SUBURB in conversation with Minoti Didi
Teacher’s Day Celebration
“The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence.”
A teacher holds our hand, opens our mind and touches our heart. In Shikshantar each day is a celebration of the beautiful bond between the teacher and a child. The essence of ‘Teacher’s day’ is to remember and reinstate the crucial role a teacher plays in a student’s life by just being there, learning from her students and enabling facilitation for their continuous wholesome growth.
Every year on Teacher’s day, the entire team of Shikshantar is treated to beautiful experiences facilitated by veterans and masters from different fields of life. This year was another gem of an experience offered to the team to nourish their soul.
As every ocassion must, this one too had an auspicious beginning. Sudha didi and Subarna didi set the tone for the evening with creative movements on ‘Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Agni ki Parasmani’. This delightful performance was followed by another one to pay respect to all our teachers as the duo expressed the meaning of the shloka ‘Gurur Brahma Gurur Vishnu’ through hasta mudras.
This was the perfect ocassion for teachers to have the opportunity to listen to their mentor Minoti didi share her valuable thoughts. She dwelled on how being a teacher was the most fortunate job anyone can have. Its a privilege to work with children on a daily basis. Her thoughts on living in the moment like children do, revelling in the joys of connecting with children and creating safe places for the children and adults, were enriching for one and all.
The highlight of the day was an absolutely mesmerising performance by Ustad Anwar Khan, a professional Manganiar musician who is one of the leading vocalists of folk, Sufi and traditional music of western Rajasthan.
Ustaadji began the evening by invoking the blessings of Lord Ganesha as he sang ‘Gajanan’. He set a beautiful environment with heart touching evergreen renditions such as ‘Kesariya balam’, ‘sawan bitho jaaye’, ‘mast kalandar’ and many more. His intelligence in establishing communication with audiences from varied cultural backgrounds, understanding and tradition, the correctness of his lyrics and his commitment to inter faith worship, lent immense richness and depth to his rendition.
Raksha Bandhan Celebration
In Shikshantar we cherish the bonds of togetherness built with our friends, animals, and nature around. Raksha Bandhan was another such opportunity to celebrate and express our love for them. During the week children prepared for the festival by making rakhis using recycled material and laddoos. On the day of the celebration children enthusiastically sang songs like, “zumak zumak ko Aata BaalaU” they tied rakhis to each other, to the rabbit and the turtle. They relished the laddoos they had made.
Independence Day Celebration
Birthday celebrations are always special for children. They look forward to their own birthday through the year. Similarly, they related to Independence Day as India’s birthday. The week was filled with experiences of making flags and listening to stories of India’s special things ‘Tiger, peacock, banyan tree etc’. During the celebration, it was a delight to see how children connected to the Flag hoisting. They sang the national anthem and songs like ‘India oh India’ with a lot of enthusiasm.
‘Kala se Vidya’ was a project experience children of Class IV explored in continuation to their theme to connect with India and its history. The project was an endeavour to observe and understand the pottery tradition in the presence of the craftsman. National Award winners – Shilp Guru HarKrishan Prajapati and Ramrati Prajapati facilitated the workshop and it was coordinated by Ms. Megha Mukherji and Kamlesh Bhaiya. Children watched a film titled ‘Ghadai’, discussed the evolution of pottery, understood different kinds of soils and their properties and need to reinvent old traditions. These also helped them related with the diversity of India, appreciate various skills and respect every profession.
Spirit of Universality
One of the significant outcomes of learning is to attain the understanding of the self. We understand ourselves when we express ourselves. When we choose to celebrate Independence Day, Raksha Bandhan and Eid on the same day — the expression of Independence arises from an ability to discern, an ability to include varied points of views, an ability to create spaces for expressions that don’t necessarily emerge from a singular point.
In recent times and age we more often see narrow interpretations of freedom emerging. At such times, the inclusive energies of children at Shikshantar are a whiff of fresh air. Shikshantar witnessed the ‘spirit of universality’ in its pure form when the entire community came together to hoist the national flag and share the colourful bonds of rakhi that we cherish. At the same time, sounds of ‘La ilaha illa allah Muhammadur Rasulullah’ filled the school amphitheatre. The threads of warmth and the hugs of Eid coexisted, sans friction.
And then, there was more to unfold. A stupa installation ceremony on the same day deepened our relationship with familiar energies. Karmic connections could only be the explanation for the timing of the Stupa installation ceremony in the school space on the same day. How the Stupa mystically came to be a part of our lives is another story. While at retreat at Dharamshala, Minoti didi, cherished by all of us as our mentor at Shikshantar, had the immense good fortune to be blessed by Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche in person. The distinctive, Lama Zopa Rinpoche is a tibetan Buddhist scholar and meditator. Lama Zopa is most noteworthy as the co-founder, with Lama Yeshe, of Kopan Monastery and the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT). Rinpoche has for thirty years overseen the spiritual activities of the extensive FPMT network of over 165 centres, projects and services in 40 countries worldwide.
He is also known as the heart child of His Holiness, The 14th Dalai Lama.
The Victory Stupa was given by Kyabje Zopa Rinpoche to Minoti Didi for the children of Shikshantar. The connection from there has reached all of us at Shikshantar and we feel the extended grace and energies.
