It all began in 1952 on the banks of the River Narmada in a village in South Gujarat. Shanta Gandhi, an educator with eclectic interests, and diverse training in science, theatre, dance and politics had started working with a group of children in order to develop a curriculum that had relevance to their lives. The atmosphere was informal and the curriculum not pre-planned. It evolved naturally in response to the needs of that group and as a result of her interaction with those children. Children asked questions about their surroundings, and the process of finding answers (through games, songs and discussion) led naturally to questions regarding human evolution - how life emerged, why we are what we are, how our lives have changed from the past, and so on.
Later, the curriculum was further developed in an experimental school attached to the B.M. Institute of Child Psychology and Development in Ahmedabad in the late 1950s. Here again, it was not based directly on the formal school curriculum but supplemented it.
After a long interval, the programme was taken up in the 1970s at the Bal Bhavan, in New Delhi. Children who came there were provided an opportunity to interact with teachers, writers and artists, and to explore their surroundings through art, drama and dance, while all the time asking questions and discovering the answers. Unfortunately there was another long break before the programme was revived in Mumbai in the 1990s. Since then, the Avehi Abacus Project has developed three integrated packages of educational materials for students and teachers in the formal as well as the non-formal streams of learning. These are Sangati, Manthan and Saath Saath. The programmes are meant to supplement and enrich the existing school curriculum, and not to replace it.