Nepali script

We have been learning some Nepali words and phrases over the last few weeks, and are now starting to learn the Devanagari script and Nepali Alphabet 🙂 So kids have been making prayer flags, they thought it would be a nice way to paint the symbols on and hang in our classroom for daily practice 🙂

This activity is not just about the Nepali Alphabet though, ‘how to do’ the activity and the freedom to get things wrong are what make the activity meaningful.  In a school environment, a teacher may only have 50 mins class time to run such an activity. So the teacher has to have all logistics worked out, everything measured, cut, prepared in piles, resources ready etc.  The kids are given instructions and they just follow.  Stepping back and letting the kids work out the logistics takes time, some may say is a waste of ‘learning’ time, but it’s where all the learning takes place 🙂

We first had to think of a way to make prayer flags. After searching many odd bits of material around the house and estimating cost of buying blank prayer flags, we found an old whitish sheet in the cupboard. Then came a Math problem.  What size should our prayer flags be to ensure we had around 100, enough for Nepali alphabet and some spares for fun wishes.  They measured length and width of sheet, 138 and 110 cm.  Lucas remembered on his maths online he had done something by adding all the lengths and widths together, and maybe that would help him figure out our problem.  He went onto his maths online program and found that would give him the perimeter.  He then looked some more, and recapped the lesson he’d done multiplying length and width, remembering that would give him the area.  He calculated 15,180cm square.   We needed 100 squares, how would we work out the area of each square, though? Lucas shouted ‘divide the area by 100!’ I was impressed 🙂  So they worked out each square needed a rounded down area of 150square cm to ensure we got 100 flags. But how long should each flag be???

They figured they could just guess a length, multiply it and see if it was close to 150.  16 x16? too much. Tried 8×8, too little. 14, too much, and so on.  They decided to make them 12cm long and wide.  When they measured and cut them, they found they had over half the sheet left…hmmm, calculations must have been wrong.  So they made an extra set of flags at 15cm each, as they thought the others were too small anyway!  Where did they go wrong? All their calculations had been correct, but the initial measuring of the sheet with the tape measure might have been wrong.  Fortunately this mistake left them with surplus flags!  But my controlling this activity for them would have prevented them from making a mistake, one that didn’t really matter in the big scheme of things, but it’s because the mistake isn’t really going to hurt them in any way that it is such an important aspect in the process of ‘learning’.
The neighbours joined in making prayer flags with us 🙂
 Next was to work out how to dye the flags.  They noticed that our prayer flags we have hanging on our deck, are white, blue, red, yellow and green.  We looked at material dyes online, average price $10 each, we would need 4, too dear for our little project.  Aurora researched into natural dyes, we bake using ‘foods’ for natural colours, so she found videos of using natural ways to dye materials. But we worked out once we had bought the foods for all the colours, would be too expensive and time consuming…red cabbage so expensive, then boiling for 2 hours…didn’t sound practical.  Then Aurora suggested food colouring, which we never buy but figured the cheapest solution for the small quantity of material we needed to dye..we got each colour for $1.14 each 🙂 This took a couple hours of research and chatting to get to this decision…but lots of reading and reasoning to get there.
Once dried we could paint the Nepali Alphabet on them.  Here’s Lucas using a video he found for painting the vowel symbols.  The lady had made the video for teaching the Nepali Alphabet to kids, so we could learn the sounds as we painted.

Here is the full video we used :

As well as using the ‘concept’ of the prayer flag as a beautiful way to decorate our classroom and learn the Nepali alphabet, we also thought we would paint some with our personal hopes and wishes for our world, to blow into the wind.  Aurora painted symbols to spread her wishes of love, balance, strength, nature and peace.

Australian Curriculum Links

Yr 5/6 Visual Art : Explain how visual arts conventions communicate meaning by comparing artworks from different social, cultural and historical contexts – analysing how symbolic meaning or metaphor is constructed in students’ own artworks and artworks of others.


yr 5 Calculate perimeter and area of rectangles using familiar metric units

Use estimation and rounding to check the reasonableness of answers to calculations

Solve problems involving multiplication of large numbers by one- or two-digit numbers using efficient mental, written strategies and appropriate digital technologies

Use efficient mental and written strategies and apply appropriate digital technologies to solve problem

yr 5/6 Design Technology

Investigate characteristics and properties of a range of materials, systems, components, tools and equipment and evaluate the impact of their use

Critique needs or opportunities for designing, and investigate materials, components, tools, equipment and processes to achieve intended designed solutions

Select appropriate materials, components, tools, equipment and techniques and apply safe procedures to make designed solutions

LOTE (Hindi as no Nepali in Aust Curr) : Convey information about aspects of language and culture in formats to suit different audiences and contexts / Creating and comparing their own examples of particular text genres, such as horoscopes, prayers or weather forecasts explaining their choice of particular language or text organisation  

HASS YR 7 describing how harmonious relationships with the natural world were reflected in Indian belief systems (for example, Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism) (this is very limiting as all outcomes are…but you can work out the connection :-))


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