With monsoons on the prowl and sports out of question, CRY volunteers in Pune decided to make simple science experiments the centre of the 2016 Summer Camp. The two day camp at Sant Ramdas Swami Prathamik Vidyalaya began with a movie screening. With the

blockbuster Marathi movie “Sairat” still in cinemas, everybody knew what the popular demand was with the kids. We didn’t go with that. Jungle Book (in Hindi) was housefull. With “Dada, cartoon baghitlai Mowgli cha” chants all over the hall, the new visual effects were dazzling, something they wouldn’t go and see in the theatres.

We’re on Day 2 and Honeybell cakes have arrived right on time as we get ready for the experiments. Volunteer Ranjan walks in with a whole bunch of ropes and sticks.  The 6thand 7th grade boy scouts are ready to learn the basics of knots. As he progresses with the session I feel I should’ve done the scouts camp back in school. The kids are thrilled. There are some Tug of War interruptions in the middle but that’s the energy showing up. Some kids managed to finish before I did, amazing! This is an exquisite learning experience for someone like me who prefers shoes without laces and I’m sure some parents are going to have a tough time untying those sincere attempts at home.

Meanwhile, another volunteer, Mithilesh, has prepped up the coloured papers along with some help from Bhakti and Anushree. The 3rd, 4th and 5th graders will now be busy making fish and swans from paper. One of the school teachers does take origami once in a while for the few classes, but this session was completely comprehensive. Two volunteers were waiting to help each of the 4 rows in class but even a 100 would fall short. Each and every one of them was so inquisitive, especially some of the girls. We took up English just a week before and they were all quiet – a few were disinterested – but today was a whole new ball game. Just shows that once in a while we need to tweak that inquisition to get them going.

When we went in to the next session, the volcano was set to explode. All the kids were assembled in the hall. It was hard to believe from outside. The whole school right from 3rdgraders to the 8th in one room and pin drop silence. I peeped in and started looking for a teacher around but couldn’t find one. What I wouldn’t give to see them that way every week! Where we have a hard time keeping them quiet even before taking them out to play, today all those eyes, around 100 pairs, were fixed on that volcano. As Ninad went on to explain the whole process I could feel the excitement grow and as that lava flowed out all I saw was awestruck eyes. Vikas, one of the eight graders asked me whether we used Cola and mint to make that volcano, with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.

I hardly thought that chromatography would live up to any expectations. But when a black line you draw on a filter paper magically transforms into a rainbow of colors, you get refreshed. The 8th graders kept calling it “Chemical Locha.” Everybody took a filter paper home to try it on their own and I’m sure next week I’m going to see colored papers and eager eyes waiting for an explanation.

For two years every Saturday these kids have kept me coming back. You miss a week, and a court martial by a 12 year old is waiting for you the next, questioning your absence. Makes you wonder how a little bit of attention is all these souls are looking for. We’ve bettered ourselves from last year’s camp this time with some science to go with the regular sports and art that we do often. The origami flower we gave away as memento is something the kids will cherish.

With most of the old volunteers leaving, this was the last encounter with the kids who have been a very big part of our lives for almost 2 years. How many we’ve managed to inspire is something we cannot confirm, but I am sure every one of us volunteer leaves with inspiration, memories and love.



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