In one of the Buddhist teachings at Shikshantar, we made an attempt to understand ‘interconnectedness’, and now when we join the dots; it seems so relevant, so simple and right there for us to feel. A Stupa symbolises the ‘Buddha’s mind – empathy, compassion and kindness. This resonates deeply with our school philosophy. The Buddhist way of being encourages us to further tune our consciousness and uncover these qualities so that they are expressed in our daily practices in a natural and spontaneous manner.
Shikshantar is ever grateful to Venerable Kabir ji who facilitated the installation ceremony. Creating a sacred energy that was palpable to all. He arrived amidst the chants of ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ and sat silently through the lyrics of the multi faith prayer. There was a calm and tranquillity as children listened to Kabir ji and Minoti didi dialogue with the children on what is a Stupa, how it would integrate within the school surroundings and extend its grace. Intrigued by their narration, they came up with thoughtful responses and questions – “What are the eight kinds of Stupas? Why does this Victory Stupa have circular steps? How did the Buddha extend his life? Can we decide when we want to leave our bodies?”
Venerable Kabir further emphasised the benefits of the Stupa and that when we circumambulate the Stupa, we accumulate many known and unknown benefits. We can recite ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ or any other sacred mantra. It creates mindfulness so we are mindful of our own self to be the finest versions of ourselves.
In the words of Kyabje Zopa Rinpoche:
“Each time you see it there is great, great purification and that brings you to enlightenment; this is just by looking at the stupa…….”
“This is a great thing. It purifies negative karma collected from beginningless rebirths that are obstacles to happiness—temporary and ultimate happiness—and especially to actualising all the realisations on the path to enlightenment. And it creates the cause to achieve the path to enlightenment—to actualise the teachings that you have heard and read in your heart…….”
Prayers offered and the Stupa installed, it now stands as a symbol of true and harmonious relationships. A day to be remembered, a day to be marked, for in Faith and Trust we have evolved as a school community.
कार्टून्स एंड कैरीकेचर्स
समूहों में नए रंगों को लाना था, बड़ा मज़ेदार था शीशे में खुद को निहारना,
रंग बिरंगे कार्टून्स को बुलाना था। बड़ा मज़ेदार था खुद को कागज़ पर उतारना।
आए वो कार्टून्स हँसी के खज़ाने लेकर, मैंने समझा खुद को और अपनी मुस्कान को,
हँसते हँसते कार्टून्स की दुनिया में जाना था। दी मैंने नई समझ खुद की पहचान को।
हमने बनाए कार्टून्स अपने और भर दिए कई रंग, कार्टून्स और कैरीकेचर्स समूहों में नए रंग लाए,
हमने बनाई कॉमिक्स उनसे और सोचे उनके नए ढंग। उन्हें देख हम दिल खोल कर मुस्कुराए।
फिर जब कैरीकेचर पर बात हुई,
हमारे चहरों पर हँसी खिली,
चहरों को देखने के लिए हमें एक नई नज़र मिली।
यूँ खिलखिलाया शिक्षांतर
लो फिर एक बार हमने शिक्षांतर में आज़ादी का जश्न मनाया,
Amphi theatre में बैठकर खुले आसमाँ के नीचे हमने खुद को आज़ाद पाया।
आज़ाद पाया डर से,
जो हमे कुछ कहने से रोकता है।
खुद को आज़ाद पाया उस भेदभाव से,
जो हमें छोटे छोटे हिस्सों से बाँटता है।
आज़ाद किया हमने खुद को,
भाषा, रंग, वेश-भूषा के फ़र्क से।
आज़ाद किया उस गुस्से से खुद को,
जो आता है कभी -कभी विपरित तर्क से।
पर इस बार जश्न में केवल आज़ादी नहीं,
रक्षाबंधन और ईद भी जश्न का हिस्सा हुए।
प्यार जो संवारा है हमने हमारे रिश्तों में,
वो सभी रिश्ते जश्न का किस्सा हुए।
हमने तिरंगा फैराया और ईद मुबारक कह कर,
एक दूसरे को गले लगाया।
सभी मुस्कुराहटों से खिलखिलाया शिक्षांतर,
और हर रिश्ता गहरा सामने आया।
Summer Work experiences presented by children in Primary School.
The spaces of Shikshantar await the arrival of children after summer break and it is always heartening to see happy and excited children looking forward to share every minute detail with their friends, didis and bhaiyas. It is then that you realize that they had a fulfilling summer vacation. Their summer work was an extension of the work they had done in the respective groups. Only that, this time they had to bring it alive through practical models and booklets. The given summer work brought out the individual beauty of each child and they were thrilled to be sharing their interpretations of the projects they explored.
From an Eiffel tower made out of waste materials to a bioscope showcasing animals; from creating a metro station displaying different 3D shapes in our environment to innovative puppets created to narrate stories in Hindi; from interaction with different people in society to experiments they had tried at home. Their creativity and innovation knew no bounds. What better way to showcase this amazing work of theirs than inviting their peers for this wonderful exhibit? Peers from different groups visited the groups and the children eagerly answered all their questions confidently. It was a true testimony to the thought and depth they had put into their work. This is how all children shared their knowledge amongst each other – to learn, to share and to grow at its best.
Session on ‘Compassion and Kindness in Teaching and Learning’ by Mr. Ravi Gulati
In continuum of our practices of reconnecting through a circle time post summer break, we as a school community were part of a session on ‘Compassion and Kindness in Teaching and Learning’.
