Slam Out Loud

Jijivisha Fellowship SOLmates

“All forms of artistic expression embody the interconnectedness of our world”

As I sit here, surrounded by the familiar sounds of Delhi traffic after an inspiring SOL showcase, I am filled with vivid memories of watching children unleash their inner energy. Witnessing them express their long-held thoughts with uninhibited curiosity and truth leaves a profound mark on me.

In these times of climate instability, where even scientists and the media refer to mountains and sun as mere “natural resources” to be exploited sustainably, Pooja’s stories and her subtle yet powerful way of reconnecting with the world around her serve as a poignant reminder. They remind us that forests and lakes are more than mere entries on an Excel sheet.

When I listen to ZhangMu from Sikkim speak fondly about her dog, who sleeps soundly like a log, or when I hear eight-year-old Nusrat from Kashmir rhythmically express her anger at the injustices she encounters, I am forced to unlearn the way I perceive and understand the world.

Their words create a symphony of experiences, fireworks exploding on paper, and glimpses into the abstract that reveal what lies in the depths of our hearts. These experiences remind me that life’s beauty resides not solely in the complete picture but also in its fragments and pieces.

I remember a group of girls performing a giddha on stage in Punjab. Their radiant joy and fearlessness were palpable as they laughed and sang without inhibition. It was one of the rare moments when they truly felt alive in their bodies. It made me realize how much work lies ahead of us to empower our young ones to grow without fear.

I have encountered artworks that continue to reveal new layers, taking me on journeys of self-discovery and reminding me of things I had lost sight of. Among them are the astounding possibilities held within each language and the warmth and beauty found in the seemingly ordinary moments.

Whether it is children weaving their words into metaphors, spilling paint on canvas, or enacting a brave new world, all forms of artistic expression embody the interconnectedness of our world.

I struggle to convey the profound impact that children and their voices have had on my life. The significance of a child finding their own unique voice is as subjective as our preferences for different types of momos – steamed to fried to tandoori – to each their own!

However, I do know the unmistakable feeling of recognizing a voice when I encounter it. It reminds me that my own voice, like a missing puzzle piece, may be hidden away in a corner, waiting for me to reclaim it once more.

May this year be your most inspiring, filled with memorable art & adventures!

Oceans of Love,



“Your dedication will leave a mark on arts education in India”

Dear Jijivisha Fellows, 

Every brushstroke, every melody, and every dance step has the power to break down barriers and bridge communities. 

Today, as I sit down to write this note for you, I think about Rubiya, Omkar, Jagtarni, Soni, Sahana, Digamber, and so many others from my Teach for India classroom, back from when I was a fellow in 2019. I vividly recall the expressions on their faces as I announced my plans for the day to make art or learn a dance routine or write new stories. I still remember the joy, curiosity and wide-eyed wonder with which they looked at me. 

These faces fueled my determination to show up prepared in class everyday. They inspired me to make learning contextual, relevant, and applicable to their daily lives. It pushed me to think about how I could use my time with the children to prepare them for the world they were about to enter.

After all, they had entrusted me with their precious curiosity and that spurred me to do better. 

And this is the journey that you, my dear fellows, will be taking this year. Welcome to the Jijivisha Fellowship! Welcome to the world of art education in India! I am thrilled to have you on board and witness your journey as you embark on a path that combines creative expression and socio-emotional learning (this is a term that will become second nature to you!).

As Jijivisha fellows, you possess a unique set of skills that go beyond traditional teaching methods. You are artists, storytellers, poets, actors, musicians, dancers, and advocates, equipped with the ability to communicate with the soul of a child through the universal language of art. 

Your presence in the lives of these young minds will be transformative, providing them a safe space for curiosity, self-expression and personal growth. Your classroom will be a sanctuary where the constraints of traditional education fade away, making room for imagination, empathy, and emotional well-being.

Remember, every brushstroke, every melody, and every dance step has the power to break down barriers and build bridges between communities. Your role extends beyond the art itself; you are the catalyst that empowers children to find their voices and share their stories.

You will witness, firsthand, the incredible resilience and creativity that resides within each young artist, and it will inspire you in ways you never thought possible.

You’ll face many challenges throughout your journey, but always remember that growth often emerges from those very obstacles. Embrace the uncertainties and trust in your abilities. Seek support from your fellow fellows, as they share your passion and understand the complex nature of your work. 

