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Service Learning at Gurukulam

Parke Stevenson, a performing arts major at Pace University, teaches an art class at Gurukulam

Semester at Sea builds its curriculum around cultural exchange and, in every port, students have the unique opportunity to interact with local communities on SAS trips. Already this spring, students visited orphanages in Brazil and after-school programs in South Africa, and they continued the unique opportunity for cultural exchange near Chennai, India at Gurukulam A Trust Children’s School.

22 Semester at Sea students arrived in the afternoon at Gurukulam, a primary school in the southeast state of Tamil Nadu. Even though the SAS group showed up during the midday power outage, when the ceiling fans slowed to a standstill, the Gurukulam kids kept the energy levels up. The Indian students, all from local fishing villages, were eager to meet their American, Chinese, and Brazilian visitors, excitedly showing off their karate skills and detailing the differences between plant and animal cell biology. The Gurukulam curriculum– a heavy does of math and science, paired with instruction in three languages (as well as yoga class)– created a two-way street for education, providing a perfect mix of familiar subjects and foreign topics. SAS students helped the 1st through 7th graders with homework, and in exchange the kids shared the rules of Cricket and the basics of the Tamil language.

Featured are a few moments from the afternoon at Gurukulam.

Maya Tims, from Dillard University, and Shanell Ransom, from College of Charleston, lead the 1st graders in a game of Simon Says.
Gurukulam students greet Semester at Sea at the entrance gate.
Hannah Klarner (far right), from Boston University, answers questions about life on the ship for the junior high students.
  • Culture

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