For a full gallery with pictures and a few video clips from the workshop Click here.
The chief aim of education should be to help the growing soul to draw out that in itself which is best and make it perfect for a noble use.
With this inspiration from Sri Aurobindo, a one-day workshop on the theme ‘Growing Within’ was conducted at Pondicherry University on September 15, 2022.
At the invitation of School of Education from Pondicherry University, Dr. Beloo Mehra, Senior Academic Mentor, AuroBharati, Sri Aurobindo Society designed this workshop which aimed to provide a day of experiential and immersive learning experience to a group of M.Ed. students and PhD scholars. A few faculty members from School of Education and School of Law also joined for some sessions during the day.
The event became a special observance of Teachers’ Day (September 5) as the entire programme was designed specifically for the integral development of future teachers. It also marked Sri Aurobindo Society’s ongoing celebrations of 150th birth anniversary of Sri Aurobindo and 75th year of Indian Independence, specifically under the series – ‘Reawakening the Bhārata Shakti: Toward an Indian Renaissance’.
Dr. Mehra selected different topics to be covered during the day and then carefully picked out a team of resource persons who were to offer these sessions. Much planning and coordination took place as some of the experts travelled from Bengaluru. The final schedule was decided in consultation with the Dean and Faculty of School of Education.
The workshop opened with a welcome address by Dr. Chellamani, Dean, School of Education. She highlighted that with her academic background in neuroscience and its application in brain development studies education she has always been very keen on offering learning opportunities for students which would help them experience first-hand the impact of various yogic and self-development practices that can help deepen one’s self-awareness and emotional intelligence. She brought in the example of the devastating events of September 11, 2001 which led many neuroscientists and brain development researchers to work closely with educational researchers especially on topics concerning mental, emotional and spiritual development of the youth.
Dr. Beloo Mehra briefly introduced the workshop by sharing the thought process which led to incorporating a variety of activities for the participants. She built on the comments of Dr. Chellamani and reminded the participants that the date September 11 is also significant because it was on this day in 1893 that Swami Vivekananda took the message of Indian spirituality to the West.
She pointed out some insights from NEP 2020 and UNESCO’s recent framework on ‘Transforming Education Summit’ to highlight how Sri Aurobindo’s vision of education is now being gradually reflected in these national and international discourses on future of education. Dr. Mehra then introduced the different resource persons with whom participants will be interacting throughout the day.
The next session titled “Energizing and Calming the Mind with Pranayama and Meditation” was introduced by Mr. Shekhar from AuroYajna, Sri Aurobindo Society. Mr. Bhaskaran Manikam from AuroYajna then gave the participants a brief overview explaining the meaning of prana and pranayama, and its significance for students and teachers. He also spoke briefly on main benefits of pranayama and different types of pranayama. He then led the participants in an experiential session guiding them how to do nadi shodhan and spinal cord clearing pranayama.
Mr. Baskaran also briefly spoke on the relevance of meditation for students and teachers. After giving them a quick overview of various types of meditative practices, he led the participants in a guided meditation practice. During the feedback session, several participants shared that they felt relaxed during the session and that they hope to continue some of what they learned.
After a tea break, the next session titled “Teacher, Know Thyself: Deepening Self-Awareness and Refining the Vital” focused on vital education. To get the participants energized for this session, Ms. Jayashree and Mr. Ashok from the Creative School, Bengaluru engaged the students in a ‘catch the ball’ game which involved each participant to frame a sentence around a certain emotion which was written on the ball he or she caught. The two requirements were that the sentence should be about the person and must be truthful and authentic. These two words were the essential themes for this session on self-awareness and emotional intelligence. The students enjoyed this game quite a lot.
After a short presentation which emphasised a few points on why developing emotional intelligence and deepening self-awareness are important for teachers, the facilitators led the participants in another interesting game which involved UNO like cards with a twist. Both these games are developed by the Creative School team. Ms. Kaviya Sathyamurty and Mr. Ashok guided the two groups which were formed for this game.
During the lunch break, the participants were asked to gather some flowers, leaves, branches, candles for the next session.
The post-lunch session titled “Creating Mandalas for Inner Beauty and Harmony” involved two creative exercises. First was the colouring session which allowed the participants to experience a growing sense of inner quietude and harmony as they concentrated on a creative task. The circular patterns of the mandalas were also meant to facilitate the participants experience a sense of centering and develop a greater focus. Even the process of selecting which mandala to colour gave the participants an opportunity to experience slowing down and silencing the inner noise.
This was followed by a brief presentation by Ms. Jayashree on the topic of ‘Sacred Classroom’ – a model she has developed based on the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on Integral Education. She shared what are some of the practices are being used at her school to emphasise the idea of bringing sacredness and beauty in the classrooms through five elements. She also spoke about the ‘Peace Corner’ in the classrooms at her school.
Another creative exercise was up next. This activity involved participants dividing themselves in 4 groups and creating pookolams or flower mandalas. A few general instructions were given by Ms. Jayashree beforehand. With soft music playing in the background, the participants got busy – mostly silently or with very little conversation among the group members – working with delicate flowers, leaves and petals to create beautiful designs. The aim was to facilitate an experience of harmony and togetherness in collaborative work, and through that process grow within. Each of the groups then walked around the room seeing other designs made by their peers. Group representatives shared a bit about their design and how they went about creating it.
After a tea-break, the next session brought in the aspect of mental education. The session titled “Sri Aurobindo on National Education” was conducted by Dr. Beloo Mehra in which she highlighted a few key aspects of what is Sri Aurobindo’s vision of a true and meaningful national education. After sharing some initial thoughts on the topic, she engaged the participants in exploring what is the essence of Indian-ness. She explained that the topic “Sri Aurobindo on National Education” is actually also the theme of an exhibition project which the Renaissance-AuroBharati team of Sri Aurobindo Society is initiating with School of Education, Pondicherry University.
Dr. Mehra explained that in the coming one month, students will be guided to design exhibition posters which will be displayed at the university on November 11, a day celebrated in India as National Education Day. She added that in addition to Sri Aurobindo’s writings, some insights will also be drawn from NEP 2020 and UNESCO documents for preparing the posters. She also informed that another smaller exhibition focusing on the “Transformative Work of Teachers” will also be designed. She assured the students that the team from Sri Aurobindo Society will be constantly guiding and supervising the research and design phases of the exhibition. The pedagogical approach of participatory learning will help keep the students stay engaged in meaningful and creative work, and facilitate a widening of knowledge.
For the next session “Practicing Poster Design” Ms. Biswajita Mohapatra briefly explained to the students the poster template that has been designed by Sri Aurobindo Society. She demonstrated for the students them how text and pictures can be added in these posters, and emphasised some of the details that students must pay attention to when designing posters.
Dr. Mehra and Dr. Chellamani also announced a tentative timeline for the completion of exhibition design project. Informing that the WhatsApp group that has already been created for the purpose will be used for discussions regarding the exhibition project, Dr. Mehra also added that Ms. Gayatri Majumdar will also be part of the Sri Aurobindo Society team working with students.
Workshop participants were then asked to share some brief feedback about the day’s activities. Dr. Chellamani thanked all the resource persons who conducted the different sessions. She also appreciated participants’ enthusiasm and sense of engagement throughout the day. Dr. Devendra, faculty, School of Education proposed a formal vote of thanks expressing gratitude to Sri Aurobindo Society team for offering a meaningful day of learning for the students and research scholars.