A Report on Kala Utsav, November 2011:  Art Fair in New Delhi, India

The Department of Art and Aesthetics in Education, of the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT), in New Delhi, started an Arts Integrated Learning (AIL) initiative in 2010, with several Government education bodies in various states in India. One of these is the District Institute of Education and Training (DIET), which is involved in developing training programs for pre-service and in-service teachers for best practice in Elementary Education throughout India. In 2011, the DIET center in the West District of New Delhi (Rajinder Nagar) adopted the Arts Integrated Learning initiative and held an Art Fair (Kala Utsav) in November 2011, as a presentation of the learning outcomes from the initiative. From Oct-Dec 2011, a different kind of Kala Utsav (Art Fair) was also organized in 52 Sarvodaya Vidyalayas (Government Schools) of District West. In that, teacher trainees used diverse art forms to teach lessons on a single concept from social studies curriculum such as water preservation, marriage and Indian culture, unity in diversity and so on. In the November 2011 Art Fair, pre-service teachers used various artforms to teach a variety of lessons from subjects that include math, science, social science, literature as well as art. It was a unique way to showcase examples of ‘education through the arts’, especially using Indian art forms.  Of the twenty-eight different exhibits, few are presented in this report. 

Figures 1 and 2: Pre-service elementary teachers using masks to depict different characters

Teacher trainees made masks to depict different characters such as people, animals, vegetables, plants etc. and used them to animate characters in poems and short stories, as well as teaching science and social science subjects such as plant life, air pollution, communication and transport system. Trainee Teachers made dolls out of recycled materials, depicting people from different states in India for teaching about different cultures and ethnicities in India, as part of social studies curriculum. Puppetry is another important part of Indian folk art and different regions in India have different forms of puppetry. Teacher trainees made rod, glove and string puppets on different subjects and developed scripts for animating them and used storytelling techniques to teach about these subjects. Some of these include planet puppets for teaching about the solar system, plant, animal and river puppets for teaching about pollution and other environmental education lessons; and human puppets for teaching about various social issues in the Indian context.

Figures 3 and 4: Rangoli artworks for geography and environmental education

Trainee teachers used the traditional artform of Rangoli as a resource for teaching lessons in geography and social studies. In Rangoli, distinct patterns are created on the floor with natural colors, flowers and other materials. Teachers used Rangoli technique to teach about the map of India, the national bird, the earth, various parts of a flower, as well as art from different cultures in India. Teachers exhibited Tie and Dye works used for teaching concepts of color, shape and patterns in art. Kites have an important place in Indian culture and form a part of many festivals and celebrations. Teacher trainees used kite-making activity as a resource for teaching grade 2-3 level math concepts such as measurement, shapes and symmetry, and science concepts such as force, direction, weight and balance. They also used it for teaching social science subjects like different festivals associated with kite and a history of kites from different cultures in the world. 

Figures 5 and 6: Kite-making activity for math education and Worli artwork for social science education

Trainee teachers also created Rajasthani folk art, which are intricate patterns and designs made from natural and easily available materials such as geru (red earth), jute, mirrors, multani mitti (special sand) etc. They used this technique to teach about water cycle, food chain, population explosion, as well as about natural materials used for making this form of art. Similarly, they created Madhubani art works, which is a traditional artform from the state of Bihar and Worli artworks from the state of Maharashtra. They used these to teach lessons in social science such as joint and nuclear family, child labour, and secularism. 

Figures 7 and 8: Papier Mache work for science education and wall magazine for civic education

Teacher trainees also used collage for teaching subjects in science and social science (grade 4 to 8) such as balanced diet, pollution, water cycle, means of transport, fiber to fabric, and means of communication and so on. They made wall magazines as a resource for teaching subjects like digestive system, festivals, folk dances, seasons and historical monuments in India, and crafts like jute and paper bags, candles. They also used it for addressing political affairs in India and teaching civic education. Teachers also made a variety of Papier Mache objects for teaching science subjects such as the solar system, plants, and animal life. Trainee teachers also used music as a resource for teaching.  They used traditional folk songs and musical instruments from different regions in India for teaching about different cultures and ethnicities in India, which is part of social science curriculum. 

Figures 9 and 10: Elementary children in a theatre and dance performance as part of the festival

The Kala Utsav was a huge success; it was unique because for the first time it brought together several school heads and elementary teachers from the Government Schools in West District as well as faculty and teacher trainees (pre-service elementary teachers) from other DIET centers in New Delhi, to explore various ways of using traditional art forms as a resource for teaching other subjects. It also served as a model that can be replicated by other DIET centers that have adopted the Arts Integrated Learning Initiative. For more information please contact Pawan Sudhir, Ashoka Arora and Sangeeta Choudhary