Learning with fun...

SUMITRA SENAPATY finds the recently organised Sajagta Learning Camp in Sattal, a superb platform for learning with adventure........

SPECIFIC MOMENTS define your life. Maybe it was when you hit adolescence, survived school and board exams. These moments and how you respond to them define you because they are full of the peril of the unknown. You are required to make a choice between remaining tied to moorings in your safe harbour or casting off towards adventure, new horizons, and learning about how much more you can do than you thought. The Sajagta Learning Camp is truly one of these moments!

Held during school vacations at Sattal in the midst of pristine lake country, it presents children and teenagers a memorable opportunity. The trip is packed with challenges, adventure, fun, and most importantly, the opportunity to discover hidden strengths and to build character. Every journey starts with a single step and for many of the participants this is the first step towards self-discovery, and realisation of personal ambition. Periodically, parents do observe increases in their

children's initiative, self-confidence, personal responsibility, fitness and teamwork.

But how does this happen?

The Sajagta campers are provided a series of progressively challenging situations and opportunities. Through achievement, they discover they possess far more inner strength than they knew. The course empowers young children with the confidence, tenacity, and skills necessary to deal with the ups and downs of life. The outdoor activity comprises situations that the children must work through either on their own or in a group.

The challenge might be sleeping out in the wilderness under the stars for the first time, navigating a rope course strung high above rushing water and boulders, or simply spending time alone in a solo exercise where you are forced to contemplate and reflect on who you really are and what are your aspirations. For all, this is the first step on a journey that enriches lives.

The camp does provide quiet corners for intense soul searching. After one such session, 13-year-old Krishna Sharma does not hesitate when asked what career she wants to pursue as an adult. "Ever since I was six I wanted to be a writer," she says. And after attending the Sajagta Camp this autumn, Sharma may have stronger inclinations to pursue her dream.

A unique feature of this camp is that it that offers a mix of physical and intellectual activities. Aside from daily doses of physical pursuits such as obstacle courses, jungle walks, treasure hunts and theatre workshops which also involve some running around and dancing, the programme provides interactive sessions under the roof of a tent - all relating to discovering your self, your goals and how to achieve them. The team building games are fun as well as useful, geared to introduce children to a world where trust is an important factor. Educators may not have a chance to focus on improving students' self developmental interests during the regular school term so the camp allows the kids to experience a different type of curriculum.

But it is camp after all, so counsellors lecture less and provide more hands-on opportunities about chosen subjects varying from emergency first aid, jungle survival, a Kumaoni village visit and yoga for beginners.

"We want it to be a learning environment, not a teaching environment," says a member. "It's not lecture style, it's participation style". "There is never a dull moment, ever," says one of the participants. "By the end of the session, we are all having fun, swinging like Tarzan and

Jane through the bed of a silted lake". Wilderness seems to be the new buzzword.

Moreover, it is important to soak in new delights and fresh experiences, spend a few days in the country, enjoying the scenery, nature trails or just relaxing by the campfire. Sleeping under a blanket of stars sure becomes an occasion to celebrate. Most of us have never been far from the city lights.

A short while back, we would have thought it blasphemous to camp without the usual mod cons, but it seems, we have a paradigm shift happening this season.

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