Students travel around India during four project weeks over the course of their two years at the college - in November and March of their first and second years. While the first Project Week in the first year is mandatory and faculty led, the following Experience India Weeks are independently designed by students. The purpose of these intensively designed project weeks is to let students gain a deeper understanding in their selected studies, ranging from outdoor exploration, ecology, and sustainability to art appreciation, educational development, and human rights. Every year, new projects are developed to ensure that these projects modeled around experiential learning stay dynamic and interesting.

In 2013-2014, students and faculty participated in the following projects:

Vanastree, Sirsi

www.vanastree.org

Vanastree is a small women farmers’ collective based in the Western Ghats of tropical South India. It is dedicated to promoting forest garden biodiversity and small scale food systems through the conservation of traditional seeds and tubers. Vanastree means “women of the forest” and the agrarian communities here are part of an age-old way of life where the wilderness, spice orchards, paddies and homesteads are closely intertwined. Vanastree is a small women farmers’ collective based in the Western Ghats of tropical South India. It is dedicated to promoting forest garden biodiversity and small scale food systems through the conservation of traditional seeds and tubers. Vanastree means “women of the forest” and the agrarian communities here are part of an age-old way of life where the wilderness, spice orchards, paddies and homesteads are closely intertwined. Students from UWCMC have been visiting Vanastree for Project Week since 2004. We will be staying in village homestays with farming families, participating in indoor and outdoor activities (including forest hikes and river swimming), experiencing the wonderful local cuisine, interacting with environmentalists and ecologists, learning what it takes to keep a grassroots initiative alive and will also have time for self-reflection and questioning. This has been a very enriching experience for students who have chosen to go.

Music of West Bengal, Calcutta

Join UWCMC's only music based project week for a visit to the vibrant cultural capital of Calcutta, and beyond On this project, we will study, compare and appreciate two forms of Indian music: Hindustani classical, and folk music from West Bengal. We will visit the prestigious ITC Sangeet Research Academy, home to many of India's most famous musicians, where we will be given singing lessons, learn the basic elements of Hindustani classical music, and attend recitals. Then we will travel outside of the city to learn songs from local folk singers, with the help of friends from The Traveling Archive. Our aim will be to learn at least one song from each of these excursions. No musical experience is necessary, but students who join this project should be prepared to sing and listen to music. Those who are already musicians and singers are especially encouraged to join.

Bamboo Centre, Auroville

www.aurovillebamboocentre.org

The Auroville Bamboo Centre, Auroville, conducts workshops for students in bamboo construction. We coordinate with Auroville Bamboo Centre to undertake training workshops in bamboo construction, bamboo furniture making and bamboo jewellery making. These workshops will not only train students in a particular skill but also help in creating awareness in environmental conservation and sustainable living.

The four-day program is packed with 4 sessions daily from 9.00 AM to 5.00 PM. First there is an introduction to bamboo structure and growth system, the uses of bamboo and the role of bamboo in the ecological context. Second, the workshop will focus on natural and chemical treatments of bamboo. Third, the students will be trained in selecting, splitting, cutting, bending, straightening and creating joints using bamboo. Finally, the students will focus on their specific areas of interest – be it furniture making or jewellery making or mere construction. Students also get an opportunity to live at Auroville, a village for a global community conceived by Sri Aurobindo, and visit Pondicherry, a union territory of India and an erstwhile French colony.

Crocodile Bank, Chennai

www.madrascrocodilebank.org

The focus on this project week will be wildlife conservation methods and conservation action. The week will be spent at the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust (MCBT), where we will join in the daily activities such as pit cleaning and feeding crocodiles, snakes, and turtles and learn about animals in captivity. Projects may include simple measurements, working with turtle eggs etc. and joining in any conservation/awareness drives. Learning about snake tracking and venom extraction from the native Irula Tribes and interacting with them is an important aspect of this stay. Accommodation is on a shared basis in simple bungalows within the MCBT.

Agumbe Rainforest Research Station

www.agumberainforest.com

At ARRS, the focus will be on field research. Ecological research is essential in order to study the intricate relationships and processes that are present in the natural world. This workshop aims to give an insight into basic wildlife biology, survey and field data collecting techniques, basic camping skills and field work ethics, radio telemetry and camera trapping, understanding stream ecosystems, monitoring nocturnal animals and basic field herpetology (study of reptiles and amphibians). ARRS is completely run on solar power with minimal generator back up. Accommodation will be on a sharing basis in tents within the campus. Food is simple and mainly vegetarian. Manipal with very good medical facilities is nearby.

