skills.

So, if you are a parent or an educator who like us believes that traditional storytelling combined with the latest digital technology is the best way to simply complex topics, infuse excitement into dull, dry lessons and all in all make education and learning truly fun then get in touch with us by writing to us at info@ever-after.co.in. Or, you could go to our website to know more about our work and the services that we offer.

For a quick view of our various story-based after-school programs, click here.

 

 

 

Football World Cup 2014 Post: Children’s Books by Football Players

The Football World Cup, 2014 will kick off (literally) in Brazil in a couple of hours.

As the world gears up for the Football fever, here are three children’s book about football written by football players:

1. Frankie’s Magic Football: Frankie and the World Cup Carnival written by England’s midfielder, Frank Lampard. He is in the English squad or this World Cup. Written for children 5 years and above, this is just one of the many books in the Frankie and the Magic Football series.

A children's book on football written by England's midfielder, Frank Lampard

Picture Credit: Guardian Bookshop

2. T.J and the Cup Run by Theo Walcott, also plays England, but will not feature in this year’s World Cup due to a knee injury. This book for children 9-11 years old. There are more in this series too – T.J and the Penalty, T.J and the Hatrick, T.J and the Winning Goal.

Children's book on Football written by England player, Theo Walcott

Picture Credit: Random House Publishing

3. And then there is For the Love of Soccer written by football’s legend, Pele.

Pele's children's book, For the Love of Soccer

Picture Credit: Amazon.com

Those were three books written by football players.

Now, here is one not by a football player but one that will make a really great read if you are looking for something simple, colorful but highly informative to read with your children and introduce them to the history of ‘the beautiful game’. The book is The Story of Football written by Rob Lloyd Jones and Illustrated by Paddy Mounter

A book to teach young children the history of football

Picture Credit: Usborne Books

Now, if you are wondering how these super busy football players found the time to write a children’s book, read Frank Lampard’s interview with The Guardian’s young reader members.

Teachers and educators, find some very useful, free downloadable teaching resources about football in general and the World Cup in particular to use in your class or learning studios here and here.

We will keep posting more books on football on our Facebook page everyday for the next one month of World Cup, 2014. Visit our Facebook page daily to discover learning (All about football) through stories.

Meanwhile, do you know any other past or present football players who have authored children’s books? Do let us know via and we will add their works to our list. Also, have you used children’s storybooks to teach about sports? Which is your or your children’s’ favorite? Tell us.

About Ever After Learning:

Ever After Learning, Bangalore based learning and development organization that uses stories to make education fun for children. Ever After is a learning and development organization that uses stories to make education fun for the young and the old. We swear by the power of stories to communicate concepts, inspire individuals and impact lives.

Visit our website to know more about Ever After’s services and programs offered. Also, stay connected with us through Facebook or Twitter.

World Environment Day, 2014 Post: 20 Children’s Storybooks about Environment Conservation

Yesterday was the World Environment Day. There were events across the world to mark this occasion. However, we at Ever After Learning, believe that our environment conservation efforts must not be restricted to just one day; it must be an ongoing, continuous activity for every single day of the year.

One of the best ways to keep your environment conservation efforts going is by creating enough awareness about this issue especially among the future residents of this world – our children. And what better way to do this than using storybooks?

Tell your kids the story of earth, trees, rivers; tell them how pollution, soil erosion, deforestation is harming our environment; tell them about importance of adopting ‘green’ ways of living, recycling, lessening carbon footprints, conserving flora and fauna.

We have listed below 20 children’s storybooks based on environment conservation. Make them more aware about the need to conserve our environment. Do your bit to save the environment by reading stories on environment to children.

1. Earth and I by Frank Asch

A little boy is best friends with the Earth. He cares for it just as it cares for him. A very simple but  powerful book that beautifully explains the interdependence of man and nature for each other’s    survival.

EARTH AND I

2. Michael Recycle by Ellie Bethel

The young boy, Michael Recycle is a superhero who teaches the people in his town how to recycle.

MICHAEL RECYCLE

3. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

This story cleverly tells how factories and giant manufacturing houses have exploited our gentle environment in the name of development and business.

tHE LORAX

 

4. Compost Stew by Mary McKenna Siddals

This book is a delight. It teaches young children the ‘recipe’ to make a “Compost Stew”. In other words, it encourages children and adults to start a compost pit at their homes and explains what is fit for the compost pit and what isn’t.

THE COMPOST STEW

5. The Good Garden: How One Family Went from Hunger to Having Enough by Katie Smith Milway

Based on a true story, this book traces the struggle of one farming family in Honduras as they transform their garden from barren to bountiful using sustainable methods of farming.