This was facilitated by Ravi bhaiya (Mr. Ravi Gulati) of Manzil. The objective of this session was to support each other in the inclusion of SEE learning practices in our classrooms. SEE learning is described as an education of the heart and mind. It is an initiative of Emory University under the guidance of His Holiness Dalai Lama.
Ravi bhaiya is the co-founder of Manzil, a youth lead non-profit organisation. He also engages himself with youth initiatives through institutions such as Delhi University, Ashoka University and Pravah.
‘You teach who you are’ – SEE learning provides educators with a comprehensive framework for the cultivation of social, emotional and ethical competencies. Ravi bhaiya with his wife and partner Neha didi facilitated activities which were for both internal and external development of an individual. Through these activities they highlighted the importance of personal domain of each child, the need for empathy at a social level and understanding the larger world by interacting and creating a web of interdependence. These interactive experiences provided a platform for a participative environment.
Season of celebrations complemented the monsoon this August. Together they showered vibrancy in our school spaces and filled it with colours of flowers, music and dance. Keeping the essence of these festivals of establishing connect with each other, co-existence with nature, acceptance of all beings and reflecting over what freedom means, children and facilitators enhanced the festive spirit.
A walk through the premises, absorbing and understanding how each space contributes to the learning experiences of children is an initial connect made by a facilitator in Shikshantar. Further, to deeply understand the process and build linkages with the philosophy and practices, an Induction Programme is facilitated for new facilitators every academic year in the months of April and May. The fresh perspectives and open interactions is a welcomed learning for old team members also.
Sessions included educational philosophies and work of educators and thinkers such as Erikson, Piaget, Vygotsky, His Holiness Dalai Lama, Aurobindo and the Mother. Sharing of classroom experiences, interactive discussions, group work, case vignettes and power point presentations guided the facilitators to reflect on the application of theories and philosophies in classrooms. Children’s anecdotes and observations shared by the facilitators helped in widening the understanding. Experiences of resources such as art, music, dance and sports also provided them an understanding of the importance of integral education and holistic development of children.
Opame and Rejoice
Buddha’s mind and body both find space in the Shikshantar ethos, therefore children spontaneously gravitated towards ‘Opame’ being a name for one of their new group of Class VII. As an emanation of which, Venerable Kabir Ji has been kind enough to oblige our children of Grade VII with an illuminating session on ‘Opame and Rejoice’.
The session was held on Thursday, 9th May, 2019 from 11:30 – 1:00 pm in Vajah Bevajah.
In an interactive session with Venerable Kabir ji our ever-curious children set on a journey to find out the true meaning of various emotions of life. The questions were a reflection of the affliction free psychic being of the children.
As children not many of us have pondered over the true meaning of happiness. We witnessed such thoughtful curiosity arise from the minds of twelve years olds. In an interactive session with Venerable Kabir ji, children inquired about the true meaning of happiness.
”Is there anything as everlasting happiness?” was asked by one child. Kabir ji kindled our consciousness in his response: such happiness can be experienced when the mind is free of all conflicting factors. He further suggested that one can experiment and experience it personally.
“What is the greater happiness – one of our own or that of others?” was another question from our children. Kabir ji advised to awaken our inherent wisdom; we have the answer in us, we only need to look deeper within ourselves for the answer; meditation can help us in this endeavour.
The question on happiness resurfaced after a short meditation. A child introspected, “When we were asked to think about the good things we had done for others, surprisingly, it was mostly the negative things, times when we were rude to others that came to our mind first. We seem to be naturally drawn towards negativity.”
A pursuit to understand meditation and what to reflect on while meditating was the evident subsequent question. With his natural ease with children, Kabir ji enlightened us about two kinds of meditation that can be imbibed in our daily routine.
As this interactive session continued, we witnessed deeper introspection among the learners, and out of such introspection arose questions that makes one wonder at the insight of these blooming buds at Shikshantar.
“Is mind the soul?”
“If the soul lives on, then does anybody ever die?”
“I need more clarification on the understanding of mind, soul and spirit.”
Humorously and meaningfully, Kabir ji addressed and satiated the eager young citizens of the world.
Learners were further enlightened on the true meaning of ‘Opame’ – infinite love, compassion, kindness without bias. ‘Opame’ could be one person or many of us together.
Thus, strengthening our bond with Opame, rejoicing in the glory of this infinite light, we eagerly look forward to many such interesting sessions with Kabir ji.
Venerable Kabirji facilitated a session/teaching on ‘Why are you being educated – from a perspective of Jiddu Krishnamurti and Buddha’.
It is indeed a significant event, when educators stop and deliberate on ‘Education’ and attempt to understand its etymology, its defintion, its purpose and the future direction that it needs to be nudged into.
‘Why are we being educated?’ was the topic on which Venerable Kabirji recently spoke to the students, teachers and staff of Shikshantar.
The session started with looking at the meaning of the word ‘Education’ in different languges. While its Sanskrit equivalent ‘Shiksha’ means ‘to train the mind based on the authentic parampara’, the Latin verb from which it is derived, ‘Educare’, means ‘to draw out or bring forth’.
Through sharing of words by thinkers like Sri Aurobindo, Jiddu Krihnamoorthy, Kabirji aquainted his audience with the meaning of education in its truest sense- that which relates to self-awareness, an understanding of one’s emotions, a liberation from the constraints of the mind, that which leads to Nirvana and Moksha. This education rests on the premise that every individual holds within himself/herself a pure seed which when provided with optimal opportunities grows and flowers into a balanced and happy human being. The purpose of education, according to Gandhiji, has to be a development of the head, heart and hands.
