Part II : Project Rangeet and Mountain Climbing: How My Heart And Brain Connected
You can read the first part of this story here .
“Social and Emotional Learning is about the education of the human heart. The future of human civilization and the protection of the planet depends on the evolution of the human heart and these methodologies are utterly essential.” (David Sawyer, Converge, Education Reformer)
My wife, Renisha and I raised our children, Ishan (20) and Samara (18), on a steady diet of Dr. Seuss. What we wanted most for our children was for them to be creative, crazy, courageous risk takers. Our kids come from privilege. They can afford to take risks, fail, pick themselves up, start again; as long as they do it responsibly. But this is often not possible.
This realization hit me when I taught a class on English grammar to fourth graders in a government school in Mumbai. I was not quite prepared for how that day would affect me. My class was a cross section of younger and older kids (aged 8 through 14); some differently abled children. And when I inquired why these kids were clubbed so randomly together I was told what I may not have wanted to hear: the girls, predominantly, were often abused at home, would miss school and so would lag behind in learning; some kids were sent to villages to help with farming, hence taken out of school to rejoin at a later date, deeply hurting their self-esteem. The kid who stole my heart was an intellectually challenged girl who had the most enthusiastic sparkle in her eyes, could not express herself at all, but you knew she had so much to say.
All these abilities and ages and sexes and emotional states were mixed up in an overburdened, under resourced classroom, packaged, processed and shoved into a world that didn’t care what they wanted, dreamed about or hoped for. And I recall thinking on my way home, these kids are just defeated at birth.
This is when the seed of the idea behind Project Rangeet was born.
Current education systems in most countries do not prepare children to thrive. Most systems have their rote learning roots tracing back to a “factory model” that emerged in the early 20th century to mould students for the industrial economy with the teacher being the purveyor of information, and the children the empty vessels to be filled with information (Brookings Institution, Policy 2020). These are the systems of a bygone era when the architects could not have even imagined the future of today. If such systems are dated for today, they are necessarily crippling for the future. “Policy and curriculum needs to be agile, razor sharp and the designers need to use their imagination and intention to already be working in the schools of 2040 now.“ (Sean Bellamy, Sand’s School, UK)
The world of tomorrow will be shaped by the problems facing us today: climate change and pandemics, racial disharmony and geopolitics and the attendant stress that accompanies these scorching issues which our children need to be prepared for. Developing empathy for oneself, one another and all life on earth, using techniques such as joyful learning and play leads not just to stronger children who are better equipped for a world this generation has not seen, but also better all-around learners.
In June 2015, my life changed on top of a mountain in Malaysia: How Travel Healed My Business My Career And My Soul (projectmahatma.com/perspective). The lessons I learnt on the summit of Mt. Kinabalu, helped me open my heart to the universe and to fearlessly commit myself to what really matters to me. Not in an idealistic or foolhardy manner, but with equal amounts of preparation, due diligence and paranoia. My partners Karishma Menon, Priyanka Pandit and I set out to create a robust framework for elevating children from the circumstances they find themselves in – giving them the knowledge, empathy and courage to try, to fail and to find their niche.
Connecting The Brain To The Heart
Project Rangeet (in Hindi “Rang” = Colour” and “Geet” = Song / Music) is an easy to implement mobile platform that features a Social Emotional and Ecological Knowledge (SEEK) curriculum, with structured lesson plans developed around the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It uses playful learning methods and the understanding of multiple intelligences to teach in the way different brains think and learn. The platform includes tools that measure impact at scale and is designed to work in any geographical or socioeconomic context without overburdening educators.
Our goal is to help children thrive and become better learners equipped to succeed not only today, but in a rapidly changing global world that will continue to evolve over the coming decades. It achieves this by teaching social emotional and ecological competencies through play, music, art, games and storytelling. “We are living in schools that are solving the problems of 25 years ago: wonderful maths teaching but not if there are no elephants left to count; amazing redesign of English but not if there are no forests left to describe.” (Sean Bellamy, Sand’s School UK)
Today and Tomorrow
Today Project Rangeet operates in Bangladesh, and in the Indian states of Uttarakhand, West Bengal and Jharkhand in English, Hindi and Bengali. We’re working with the UN to replicate the model in Nepal and with a group of young entrepreneurs from Peru to implement it in Spanish in their country. We have been recognised by the United Nations as a global best practice in SDG 4&5 and by the Brookings Institution as a model for playful learning. In February 2021, Project Rangeet and the Global Shapers Community Mumbai Hub (an initiative of the World Economic Forum) submitted a joint recommendation to the World Economic Forum as a framework for replication in different contexts: “How can we close digital divides along the lines of income, race, gender and geography ensuring that the most disconnected communities become the most innovative?”
Human relationships are at the core of loving & learning. Through song & playful activities, Project Rangeet flexes our social muscles & prepares children to be tomorrow’s carers, thinkers & citizens. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution
Borrowing from American singer songwriter Tom Petty: The future is wide open.
About The Author : Simran Mulchandani is a Director of Singaporean NGO, Global Mangrove Trust, that has built a peer to peer platform for Mangrove Reforestation. He was a Director at Lykke Corp, a Swiss Fintech company building a marketplace for blockchain assets. Earlier, Simran completed his B.Sc. in Computer Science from Brown University and worked at J.P. Morgan before setting up and running internationally acclaimed live music venture blueFROG. He is a Founder and Director of Business Development at the UN endorsed Project Rangeet, an easy to implement mobile platform that features a Social Emotional and Ecological Knowledge (SEEK) curriculum, with structured lesson plans developed around the Sustainable Development Goals. Through Project Rangeet, Simran hopes to establish a framework in which nature and society are at peace. You can reach out to Simran at firstname.lastname@example.org
A Note From The Team: We are beyond grateful to Simran for sharing this incredible story with us. If you are new here, The Talisman is a weekly newsletter from our team of Stanford professors and graduates. You can learn more about The Talisman at projectmahatma.com/talisman and more about Project Mahatma at projectmahatma.com