THE GOOD GARDEN

6. The Magic School Bus and Climate Challenge by Joanna Cole

Ms. Frizzle is at work again! This time telling kids everything about climate changes – from increased temperatures to raising sea levels.

THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS

7. Snowy White World To Save by Stephanie Lisa Tara

This award winning book is a great resource to introduce children to the need for habitat conservation and global warming, this is the story of a mother polar bear and her cubs as they struggle to find food in the depleting snow of the Arctic.

SNOWY WHITE WORLD

 

8. Stories for a Fragile Planet: Traditional Tales about Caring for the Earth by Kenneth Steven

A collection of ten stories from around passed on through traditions and cultures, each of which shows children why and how to take care of their world.

FRAGILE PLANET

9. An Environmental Guide From AtoZ by Tim Magner

This book introduces our environment in an all new way. The publisher’s words describe this book best – “Like the letters of the alphabet connect to build words and stories, the countless pieces and parts of nature weave, connect and link everything together. An Environmental Guide explores nature’s connections and brings awareness and a deeper understanding of how the world works.”

ENVT GUIDE

10. Ma Ganga and the Razai Box by Geeta Dharmarajan

River Ganga is flooded and she is flowing helter-skelter. When a little girl demands to know why, Ganga gets very angry and hides inside the girl’s Razai box and refuses to stop flowing until Lord Shiva stops her with his matted hair.

MA GANGA

11. Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa by Jeanette Winter

This book introduces kids to the work of environmentalist and Noble Peace Prize winner, Wangari Mathai who was responsible for restoring Kenya’s forests to its natural glory after being subjected to mass deforestation.

WANGARIS TREES OF PEACE

12. The Tree by Dana Lyons

An ancient Douglas Fir has been testimony to the grand Pacific Rain Forest and her resident’s growth for 800 years. Now, as the bulldozers prepare to raze the forest, the grand old tree wonders what will happen to its inhabitants.

THE TREE

13. The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry

A man falls asleep as he is cutting the great Kapok tree. While he is sleeping, the inhabitants of the forest – birds, animals, and insects whisper in his ears the consequences of cutting down such a rich natural resource.

And if you are looking for more Tree stories, you must read some great Indian publications like Thea’s Tree by Judith Clay, Best Friends by Nina Sabnanai, Let’s Plant Tress by Vinod Lal Heera Eshwar, Meera’s Friends, The Trees by Geethika Jain and Jaishree Mishra.

THE GREAT KAPOK TREE

14. City Green by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan

The story a young Marca and her friend Miss Rosa who turn a vacant plot in their city block into a green patch, surprising and inspiring their neighborhood’s residents.

CITY GREEN

15. Let’s Catch the Rain by Vinod Lal Heera Eshwar

A very simple book that tells young readers why and how they can conserve rain water.  This book also comes with a free app.

Lets Catch the Rain_Tulika

16. Out of the Way, Out of the Way by Uma Krishnaswami

Can development and conservation co-exist? They sure can is the message of this book as it traces the growth of a sapling into a tree and dusty village path into a busy city street.

OUT OF THE WAY

17. Andamans Boy by Zai Whitaker

This year’s World Environment Day’s theme was  saving the island from the rising sea levels. With a mixture of adventure and environmental concern, The Andaman’s Boy is a just the perfect book for older kids to celebrate this year’s theme.

andamans boy

18. The Seed by Deepa Balsavar

A liitle girl finds a seed and puts in a pot. See the seed grow into a plant. This award winning book is just perfect to introduce young kids to plants life.

the seed

19. I can Save the Earth! One Little Monster Learns to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle by Alison Inches

This is the story of Max, the Little Green Monster whose excessive of everything – from power to toilet paper leaves the environment hurt and results in a major power cut. With no TV or video games Max learns that there is a world outside of his home too and discovers how to reduce, reuse and recycle. Printed on recycled paper using soy ink, this book is part of a “Green Series”.

i CAN SAVE THE EARTH_GB

 

20Uno’s Garden by Graeme Base

When Uno makes his home in a small corner of the forest full of fascinating animals and plants, it soon turns into a town and then a city full of houses and people.

UNOS GARDEN

So, how many books in this list have you already read? Which one of these is your or your child’s favourite? Do you know other children’s books on environment? Do share it with us and we will add it to our offline book list.

 

About Ever After Learning:

160Ever After is a learning and development organization that uses stories to make education fun for the young and the old. We swear by the power of stories to communicate concepts, inspire individuals and impact lives.