Once the tone of the talk was set, it didnt take long for all in the room to realise that contemporary education in the country had departed far away from the ideals, lending truth to Sri Aurobindo’s words of 1909 that ‘Education in India is immitative, self-forgetful and fake’.
The gravity of the situation was very well communicated through Kabirji’s choice of words and the seriousness on his face and in his voice. All educators present in the room went back with a sense of responsibility, of being change-makers, in helping realign education to be meaningful, contextual and authentic, focusing on the development of the psychic being.
‘Investigate what genuine love is’, were the parting words of Kabirji.
And the starting point of a new journey for all teachers.
Babbla Aur Bapu @ Sabarmati Ashram
‘Babbla Aur Bapu @ Sabarmati Ashram‘, a theatre presentation by Sanskaar Rang Toli, the Theatre-in-Education company of National School of Drama was staged at Shikshantar on Thursday, 25th April for Classes V and VI and on Friday, 26th April for Classes VII and VIII.
Directed by M.K. Raina, this play explores Gandhian Narain Desai’s narratives of being a child at Sabarmati ashram. Narain Desai is a renowned performer of Gandhi Katha. The play opens windows into Gandhi’s ‘Nai Talim,’ a form of education and social revolution. According to M.K. Raina, it is a play about how Gandhi’s life and ideas that transformed the children who knew him. These are the ideas that contemporary school children should also know. Minimalism, which is symbolic of Gandhi’s philosophy, is reflected through this play.
Raina’s stage comprised of a charkha and a desk while the costumes worn by the actors were made of khadi, according to the rules of the ashra. Incidents of Bapu going on long walks, running and playing with children, are depicted in the play. M.K. Raina has turned Desai’s memoir into a musical play.
Children of middle school enjoyed the play and learnt about finer nuances of theatre. Children had an interactive session with M.K.Raina and raised many pertinent questions related to the story line of the play.
A Dharma Talk
A Dharma Talk by The Venerable Geshe Tenzin Namdak is always a meeting with the self. With his calm demeanor and a gentle voice laced with subtle humour, Geshe La’s words bring home many an insightful moment for his listeners.
It was no different this time around.
“I, me is not concrete”, shared Geshe La.
The silence in the room was palpable as the audience plunged into depths of thought to grapple with the enormity of the words. For several of us, it was a revelation and a discovery at the same time, opening up immense possibilities of self-awareness and self-realization.
When Geshe La attempted to encapsulate ‘Samsara’ and ‘Nirvana’, he did so in the context of ‘Emptiness’ which he described as the ultimate reality. Just as knowledge of what makes us happy comes from knowing about all that causes unhappiness, an enlightened state of mind or ‘Nirvana’ can be attained with the knowledge and experience of ‘Emptiness’ of the unenlightened state or ‘Samsara’. He could not stress enough on the benefits of meditation to train the mind gradually for mental consciousness, an inner awareness and ultimately peace of mind.
An observant and attentive audience, questioned Geshe La on their emerging thoughts- When we say that soul is eternal and moves from one body to another, are there fixed number of souls?, Why does Geshe La gesticulate towards his heart while talking about his mind?, Why are there many more children who are precocious in their pursuit of different fields?
The talk gave food for thought to one and all. As also questions to mull over and answers to seek.
From oneself. Through one’s reflections.
There were so many possibilities created through an hour and a half in the midst of an enlightened being like Geshe La.
Sports week at Pre primary
Nursery Day Trip to Tau Devi Lal Biodiversity park- Strengthing relationship with plants & trees
Leisure Valley Day trip of Play group – An extension of their experiences to the theme, ‘Gardening’.
Glimpses of Diwali celebration at Pre-Primary
Dussehra celebration at Pre primary
Kindergarten – Day trip to Tau Devi Lal Bio Diversity Park as part of their theme related to “Birds”
Save Our Forest!
An event “Save Our Forest” was organised by friends of the Aravali Biodiversity Park (which included concerned citizens, communities of Naturalists, Birders, Photographers, Walkers, Runners, city schools and colleges) on 14th November 2018. The idea behind the event was to bring the attention of the government authorities to the future they are proposing for our children by cutting a six-lane highway through the heart of Gurugram’s green lungs. Students of Classes VII, VIII, IX and XI accompanied by their facilitators participated in the event by forming a human chain, holding placards to convey their message in a peaceful yet powerful manner. The children have also written letters to the Chief Minister of Haryana and the Prime Minister of India requesting them to “Save Our forest”.
Sixteenth Shikshantar Birthday
Science Exposition (27th of September 2018)
Shikshantar celebrated its sixteenth birthday this year. Each year children take this opportunity to strengthen their connections with various aspects of Shikshantar and the world around them. This year ‘Science’ has been the focus of exploration and study.
Science is all around them; including their spaces, Maths, Sports, Art and even Music. How do birds sing? Where does the rainbow get its colours from? How do different kinds of materials used affect our art? What is the impact on light when it passes through tightly packed molecules? Where all in my home can I find Science? – these were some of the questions/ideas/thoughts/areas our children of Classes I -IV explored and studied at their own levels and would like to share with you.
