Imagine being able to bake cakes, do carpentry, splash paints, knit, sew, get hands muddy and sing songs all on the very same day. Kids accompanied by their parents do just that at The Yellow Train Kids Festival

“In and out the sparkling blue bells...Who is the leader?” Holding each other’s hands tightly, we stand around in a circle and sing this song to choose leaders who will lead the treasure hunt that will follow. “There will be two trains formed by children. Each will travel via two routes through the school,” announces Santhya Vikram, the founder of Yellow Train Grade School. Once the leaders are chosen, the game starts.

“Some clues are hidden in the classrooms while the others are sprinkled on the ‘river’,” whispers Mona, a teacher at Yellow Train, “The ramp to the first floor is called the river,” she adds, with a wink.

Once Santhya gives the nod, the children run wild around the building to hunt down clues.

Kids bake, sing and do tile work. With their hands smeared in paint, they splash colours on white paper bags, in the arts and crafts session. They try their hand at simple science experiments at the “Science Through Toys” class, conducted by a parent, Sowmya Shivakumar.

At Abirami’s baking corner, they whip up cakes using millets such as ragi, kambu, jowar and foxtail. “The kids were so eager to bake the cakes themselves,” says Abirami.

Elsewhere Mona teaches the children to knit with colourful threads. “Knitting is a real test on your patience. Some of them willingly sit for hours, patiently winding the thread around the needle,” she says.

Reds, yellows and blues merge on wet, cold sheets of paper at the art class, conducted by Reema Alva. This is for the parents! She introduces them to wet-on-wet painting technique and urges them to teach it to their children. “We select wet paper because the colours will spread and form asymmetrical shapes. The children will be not intimidated by perfect lines. The movement of colours across the page will delight them.” They will also learn about primary and secondary colours, she adds. “They will see it for themselves how blending two primary colours will create a third colour.”

Body, mind and soul

The session is called Introducing Art the Waldorf Way because Waldorf Steiner mode of education believes that art is integral to the overall learning of a child, explains Santhya. “According to him, the whole body of children, including their brains, limbs and heart are involved in the learning process. And art develops their heart, making them compassionate and sensitive.”

The first floor, where the carpentry workshop is held, echoes with the sound of heavy hammering of nails. “You just need to hit the nail on the head thrice!” instructs Karpagam, another Yellow Train teacher. “After they are done with hammering, they will wind the rubber bands around the nails, in any shape they want. This way they learn to visualise and experiment with shapes,” points out Karuna, a trainer. From simple rectangles and squares to diamonds and even rockets, the children create designs on the wooden peg boards.

Kathirvelu, a parent, along with Ramachandran, a professional potter, teach the children pottery. Ramachandran with all his might turns the wheel as a kid cups his hands around the rotating half-baked mud pot, trying to give it shape. “Now, hold the rotating vessel in such a way that your four fingers, except the thumb, is placed straight along the sides of the vessels. Just put your thumbs inside the vessel to shape the pot,” instructs Kathirvelu.

The best part of the workshop is it gives the children a chance to channelise their energy in a creative direction, says Menaka Manickaraj, a parent. “Hyper activity is so over diagnosed, these days, that an active child is considered ‘abnormal’. But that is how a healthy child is supposed to be. And, they need open spaces like these, where they can physically spend their energy.”

As dusk falls, parents take reluctant children to the waiting cars in the parking area. But just then a kulfi man arrives and the kids mob him! Licking the ice-cold treats, the children head home carrying their knit toys, mud pots and memories of a well-spent Sunday.