Lean on one another, learn from one another and celebrate one another’s victories, for it is through collaboration and community that we can create lasting change. 

As you step into this movement, be open to the diverse narratives that you will encounter within your classrooms and communities. Each narrative carries with it a unique point of view, weaving a tapestry of voices that shape our nation’s identity. Embrace this movement with a spirit of adventure, curiosity, and an unwavering belief in the power of art. 

Your dedication and passion will not only touch the lives of the children you work with but also leave an indelible mark on the future of arts education in India.

The Jijivisha Fellowship is a labour of love from all the SOLmates, who, in some way or the other contributed to its development and evolution over the years. It’s the result of the collective efforts of people who poured their hearts into creating a fellowship journey that keeps up with the evolving needs of our children, their classrooms and communities. 

Finally, as we draw closer to the moment when you enter a classroom for the first time, I understand that you may be filled with a mix of excitement and nervousness. Let me assure you that you are not alone in this adventure! We are a community of passionate individuals who believe in the power of the arts to guide explorations, inspire young minds, and ignite change. 

Together, we will unlock the power of the arts to enable every individual to find their voice.

Once again, welcome to this incredible journey. Together, let us pave the way for a future where the arts become an integral part of learning, growth, and education in India!


The Possibilities of Art in Socio-Emotional Learning: Curating Young Learners’ Well Being

In 2019, Muskan, a young poet involved with Slam Out Loud (SOL) while performing at the TEDxGatewaySalon Platform shared how she was often told by her parents and teachers that “the Arts are for people who are not hardworking.”

Much like Muskan, most of us, are no stranger to the narrative that art has no ‘real’ value and should at best, be indulged in as a hobby. Both research and recent shifts in pedagogical techniques however, argue otherwise. Through brain imaging technologies, neuroscientists across the globe are now able to show the physical changes that occur in the brain when one contemplates over or indulges in art. For instance, did you know that a creatively inspired brain depicts lower levels of cortisol which is the biological indicator for stress?! Educators too, have noticed radical changes in student behaviour and performance on integrating art and Socio-Emotional Learning (SEL) for children. The Economic Development Quarterly offers an insight that children who received art education showed an 80% increase in creativity and levels of social skills. The ‘National Endowment for the Arts’ observed that students partaking in arts courses had higher grade point averages and were five times more likely to graduate compared to their peers.

For students studying in low-income schools, art-based SEL is crucial in how it allows space to foster expression. This, in turn, is essential to ensure that children are empowered to break their cycle of negative outcomes. The perspective that art-based SEL is especially climacteric for low-income students is supported by intensive research. For instance, in a study led by the ‘Kennedy Center’s Changing Education Through the Arts (CETA) Program’, it was found that integrating the arts had a profound impact on closing achievement gaps, particularly for students from low-income families.

But how do Art and SEL communicate with each other? How does art amplify the benefits of SEL? Why is this especially crucial for students from disadvantaged communities? And how do we begin to employ these methods in the backdrop of a COVID stricken world and its myriad challenges?

In the wake of the Covid pandemic, 1.5 Billion children across the world are unable to access classrooms. From the uncertainty of completing the academic year to larger systemic issues like the digital divide- students have been struggling to learn. Learner’s loneliness has steadily been rising, translating into high levels of anxiety and an inability to focus on information and retain it. With an internal chaos brewing within children, how can we inspire them to continue learning from home until we first cater to their individual well-being?


India : Arts for All, Slam Out Loud (English)

Slam Out Loud is an Indian non-profit that uses the arts along with multiple low tech platforms to deliver support for arts-based socio-emotional learning and mental well-being to the most vulnerable children at scale. By offering localized, need-sensitive and engaging at-home audio, video, text, and print resources for learners who have limited access to the internet, they aim to lead children towards creative outcomes and build mental resilience during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) based school closure period. Within a few weeks of school closures, Slam Out Loud (SOL) rapidly adapted its interventions to create resources that are free of charge, interactive, and accessible in English and Hindi (and being translated into Punjabi, Tamil, Malayalam and Marathi) and made them available through various low-tech distribution channels (WhatsApp, Interactive Voice Response Systems (IVRS) and radio).This brief documents India’s initiatives that ensured education continuity for all using technology and provided support to teachers, students, and their families.


What Happens when Children Engage with Art?

A reflective essay written as part of the WISE Emerging Leaders program.