Diya lighting under the Champa tree marked beginning of the celebration, echoes of the birthday song and multi faith prayer filled the space to bring us together as a community. Art displays spread from the school entrance, across the corridors and leading up to each and every school corner spoke of children’s participation and engagement at every step. Models, projects, charts and write ups with children standing close to them, eager to take parents and other visitors through the process. While at one level this was a culmination of their curricular experiences, at another level this was an outcome of their collaborative efforts.
The celebration of a collective journey and an individual journey of each and every person associated with Shikshantar. Every moment we are born; every moment we are free…
Happy birthday Shikshantar!
Season of celebrations complemented the monsoon this August. Together they showered vibrancy in our school spaces and filled it with colours of flowers, music and dance. Keeping the essence of these festivals of establishing connect with each other, co-existence with nature, acceptance of all beings and reflecting over what freedom means, children and facilitators enhanced the festive spirit.
Second Open House Interactions
Saturday, 18th of August 2018
Second open house interactions, a significant part of our parent education plan for classes I – IV were organised on Saturday, 18th of August 2018. Themes for all sessions were decided keeping in mind the cognitive and socio/emotional developmental milestones of children.
Themes facilitated were:
Class I – Strengthening our relationship with Hindi Language
The session focused on the processes children go through to create an interest in Hindi language and which leads to effective language development. Experiential corners set the premise for collective sessions, where in we together understand the role of ‘Whole language approach’ in facilitating Hindi for our children.
Class II -Integration of Creative experiences in the curriculum
The objective of this session was to understand the integration of various creative experiences such as music, art and creative movements in our curriculum – to connect with themes, introduce an abstract concept, address social and emotional issues, enhance creativity and imagination.
Class III – Principles of Project Work
Hands-on project corners that parents explored gave a glimpse of how a topic is facilitated through various project experiences, keeping in mind the interest, multiple levels and involvement of children. Large group discussion was focused on how themes can be facilitated in different ways to deepen the connect children make with the world around them.
Class IV – Social and Emotional Metamorphosis
“I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself” – Frank Kafka, The metamorphosis. The growing years of age 9-10 is a developmental milestone, with children undergoing changes they are trying to understand. The experiential session was on how as parents and facilitators we need to understand the reason behind their behavioural manifestation and guide them.
First Vishvas Open House Interaction
Theme for the session: A shared journey – Towards Independent Living
“Self-propelling motivation and belief is the only force to nurture and reckon with and diffuse social barriers”. This essence was taken forward in the session facilitated by Dr. Asha Singh and her daughter Ms Maya. An expert in the field of Child development, Dr. Asha Singh, shared her research based valuable inputs to the parent community. Profound insights of her journey as a parent possessed the potential to inspire the educators as well as the parents.
Maya’s effervescent sharing of her attainment of academic, social and professional milestones generated hope and opened new avenues. Through Maya’s narratives from her school years and workplace, Dr. Singh emphasized on the fact that children thrive if a dyadic relationship is premised on implicit trust and belief in their abilities. Sharing the possibilities for independent living, she further elaborated on the significance of having small supportive groups. These groups generate belief, positivity and unflinching support that help nurture the individual optimally.
An interactive and thought provoking session, it left us with a reflection that to overcome any challenges in life, we can learn to convert our despair into humor and laughter. Finally, consistent and collaborative efforts will continue to create a positive and enabling environment for self reliance.
Exhibition of Summer Experiences
Summer Experiences Exhibition in Class II
Come end of summer break, and the walls of Shikshantar are abuzz with excitement and enthusiasm of starting afresh. A feeling of returning to the familiar, albeit refreshed, rejuvenated and relaxed, envelopes the school. This energy becomes the ground on which children reconnect with their friends, didis and bhaiyas, and environment.
The first week in primary school is an opportunity to children to share their summer experiences, learnings and explorations. This time, such a sharing was facilitated through exhibitions wherein each group invited another to view their summer projects. Tables were set up to display a myriad of creations. Handmade jewellery and 3D models (both moving and static!) inspired from reused objects, reading logs with painted covers of books, math games involving addition and subtraction, and stories supplemented with handmade puppets – these were some of the displays at our exhibitions! Children waited patiently for their peers to come to their exhibit, and when someone did, they talked at length with them about the same. Their peers reciprocated the excitement with attention and curiosity.
All in all, the most prominent feature was the children’s visible sense of ownership and confidence regarding their work. They truly celebrated and appreciated each other’s work and in doing so, they welcomed back each other with joy and love.
POSH Training Session on 26th December 2017 for our support staff
Loving Kindness and Respect – Teaching by Venerable Geshe Tenzin Namdakon on 3rd Nov 2017
The interdependence of child, parent and teacher
“Know your mind first, to be able to understand the minds of others”, echoed the words of Venerable Geshe Tenzin Namdak as he addressed a gathering of students, teachers and parents at Shikshantar. Sitting under the Champa tree, Geshe la appeared to be the Buddha himself. Still face, gentle demeanour, serene energies and words of wisdom continued to flow in the spaces.
Geshe La touched upon the profound nature of student, teacher and parent relationship. An institution grows through the spirit of humility, compassion and respect for each other. To enter the orbit of happiness, we must be aware of our feelings, thoughts and must be able to train our minds. Meditation is the key to this – may seem to be difficult in the beginning but can be mastered with consistent practice. Expansion of inner happiness is achieved by treating all we come across with kindness, empathy and respect. This is the basis of true and harmonious relationships.
Quoting his experiences with people from various walks of life, Geshe La was able to reach out to each and every soul through his teaching. From what we were yesterday, to what we are today, to what we can be tomorrow; we must consistently strive to evolve as individuals.