Sharana, Puducherry

www.sharana.org

Sharana (SHELTER) is a social and development organization based in Pondicherry, India. It was established in July 2000 to address the critical educational needs of socio-economically disadvantaged children and communities in urban Pondicherry and its surrounding villages. Sharana’s foundational belief is that all human beings are equal in rights and dignity, and everyone is entitled to food, clothing, and shelter. Sharana’s mission is twofold:

  • To enable socio-economically disadvantaged children in the Pondicherry environs to fully claim their rights to education by developing social programs, building physical infrastructure, and identifying sources of financial support.
  • To work for community development by supporting and increasing beneficiaries’ awareness of their own skills and capabilities, while respecting each individual’s self-worth and capacity to achieve full independence and self-reliance.

Sharana’s approach to addressing the educational needs of children and communities is thus integrative,comprehensive, and holistic. Recognizing that:

  1. addressing educational needs involves addressing health, nutrition, hygiene, housing, security, and other family and community needs in parallel;
  2. educational development is most effective when it is addressed in the context of broader, social and economic development: support for individual children requires addressing family and community needs; and
  3. development initiatives provide lasting social empowerment only when they enable individuals to become autonomous, active, contributing members of society.

Sangama, Bangalore

www.sangama.org

Sangama is a sexual minorities human rights organization for individuals oppressed due to their sexual preference. Sexual minorities include, but are not limited to, hijras, kothis, jogappas, lesbians, bisexuals, homosexuals, female-to-male / male-to-female transsexuals. Sangama aims to help these people live with self-acceptance, self-respect and dignity. They especially emphasize the concerns of sexual minorities from poor and / or non-English speaking backgrounds and sex workers, who otherwise have little or no access to information and resources. Sangama aims to bring sexuality, sexual preference and gender identity into the realm of public discourse; and link it to gender, human rights development and other social movements. Sangama campaigns for the changes in the existing laws, which discriminate against sexual minorities, including sex workers and people living with HIV / AIDS (PLHA). They work with family members, friends, co-workers and partners of sexual minorities. While at Sangama, students will hear personal experiences from the community, take part in playful workshops on gender and sexuality issues, have interactive field visits, watch documentaries, and learn about the human rights work of the organization. We will also participate in any campaigns that may take place during our time with them. There will be time for passionate discussions on anything from gender roles and sexual identity to sex work, and students will also work on a creative project - like documentation of the events of the project week through photos, interviews, performance or a movie.

Goa Jungle Engagement, Goa

Exploring the wildlife, anthropology and geomorphology of the jungle and the impacts of human encroachment and deforestation. Involves jungle treks, camping and canyoning. Some downtime on the beach also, of course. Be prepared to jump off waterfalls. Certain level of fitness is required.

Himalayan Expedition, Dodital and Darwa Top

The aim of this project week is to build skills of leadership, teamwork and perseverance while exploring a little known but awe-inspiring part of India. Located in the mountainous northern state of Uttarakhand, Dodital is a pristine alpine lake at an altitude of 3100 m above sea level. This project week will take you on an expedition to Dodital and beyond. The trek to Dodital is a steady uphill climb that takes us through dense forests and high meadows. After Dodital, we will be climbing further to the mountain pass at Darwa Top, at 3800 m above MSL. The climb to Darwa Top is steep but offers stunning views of the Himalayas at the top. The whole expedition is expected to last 5 days.

You will be expected to have a minimum level of fitness if you sign up for this expedition. An ability to walk uphill for a couple of hours at a stretch with a full backpack is expected, and you will be assessed by the Outdoor Education team once you arrive here to ensure that you meet this criterion. If you are unsure whether you can manage this hike, head out to the nearest gym and try walking at an incline of 50 at 6 km/h for an hour and a half with a 12 kg backpack on your back. If this tires you out completely, then this expedition is not for you. You will be expected to hike 5-7 hours each day, carry your own backpacks and sleeping bags, help in cooking and washing up, and camp outdoors. There will be no toilets on this expedition and the food will be simple vegetarian food.

All participants are expected to join the Fitness Activity on campus once you arrive here. If you have never hiked before but would like to give it a shot, this expedition offers you a great opportunity (provided you meet the fitness standards). Completing a difficult hike will surely leave you with an unforgettable experience that will challenge and exhilarate you in equal measure.