5 years ago, while facilitating a poetry workshop, I met Supriya Kumari, a 16-year-old student poet who is now an active member of Slam Out Loud’s ‘Bol Poetry Crew.’ Not only was she frugal with her words and cautious of everyone around her, but she also showed me the poem she wrote then, a couple of months after the workshop.

Today, as the world has come to a standstill due to COVID-19 lockdowns, Supriya is interning with two organizations while also attending online classes. Throughout the day, she also helps her mother in the house, teaches her younger brother and is building her skill set through Coursera classes. As the world is struggling to embrace the new normal, Supriya is learning new things every day. She recounts that three years ago, she would not have been able to approach these unique circumstances with the same creativity and resilience. As for her poetry and finding her own voice – she has performed at India’s biggest art festivals and represented Slam Out Loud’s work in Finland too.

Art is one of the ways our lives become beautiful and full of lessons and skills, but often it does not reach the children who need it the most. Currently, in the wake of COVID-19, 300 million children in India are unable to access classrooms. Beyond the uncertainty of completing the academic year, school closures have also impacted children’s learning levels, which in turn, translates into higher drop-out rates and psychological ill-effects for both children and their parents. At this time when educators and schools are trying to move to online modes of education, the massive digital divide in our country also becomes apparent.

Only 36% of Indians have access to the internet and the number is even lower in rural areas. Our organization, Slam Out Loud, is learning to navigate the new normal. What hasn’t changed is our commitment to making children’s voices heard. And hence, staying true to our mission of prioritizing students’ wellbeing, our response to COVID-19 simultaneously focused on the mental and physical wellbeing of students along with the need to employ the lens of ‘access’ in developing solutions.

The resulting initiative – Arts for All – is an open-source project that leverages the power of art and low-tech platforms to create scalable art-based learning solutions. The program has the following facets:

1. Develop art-based learning resources:

By leveraging a network of professional artists and program fellows, we have developed a high-quality, context-specific, multilingual art-based curriculum. Our resources are aligned with 21st-century skills framework to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 4 of quality education. The skills that we aim to develop are creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, communication, self-esteem, and empathy.

2. Increase access through multiple low tech-platforms:

  1. Online Video: SOL is delivering video-based content through YouTube as well as partner platforms. We reached out to approximately a thousand villages through Pratham’s EdTech platform. Here are Socio-Emotional Learning focused Youtube courses on storytelling, theatre, visual Art, and poetry.
  2. WhatsApp: Byte-sized activities are sent to children, parents, and teachers through daily WhatsApp alerts. These are hands-on activities that children can complete and share with accomplished artists to get Some of our most successful activities have been consolidated into this fun Art for All Booklet.
  3. IVRS: To reach out to the most vulnerable children lacking access to even low-tech platforms like WhatsApp, we intend to launch localized audio versions of these activities and scale them through IVRS. We’re already piloting an IVRS model in Delhi and look forward to scaling it.
  4. Radio: We are exploring local radio as a means to reach out to rural audiences.

What happens when we use art in and outside of classrooms? How does something like poetry play out as a life-transforming experience for a student like Supriya? How does art education foster well-being?

A good example is our recent collaboration with the Government of Patiala. Over the course of an eight-week pilot project that disseminated SEL-focused art activities to over 140 thousand Lakh children daily, we observed a significant increase in students’ Creative Confidence. Using high-frequency oral diagnostics to assess engagement and growth on Creative Confidence aspects in children along with qualitative surveys of stakeholders to monitor growth in our Art-proficiency rubric, by the end of our evaluation process, the profound impact of art on our students in Punjab was crystal clear.

These graphs depict a significant increase in SEL skills in children. Across the 4 skills of Communication, Creativity, Critical Thinking and Self Esteem, we observed a notable increase in the number of students in the ‘excellent’ category. In other words, students in the low, amateur, and medium category across each skill, gained proficiency in their skill sets.

Apart from creating a positive and cohesive learning environment, engaging with art also translated into improved social skills and peer collaboration for our children in Punjab. Our work has taught us that the addition of art into education has a profound effect on children’s learning because art never tells them they are wrong. Instead, it provides them with a space where their ideas, feelings and identity are accepted without iteration. If a space for fostering wellness had to be described, I’d describe it exactly that way.