Geshe La Tenzin Namdak responded to questions from students, parents and teachers – What is the right age for a student to begin meditation? , Why do I lose focus and find it a challenge to meditate?, Why do those whom we love fail to understand us? With a smile on his face, Geshe La asked, do we understand ourselves?
A lot to sink in our souls and absorb, we will continue to do so for days to come. Geshe La you have left us with a lot to ponder on and with the quest for more.
Refresher training session for our Drivers and Conductors bhaiya’s by Pasco Automobiles on 14th October 2017
‘Our Colourful India’ and ‘Transport’
(Class I – August 2017)
The theme on ‘Our Colourful India’ helped children relate with cultural diversities – language, food, clothing, folk tales and songs. Interactions were organised with didis belonging to various states of India. Children curiously observed didis in their vibrant attire and happily made way for the dragon to enter their classrooms.
They shared their views on what ‘independence’ or ‘freedom’ means to them. Children said, ‘we can now read stories on our own, write our names, tie our shoe laces, kick the ball in the right direction; we feel independent’.
Visit to the Air force Museum at Palam was organised to deepen their experiences related to the theme on ‘Transport’. As part of the theme, interaction with a pilot parent was scheduled during the week. Children wanted to know about the black box, its use, lights of the plane and how a plane takes off. They joined him with excitement in an imaginary aircraft into the sky
Second Open House Interactions (Primary School)
(Saturday, 17th of August 2017)
Second open house interactions for classes I – IV were organised on Saturday, 17th of August 2017. Themes for all sessions were decided keeping in mind the developmental milestones of children. Facilitators were involved at each and every step of the planning, from deliberation to closure; they collaborated in small groups to take forward the process.
It was heartening to observe the active participation of parents in all hands on experiences.
This included creating stories, role plays, participation in project work and intensive focus group discussions on case studies. Themes facilitated were: Strengthening our relationship with Hindi Language (Class I), Role of stories in cognitive and socio/emotional development (Class II), Principles of Project Work (Class III), Social and Emotional Metamorphosis (Class IV).
“We did not go through such experiences and it great to see the experiences through which our children learn”, “I never thought Hindi could be an experience”, “I was transformed to my childhood through these stories”, “I guess children go through bigger challenges than us”; as remarked by some of the parents.
The season of celebrations
The month of August witnessed joy, warmth and togetherness as children of Classes I-IV came together to celebrate Independence Day, Rakhi and Janmashtami. Bright orange sun peeping from behind the clouds, first monsoon showers and the glistening droplets of water added to the zest and festivities. Floral rangolis and art displays created out of recycled material adorned the front lawns and corridors.
Context was created through age relevant circle time discussions, stories and themes. Looking for similarities, children of Class I shared ‘Janmashtami is Krishna’s birthday and Independence day is India’s Janmashtami.’ The spirit of caring and sharing was reflected as children tied rakhis to trees, MarshMellow, their didis and peers. Cultural diversities were explored through songs, art forms, clothing and food. Reflections and discussions were facilitated to understand ‘freedom’, as shared by a child, ‘Freedom means to read a book sitting under the Champa tree.”
Display of summer experiences – Class II
The school reopened to a spectacle – that was the culmination of classroom themes taken forward by the children during their summer holidays.
After coming back, the children were enthusiastic to share their holiday experiences. To culminate their experiences, didis and children together decided to set up an exhibition in the respective groups. Children enjoyed displaying their explorations and experiences by setting up respective corners for activities such as green club, models out of reused and recycled material, travelogues and maths games. They pro actively took up their individual responsibilities of their corner and took joy and pride in explaining about them to their peers from the same groups as well as other groups. They exhibited immense confidence while interacting with peers and were whole – heartedly engaged in the process. The exhibition helped taking forward their journey of the summer break experiences in an innovative and beautiful manner.
First Open House interaction – (Classes I – IV)
The First Open House interactions for the session 2017-18 (Classes I – IV) were scheduled on Saturday, 29th of April, 2017.
Purpose of the same was to share some of the experiences that our children go through at school and enable parents to relate to perspectives and approaches to learning at Shikshantar. This was also an opportunity for parents to interact with their child’s new group and subject facilitators. Some of the groups elected their new parent representatives.
Experiential corners in respective groups set the premise for collective sessions. Sessions were organised keeping in mind specific needs of each age level. They included ‘Three Principles of Learning’, ‘Math through Manipulatives’ and ‘Approaches to Subjects’.
Children of Class IV explored the theme on Ruskin Bond in Trinachiketa. They discussed about the books they have read, researched about the author and expressed it in the form of posters.
Our bond with Ruskin Bond
It is Ruskin Bond’s birthday,
We want to celebrate,
Look what we have made!
We have written about him
After reading and researching,
You also will get to know,
How’s our bond with this author,
We have written about, who is so well known.
The books of Ruskin Bond we like,
He has written many books of many types.
His books are based of nature,
Cherry tree, The island of trees, The blue umbrella,
Angry river and many more.
Which is the book you like to read?
-Falak, Luft group (Class IV)
3rd Open house interaction Pre Primary
The third and final Open House of the academic session 2016-2017 saw enthusiastic participation by the parents of the Pre-primary block. The experiences designed for them, relating to activities enjoyed by their children, helped them connect to the child within them. Creating river systems in the sandpit, building housing complexes with wooden blocks and singing lullabies to their imagined young ones, they did it all with complete enjoyment. Understanding the relevance of ‘free play’ helped them feel more relaxed and connected to their child’s life.
