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To all our friends!
Some months have passed and another school year has come to an end, older students have graduated and left for a new chapter in their lives, while younger ones are stepping over the threshold.., wide-eyed, clutching a parent's hand, timidly checking out the new environment and… ready for a pretty school dress..
Welcome on board!
Once again we hope to give you some glimpses of the busy, buzzing life here on campus, of the achievements made and the challenges faced. Most of all, we wish to reach out to you with the joy of the children and offer you the opportunity to participate in this demanding Auroville venture of direct involvement with youngsters from the villages nearby.
Activities for the students
It has been a full year, and we share with you some colourful moments from the many activities which are taking place. Besides the morning assembly where all children and teachers gather daily before going off to their classrooms, one of the special features of our school is special class room project work. Special project money received via SAIIER is divided among the 8 grades and the teacher or teacher team of each class chooses a particular topic, which is used for all the educative subjects of that class in varied and often playful ways. When the topic is understood, project displays, exhibitions, paintings, songs or little theatre plays are prepared after which the class concerned gives separate presentations to both a lower and a higher class. Of course, when it's a really nice event, the entire school and even Auroville may be invited. The same goes for special achievements in the optional classes, such as wood and clay work, embroidery and tailoring, an exhibit of the material will always take place.
It's a lively way to display one's talents. It encourages and brings the children together, enabling them to face “the crowd” and learn to perform “in public”, speaking in both Tamil and English. The various topics of this year were: wild and domestic animals; water; plants & vegetables; sun, earth & moon; creating story books; Tamil culture; and measurement. For this last project the children were measuring their class rooms and the entire school campus and even went 40 kms by train to the town of Villapuram to get a sense of distance, - many of them had never ventured further than Pondicherry before, and some even less.
Apart from this train trip, a group of older students visited ancient Tamil sites in Kanchipuram, the Planetarium in Chennai and met with professional sculptors and potters in Mahabalipuram, while the middle grades made field trips to Auroville's Botanical Garden, Pitchandikulam Forest, Siddharta Farm and Brihaspati Farm, and for the smaller kiddies trips to Pondy's Botanical Garden and Ousteri Lake were organised. Needless to say that we most sincerely thank all who helped us fund and organise these educational outings!
The teachers and children also organised a large exhibition of all their work and held it, for the first time, not in the school itself but in the Pavilion of Tibetan Culture in Auroville's International Zone. All the above materials were displayed, enriched by small scientific experiments which the students proudly performed with new science materials they had received via the Foundation of World Education in USA . It was a great event.
Activities with teachers
Rod and Kirti, two Auroville-connected educators from USA, in collaboration with Françoise, an Aurovilian teacher trainer, have been regularly working with the school's teachers, refreshing them on topics such as review and improvement of the curriculum, defining scope and sequence for all grade levels in at least one area (mainly Science and English), and in designing well organised and useful lesson plans and assessment techniques. They met with small groups at three different levels, kindergarten, grade 3-4, and 5-8 once a week on alternate weeks. While this serious involvement with the approx. 20 teachers will be continuing next year, it was also decided to encourage teachers to interact on a regular basis with teachers and students of other Auroville schools. A first such a contact with Transition School, for instance, opened a world of possibilities, as well as enrichment of curriculum materials introducing texts available in the Transition School library.
Courses and field trips
For the teachers, two 1-day field trips through various Auroville settlements were organised and, as a new feature, a 2-day ‘personal development' course was offered by Aurovilian Sonja, a qualified Human Element trainer. This immediately hit home. The teachers, who are mostly from Auroville's local environment had never been exposed to such a course before and were drawn into an entirely different way of seeing themselves and each other, and had the experience of communicating with each other in a completely new way. This kind of exercise is seen as a direct step towards enhanced self-knowledge in the light of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother's teaching, and arrangements have been made for follow-up courses in the coming school year. Contact has also been made with a teacher from the Sri Aurobindo Ashram school and collaboration is strong and encouraging.
We are happy to inform you that next year the school will have an official Teachers Residence, which presently is being constructed in ‘Protection', an Auroville settlement within walking distance of the school. It's a modest two-floor building, built from a much appreciated Indian government grant that may house two families and three bachelor teachers. A near-by existing house will be included in the complex and may serve as accommodation for professional educators who may come and assist the school. We envisage the complex as a site for future exchange between educators from different cultures and look forward to its being completed,
Unfortunately, neither the parents nor the school could afford to send the children for the summer camps organised by Auroville in the mountains of Tamil Nadu, but after a plea for help in the Auroville news bulletin plus some additional support from SAIIER, we have been able to organise a 10 days Summer Camp on campus, where the children helped in the morning with clean-up work (painting, cleaning, sanding, scrubbing and weeding..) and in the afternoons they followed activities such as puppet making, language and science sessions, theatre training, embroidery etc, several excursions into Auroville and even a visit of a magician! All in all, it was great fun and the campus is spic and span again. Also here we most warmly thank the ones who made this possible!
“Loving teaching and joyful learning”
As we will do in each of our newsletters, also in this issue we introduce two of the individuals regularly working in the school. The subtitle comes from a seminar given by Thich Nhat Hanh and was pointed out by Simon, a German student and ‘civil servant' who decided to do his social service by working in our school instead of going to the army or working in an educational or health institution in Germany.
During the past half year, Simon conducted Non-Violence Communication workshops for our teachers and other Aurovilians, sharing his communication skills through animated and always joyful activities, role-plays and exercises. Simon assisted in English-classes, in field trips, shooting photographs and videos of dramas or plays, singing, and also by creating games and songs. His research was “… about finding out what we enjoy doing, experiencing and hearing, and how we can make the lives of others and our own more wonderful by listening to what is in our heart, by listening to what is important to us.” Needless to say that Simon's presence was very much appreciated by children and teachers alike, and.., he may come back to stay..
Aurovilian Mala originally comes from a village nearby of Auroville. She joined the school in 2003. When a guest teacher in the Auroville Outreach school which she attended as a child, gave a class in music and singing, she knew that this was her thing. Accompanying herself on a small harmonium, Mala now teaches music and singing, with groups of fifteen children at a time. Living in an artistic family through her marriage with Auroville artist Vahula, she has plenty of opportunity to augment her skills and also follows courses when possible . Mala and the children sing whenever there is a special school occasion. They may sing some hymns, be they basic karnatic like swaravali varisaigal and alamkaram, devotional songs, folk songs or sometimes even songs from popular cinema, but, says Mala “they must have a meaning!”
We dream of an attractive, welcoming, clearly defined and semi-enclosed campus with adequate facilities for about 250 children. There should be no through traffic and all boundaries should be clearly delineated in order to provide a safe, healthy and joyful education with high standards for children from Kuilapalayam and the surrounding area.
And these are:
To maintain and enhance the present educational and nutritional programs
To increase the number and kinds of opportunities for teacher's development
To offer extracurricular activities for students such as summer camps
Knowing that you are interested in our school, we send you with this newsletter a write-up with a breakdown of these needs, and if there is any particular item or activity you wish to adopt or take up, please let us know. We reiterate here that ours is one of the few schools where all children are welcomed and where everything, education, food and books, is given for free. A good cause indeed.
Thanking you most warmly on behalf of the children for your feedback, support and friendship,
The New Creation Bilingual School Support Group
New Creation Bilingual School
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