Slam Out Loud Is Engaging Children in the Arts, Even from Afar
“Every individual will have a voice that empowers them to change lives” — that’s a message from Slam Out Loud (SOL), a for-mission, nonprofit that amplifies arts education for young students and their families in India and around the world. The company offers interactive social media platforms that provide new content, projects, and experiences to thousands of children every day.
Jigyasa Labroo is the co-founder and CEO of SOL, and a former Teach for India fellow. She’s in charge of partnerships, development, fundraising, and design for the company. Together with her staff, she’s helping to transform arts education in India.
CircleAround spoke with Labroo to learn more about this innovative program, and how children are benefiting from SOL.
CA: What experiences led you to create Slam Out Loud?
JL: I worked to provide a holistic-education to 50 girls from a challenging community in Delhi. Our girls were struggling with incidents of violence and harassment at home. Dealing with such challenges for over two years pushed me to take a closer look at the way education was delivered in India. It made me explore what was happening in alternative-education spaces, and assess our own values and purpose as educators.
Informed by our own empowering experiences and our learning in some excellent educational organizations, I and my co-teacher in the classroom — SOL co-founder Gaurav — started doing art-based programs in our class. We saw our children become better communicators, confident in participation, and become creative thinkers.
CA: Tell us a little about your program, Slam Out Loud.
JL: SOL enables children from the most vulnerable communities to find their voice through creative expression, build socio-emotional learning, and develop 21st-century skills to dream bigger and create their future. Through lived experience, we create scalable, contextualized learning products. Before COVID-19, our mission was to bring professional artists into classrooms for a five-year program. Now, we are focused on bringing the same level of quality to children learning online.
As an organization, we continue to believe that being able to express ourselves should not be limited to a privileged class. We believe that, when our children are empowered to harness their voices, they can influence issues confronting their communities, bring about a more just and inclusive society, call attention to long-standing problems, or otherwise change the world.
CA: How has Slam Out Loud integrated arts and technology for new generations of learners?
JL: We’ve created an online series of high-quality, arts-based experiences in Hindi and English (and coming soon, in more languages!) aimed toward learning through poetry, theater, visual arts, and storytelling, called Art Alerts. Children, parents, and teachers receive these byte-sized activities through a daily WhatsApp alert, which engages them in hands-on activities, helps them share their art, and interact with accomplished artists.
The service is completely free to use. Through safe spaces for creative outlets and sharing, our children have been attempting art activities within their homes every day, as well as disseminating inspiration within their own communities.
Our WhatsApp channel currently reaches 30,000 children daily, across 18 countries overall, and 23 states in India. We have also created audio activities via Interactive Voice Response Systems (IVRS) to reach out to the most vulnerable children, who do not even have access to a low-tech platform like WhatsApp. We now intend to launch localized audio versions of these activities and scale them through IVRS and radio platforms.
CA: How did the arts impact their education?
JL: Art was helping our kids express themselves, and [it was helping them] with their self-esteem issues as they became teenagers. Every child felt that their voice was important. That transformed the learning space of our classroom. Our children started coming out against sexual harassment. Our children redefined using arts as a medium to enable them to dream bigger, achieve more, and create the future.
CA: What are you most proud of?
JL: Through our interventions, we have witnessed our children become more confident, creative, empathetic, and directed toward pursuing their dreams. Our students have performed to a cumulative audience of over 75,000, with 15 of them invited to share their work at various national and international platforms such as TEDx and SpokenFest. One of our children also recently represented our work in Finland, and a couple of them performed at the Rajasthan Kabir Yatra in India.
To this day, when I see a child take the stage or share something they created with another person, sharing their truth, I know their life wouldn’t be the same from that moment on.