Mann Karta Hai
Mann Karta hai chidiya ke jaise udhne ka,
Mann Karta hai painting karte rahne ka,
Mann Karta hai ki Mamma Papa ke saath khoob saare songs gayoon,
Mann Karta hai ki Dadu ko dikhaoon main kitne tez bhagta hoon.
These and many more wonderful moments were together shared by the families of Playgroup children, along with their group didis, on the day of ‘Mann Karta Hai’. The children surprised all with their stamina, enthusiasm and expression of simple joys.
Holi celebration Pre Primary
The advent of spring, the abundance of colourful flowers and butterflies, the shower of ‘Tesu’ flowers. It’s time to celebrate the festival of ‘Holi’. The children of Pre-primary block made natural colours, ‘besan laddoos’ and played ‘Holi’ with their friends and didis. It was heartening to see them gently ask before applying colour on the cheeks of their peers. They celebrated in the spirit of ‘Togetherness’ and took back loving memories of this festival.
Hamara Manch, the much awaited event on the calendar of the Pre-primary block, was celebrated by the children and their didis on a warm winter morning of February. Sharing their favourite chosen experiences, songs, creative movements or stories with their families and friends was something that each one of them had been looking forward to for a long time. Dancing like a peacock or enacting a hibernating bear, rowing a boat or together flying in an aeroplane, cartwheels and rhythmic movements, our mound of the front lawn came alive with these and much more.
New beginnings, learnings, possibilities…
Academic session for the year 2017–18 unfolded on Wednesday, 29th of March 2017. With a lot of excitement and smiles on their faces, children entered their old groups where didis were waiting to welcome them. Some of them were anxious whether their didis would accompany them to the new groups while some looked forward to the new spaces and friends who would join them.
After the group movement, a diya was lit during circle time to mark a new journey of learning and experiences. During a discussion on ‘what would we like to carry with us on our new beginning’, a child shared, “I want to carry mindfulness, love, friendship, beliefs”.
Visit to Mangar Bunni
All team members of Primary School visited Mangar Bunni on Saturday, 18th of March 2017. This visit was facilitated by Chetan Aggarwal who is an independent Forest and Environment Analyst and a Senior Fellow with the Centre for Ecology, Development and Research (CEDAR). Chetan is also a parent with Shikshantar.
The purpose of this visit was to connect with the biodiversity and ecosystems surrounding Gurgaon. The team walked through the forest and connected with the flora and fauna. It was interesting to know about the names of various trees and also the cultural beliefs associated with the same. A trek of 5 kms through rocky patches and steep slopes challenged physical capacities and opened windows to a world of learning that can be taken to the classrooms.
Lost and Found – Indus Valley civilization
Children of Class IV explored the themes ‘Lost and Found – Indus Valley civilization’ – an ancient civilization of the Indian subcontinent. The theme helped children in making connections with India’s past and developing a better understanding of people and culture. Keeping in view the age group, the theme was taken forward through stories, video presentations, field trips and clay model creation.
Training Session on 4th March 2017 for our support staff by Tata Motors – [Hamare Bus Ki Baat – Let’s help make bus travel for children a happy experience]
Campus Bird Count 2017
The Campus Bird Count is a sub-event of the larger Great Backyard Bird Count. It is a coordinated effort to document the birdlife in multiple campuses across India.
A team from Shikshantar participated in the Campus bird count event this year, an initiative taken by the Science Committee of the Student Council. The procedure is to identify and count all species detected in every 15 minutes of the walk in a particular location. The checklists of the entire duration of the walk is uploaded for every 15 minutes on ‘eBird’ which is an online checklist program, launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society. eBird provides information on bird abundance and distribution.
Birding enthusiasts from Classes IX and XI gathered at the school on Saturday, 18th February 2017, at 7am in the morning to count the various bird species frequenting the mini habitats. The team comprised 12 students and 5 facilitators. The walk was led by Mridul Anand, an avid birder and a student of Class XI. The walk started from the primary wing. The team was full of excitement to see these creatures in their natural habitat but had to remain very calm as silence is the main key to observe the beautiful ones in their natural niche. Children were equipped with cameras and binoculars as they didn’t want to miss a single glimpse of these birds. From the Primary block the team moved to the Senior block and then the team covered the Pre-primary block. By 9 am the team had been able to spot 27 species of birds in the school campus.
Two spotted owlets peeking through metal pipes in a very adorable manner were the highlights of the day. Some of the other species spotted were Red-wattled Lapwing, Eurasian Hoopoe, Rufous Treepie, White Wagtail, Purple Sunbird, Oriental White eye, Shikra, Brahminy Starling, Common Tailorbird and Asian Koel.
The observations led the team to conclude that our campus is suitable as an avian habitat. The checklists can be accessed through the following links:
Training Session on Fire Extinguisher for our support staff – [Safety and Security are always on high priority] – 25th February 2017
Meditation Sessions At Shikshantar
As the Mother says, “It is only in quietness and peace that one can know what is the best thing to do.”
Meditation is one of the techniques that helps in being alert, conscious and connected with the potential within us. By tuning in to our consciousness, we can cultivate an inner knowing that wisely guides and directs our work with ourselves and with children.