We espouse for art in everyday education because the monumental potential of art for student well-being and SEL gets reiterated to us every single day through the stories of our children, their young confident voices, and their emotional maturity towards problem-solving. These are just some instances of the daily dose of sunshine that this work has given me. With the help of our partners, 4.7 million children are able to access art and artistic opportunities today. And each of them, much like Supriya, are now on a quest to explore what expression means to them, and through it, find their voice.


The things that stole my heart at Kalarang showcase, Pune

Slam Out Loud’s Programmes Associate for Pune, Jade Fernandez, shares highlights from Kalarang, a showcase event for Jijivisha students in Pune held in May 2023.
Slam Out Loud’s Programmes Associate, Jade Fernandez, emphasises the value of enabling children to express themselves through art by sharing highlights from Kalarang, a showcase event for Jijivisha students in Pune.

Treasures On Display

When I think of a showcase, the first thing that comes to mind is that old cabinet at home where you display your most prized possessions, collectibles, or memorabilia in the hope that it influences someone’s perception of you.

At Slam Out Loud, our ‘showcase’ is a similar display of treasures; it’s full of art, colour, thought, emotions, and voices. The only difference? In our showcase, you’ll always find a place, even with all your imperfections. This is what our annual end-of-year showcase for our Pune school students looked like. While I could fixate on the 10 things that didn’t pan out perfectly at Kalarang, I want to talk about the things that stole my heart.

The beauty of this showcase was that it was a space that celebrated all voices, not just children’s. While our students owned the stage with their performances, their parents won our hearts with their vulnerability.

Faces Full of Wonder

Now, as a first-time event planner and full-time over-thinker, the stakes are always higher than what they are in reality. Our team spent many sleepless nights in preparation for this day. Was it worth it? 100%.

In the course of the showcase, I saw joy, tears, smiles, and hope on the faces of the children. Their faces lit up with wonder when they saw a selfie point, when they saw the artwork on display, the colourful decorations specially put up for their event, or Mansi beatboxing. Their faces continued to light up every time they walked up to the stage to perform in front of the audience. It was a full-circle moment. 

A Jijivisha student performing on stage at Kalarang showcase, Pune

Children have this innate ability to amaze, educate, and spread love, but most importantly, they have this look of wonder in their eyes. They made me realise that it doesn’t take much to fascinate a child; they already see the world with a sense of wonder. All you have to do is be there for them as they embrace the newness in the world, enable them to be fiercely themselves, and walk alongside as a guide as they discover all the possibilities out there for them.

A Jijivisha student performing on stage at Kalarang showcase, Pune

Winning Hearts With Vulnerability

I knew that parents always want what’s best for their children, but I didn’t anticipate the extent they would be willing to go to make sure their children felt loved and appreciated. The beauty of this showcase was that it was a space that celebrated all voices, not just children’s. While our students owned the stage with their performances, their parents won our hearts with their vulnerability. They shared their hopes and dreams for their children with the audience.

The sight of parents beaming with pride and joy as their children took the stage will always remain unmatched.

While our students owned the stage with their performances, their parents won our hearts with their vulnerability.

Jijivisha student performing on stage at Kalarang showcase, Pune
Jijivisha student performing on stage at Kalarang showcase, Pune

I believe that as a culture, “art” is so guarded, and there is an assumption that it is only for the consumption of the elite or those who have trained in it. This creates a sense of inferiority, anxiety, or discomfort for putting yourself out there. At Slam Out Loud, our vision has always been to work towards dismantling or breaking down these barriers and embrace individual voices through art. Kalarang was one such wholesome celebration! 

Team Slam  Out Loud and Jijivisha Fellows from Pune at Kalarang showcase
Team Slam Out Loud and Jijivisha Fellows from Pune at Kalarang showcase

Building a Culture of Support

For me, the highlight will always be this one moment when the entire auditorium unanimously came together and encouraged this one student who froze mid-performance. At that moment, everyone in the auditorium simply wanted to be there for that one child, which will always be a memory that lives with me.

My hope for the future is that we continue to build this culture that supports children, fosters their talents, and welcomes them with all their insecurities, imperfections, and inhibitions. I hope that platforms like Kalarang are just the beginning of a colourful journey for children.

Do you see value in enabling children to find their voices? Do you believe in the transformative power of the arts? Then join Slam Out Loud in our mission to transform how arts education and socio-emotional learning happen for children from underserved communities in India.