Visit our website to know more about Ever After’s services and programs offered. Also, stay connected with us through Facebook or Twitter.

 

The Art Of Storytelling: Why Should We Learn It?

 

“Storytelling comes naturally to humans, but since we live in an unnatural world, we sometimes need a little help doing what we’d naturally do.”

-Dan Harmon, Author

Storytelling is humanity in words said Jim Blasingame, one of the world’s leading experts on small business and entrepreneurship. And storytelling has been around since the first human beings roamed the earth. In fact, the earliest cave drawings and carvings are proof of their (and our) storytelling capabilities. These first stories helped archaeologists, anthropologists and scientists learn about the earth’s beginnings and early civilizations.

Why should we learn how to tell a story?

Well, storytelling is a powerful method of communication where the storyteller has an engaging conversation with his/her listeners or audience.

The fact is that we all have stories to tell; we were simply born with this ability. However, there is more to storytelling than just plain, passive reading or narration in reported speech.

Storytelling is an art that uses several creative techniques including voice, expression and actions to successfully get across the story’s emotions in the most impactful way to the story’s audience. As individuals, we can personally use these storytelling techniques to make a point, to persuade, to inspire, to teach, to reflect upon and to facilitate action.

Photo courtesy: lifehacker.com/ Melanie Pinola/ Magenta Rose/

Photo courtesy: lifehacker.com/ Melanie Pinola/ Magenta Rose.

Learning how to tell a story: Many benefits

Storytelling is a great tool for effective, purposeful communication. When used correctly and in the right situations, storytelling has plenty of benefits to offer for everyone – team leaders, teachers, brand managers, corporate trainers, parents, artists, creative designers, writers et al.

For brands and business managers:

Thanks to the explosion of social media, brands today are closer to their target audience like never before. To help their brands stand out from the rest, brand managers need to master business storytelling – promoting brands in a way that engages their audience well, holds their attention and compels them to come back to you for more.

Learning how to tell your brand’s story allows you to master the 3 C’s of business storytelling which is: “Connect with your prospects, Convey your expertise and Create customer memories.”

For teachers:

National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE), USA says this about the benefits of storytelling in education – “Story is the best vehicle for passing on factual information. Historical figures and events linger in children’s minds when communicated by way of a narrative. Any topic for that matter can be incorporated into a story form and made memorable if the listener takes the story to heart.”

Using stories to teach text book lessons promotes learning faster and facilitates better understanding of the concepts. Here is a great example of a science teacher using storytelling to innovate teaching-learning in school.

For team leaders, sales managers and corporate trainers:                                           

These are people who constantly need to tell their audience (team members or subordinates) how to perform, how to achieve a target and how to succeed. For someone who is always in need of effective ways to demonstrate, explain inspire and persuade, becoming storytellers is the best method by which leaders; managers, coaches and trainers can nurture trust and inspire the desired actions.

For parents:

Parents are not akin to storytelling. However, parents can make this pleasurable activity a learning resource by using stories to teach their kids about different cultures, explain essential life skills like sharing and empathy, help them discover world of science and nature, introduce them to the lives of important personalities and great men and women; the possibilities are limitless.

For individuals:

You could be someone who wants to enhance your communication skills or an aspiring author or creative designer or anybody interested in stories and storytelling. You all need a common starting point – a story. Therefore, learning the nuances of storytelling you learn how to effectively voice your thoughts, how to communicate clearly and how to reflect your experiences in your work.

Story Matters: Your chance to learn the art of storytelling

Now that you know how storytelling benefits us and understood why you should use storytelling in your work and life, here is a chance to learn the art of storytelling. Story Matters, a two day storytelling workshop for adults is being held on 10-11 May, 2014 at Rangoli Metro Art Centre, MG Road, Bangalore.

This one-of-a-kind workshop will tell you everything about storytelling and teach you how to become a master storyteller.

Story Matters will be curated by experienced, professional storytellers, Deeptha Vivekanand of Ever After Learning, Aparna Athreya and Soumya Srinivasan of Kid and Parent Foundation who share among them over 17+ years of storytelling experience and are known for their highly interactive, experiential and delightful storytelling sessions for kids and adults alike.

For registrations and more details about the workshop, please go to our Facebook page.