Partnering with Tushita Mahayana Meditation Centre we have initiated meditation sessions at Shikshantar. Tushita was founded in 1979 by the late Ven.Lama Thubten Yeshe and by its present Spiritual Director Ven. Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche. It is directly blessed by H.H the Dalai Lama.
These sessions are being facilitated by Ven.Samten on Wednesdays (4:00 pm – 5:00 pm), in the circular Meditation Room in Senior School. Sessions are open to teachers and parents.
Creating a like minded community
In our endeavour to come together as a community of thinking feeling individuals, Shikshantar opend its learning spaces for a group of school leaders from various parts of the country. In the month of January a group of educators which included School Principals, Directors and Administrators, visited Shikshantar to understand the philosophy, practices and how the physical spaces lend to learning experiences of children. This visit included a school tour, classroom observations and interaction with school team members. Possibilities of collaboration in the form of teacher exchange programmes and how a similar thought process could reach other schools were discussed.
Meeting an Author
Talon the Falcon is a peregrine falcon
A dangerous bird trapped in a cage
Friends save him and free he flies
(verse by Arvaan -Breeze)
Nature and stories are an integral part of our curriculum. Children explore various experiences through nature walks and themes such as Birds’, ‘Our Feather Friends’, ‘A Marvel called Aravalli’. They read stories on animals and birds to strengthen their understanding. In context of these themes and experiences we had invited Mr. Deepak Dalal – author of the book series ‘Feathered Tales’ for interaction with children of Classes III and IV. He shared about his interest in writing stories on nature with children. He also discussed about the release of his two new books titled ‘Talon the Falcon’ and ‘A Flamingo in my Garden’.
Sports Day Classes I-II
Development of ‘physical being’ is fundamental to the holistic development of each and every child. From connecting with the ‘oorja’ within, our curriculum provides opportunities for channelizing physical energies on the sports field. Sports goals for each age level are planned keeping in mind children’s developmental needs and physical capacities.
Sports Day for children is visualised as a culmination and celebration of their outdoor experiences. Participation in a variety of outdoor activities encourages coordination, balance, rhythm and develops team spirit.
Sports Day Classes III-IV (17th February, 2017)
With a lot of enthusiasm and energy, children of Classes III–IV participated in the sports day experiences. A reflection of their coordination, stamina and willingness to explore physical capacities, sports day is a celebration of their outdoor experiences. Whether it be rotating hooplas around their bodies, stretching themselves to attempt callisthenic exercises or balancing to create various pyramid formations, team spirit was clearly visible. A pleasant sunny day and energies of parents added to the vibrant atmosphere.
Refresher training session for our Drivers and Conductors bhaiya’s by Pasco Automobiles
Holi Celebration in Primary
Open House Interaction for Class VI
Saraswati Puja in Primary Block
SUPW activity in Senior School
During the last two weeks, the students of Class IX have been engaged in a very interesting hands-on activity. A semi open shelter is being constructed to house a Kiln that will be used for firing the clay models and pottery made by the students!
The structure was designed by students along with architect mentors Sanjay Prakash and Anubha Kakroo. Now, as part of their SUPW classes, the children are building part of the actual structure.
The children worked out their own patterns with bricks and brick tiles, and built the low height ‘jaali’ walls with their own hands. They learnt how to apply mortar, place and level bricks, how to make stable structures and position joints. With the intention of recycling waste, used bottles were also incorporated into one wall, making it an eco-friendly structure.
In the second stage, the students are designing and laying a mosaic floor with broken glazed tiles.
Open House Interaction for Class VIII
The Third ‘Open House Interaction for Class VIII was held on 30th January 2016. The objective of the session was to introduce children to the ICSE framework of Classes IX and X. The Open house Interaction was facilitated by Garima didi and the subject facilitators of Class IX.
The session began with a presentation on the assessment pattern in Classes IX and weightage of marks for the subject papers as well as SUPW. Then the children were apprised about Group I and Group III subject options. Under Group I, the children have to choose between the three language option offered to them, i.e. Hindi, German and Sanskrit. Under Group III, children have to choose from 4 subject options, i.e. Art, Physical Education, Computer Applications and Home Science. The concerned facilitators presented the details of their course, assessment patterns and the project work involved. After this, the gathering was apprised of National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS), an alternate medium of assessment.
Post the presentation, the session was opened to parents and children for sharing their thoughts and queries. It brought up several concerns from parents and children alike. This session was well received by all and helped the children in thinking about the subject combinations that would be most suitable for them in Classes IX and X.
Open House Interaction for Class VII
The Second Open House Interaction for Class VII was facilitated on 30th January, 2016. The objective of the session was to help parents further their understanding of their children as adolescents.
The First Open House Interaction had aimed to communicate the perspectives of the children to parents. On the brink of their adolescence, children are faced with numerous changes and challenges-physical, emotional and intellectual. A need was felt by children and facilitators to communicate openly to parents about these changes and their impact on self and others. To take this process further, the Second Open House Interaction was seen as an opportunity for parents to reflect and gauge the impact of their attitudes and behaviour on their children. Sunil bhaiya facilitated session on ‘Understanding Psycho – Social Development of Children: Erikson’s Perspective’. Erikson’s theory was seen as a tool to help parents in the process of reflection. Some studied situations of children and parental behaviours were also shared to built in the context for the session. The session was well received by all and helped each one present reflect on their own behaviour and interactions with the adolescent.
Open House Interaction for Class VI