Of Trains And Cockroaches

Final-poster-jan2ndI think this is a great way to restart this blog that’s been lying in cold storage for almost a year. On Saturday, Jan 11th, 2014 I had  a cracker of a storytelling session at the Rangoli Metro Art Center (R-MAC). First up, it’s a big honour to have performed there, right in the heart of Bangalore city and just below the purple metro line. The folks at R-MAC are doing a fabulous job of promoting the Boulevard as the city’s cultural hotspot. Get this: in one day there was a ‘Coffee Santhe’, a photography exhibition, storytelling sessions and poetry reading, all in the same  stretch of Bangalore’s most famous, MG Road. Whether you’re an adult or child, you were spoilt for choice. The ambience was just what a storyteller wanted: people of all ages everywhere, lovely bright sunshine and the smell of fresh coffee.

So, ‘Tale Trail’, a series of storytelling sessions that will be held at Rangoli, every second and fourth Saturday of Jan and Feb will feature unusual and unheard of folk-tales from around the world. It’s a humble attempt to educate and entertain people about the different cultures of the world through fascinating narratives. I have partnered with two other wonderful storytellers and my dear friends, Aparna and Sowmya from Kid and Parent Foundation to run this initiative.

For the first session on Jan 11th, we decided to tell stories about trains and coffee, in keeping with the ‘Coffee Santhe’ theme and given the fact that we were performing at a train station. The show started with us playing the popular Karadi Tales song, ‘Train.‘ Once the audience was familiar with the beat, we had them sing another song—dedicated  to Bangalore Metro—with the same tune but with altered lyrics that went something like this: “Metro Metro, Namma Metro; Stand behind the line yellow, the train is here and in we go…”  Just a small but spirited way of showing our gratitude to the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation for encouraging art and performers like us.

The first two stories were about trains and  journeys. Aparna and Sowmya do a fantastic job of tandem telling. This time they presented Calabash Cat, a West-African folktale that talks about a cat’s journey to find out where the world ends. Out came the puppets as A & S, invited kids onto the stage to help them tell the story. There was laughter and happiness all around as every child wanted to be up on stage. At one point, all the kids–and that’s about 20–formed a huge train and circled the stage in their quest to find where the world ends! Right after this, Aparna presented a quick segment on the first steam engine and some factoids on George Stephenson, the father of the first steam locomotive. Sowmya then narrated the legend of John Henry, a worker on the railroads. In a poignant story that captured his struggles as a steel-driver in the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway in the 1870s; he had to eventually give up his job to a steam powered machine that was capable of laying tracks faster than a human. It was a tale of his prowess with the hammer and his almost super-human strength that kept him going till the very end. Sowmya, known for her inclusion of music in all her tellings, played a clinking tune with a pair of spanners and a hammer, while singing a soft ballad about his life. A brilliant rendition that humanized the railways for the audience.

The final act was mine. I chose to tell the story of Martina, The Beautiful Cockroach, a Cuban folk-tale. I was scouring the internet for coffee-based stories when I found this. What a gem, this one turned out to be. I had to learn the Spanish accent to add authenticity to the story, so I had to listen to some Spanish speakers of English to understand the phonetics behind it. Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek helped! As I was reading the story, I realized I was opening tabs to look up information on coffee, Spanish, Cuba and cockroaches. Did you know Cuban cockroaches (Panchlora nivea) are green? And did you know Kaldi, a goatherd from Ethiopia accidentally threw coffee beans in the fire only to realize that it gave out the most beautiful aroma, which in turn led him to make the first cuppa. And that to me, is the power of story. These are not topics I would look up on a normal day. I mean, I do love my coffee but to scout around for in-depth information on these matters is another issue altogether. One simple story has such far-reaching applications. You can get involved at any level you want. On the face of it, it might seem like a simple, funny, children’s story but can give rise to deep, enriching discussions about related topics. So powerful is the trigger. The reason I ended up reading about all these associated topics is because I was emotionally involved in the story. It made a connection with me. And real learning takes place only when a meaningful relationship has been established. It works the same way for everyone: children to adults. To be able to appreciate something, it must talk to you. Only a story can do that! The quantum of research we have all done to put together this one-hour show has been tremendous. In the bargain we have learnt so much more about this world, about the story behind things we take for granted, about the magnificence in the mundane.

I assure you, once you’ve read about Martina, the roach, you’ll never look at those critters in your kitchen the same way again! This morning when I saw one in mine, I simply swept her out without hurting, while the words “Martina Josefina Catalina Cucaracha” rang in my head.

From trains to coffee, from cockroaches to Cuba, this Tale Trail journey has begun on an excellent note and has set the tone for the New Year. The next session is on 25th Jan at the Rangasthala auditorium, Rangoli Boulevard, MG Road, 5 to 6pm. Do come over for an evening of stories about freedom and liberty. You never know what you’ll take back home!

-Deeptha