SAFIER, the Integral Education wing of Sri Aurobindo Society, Puducherry, organised an exposure visit for a group of 15 teachers of ‘Neevam—The School’, Amravati, accompanied by the director of the school, Neeta Kakkad. The objective was to facilitate an understanding of the practices of Integral Education, especially as it happens at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education (SAICE) and some schools of Auroville. Since Integral Education is vast and very all-encompassing, it is difficult to understand its practice in a short time! Thus the basic intention of this trip was to provide a glimpse into an environment where it is in practice, so that it can be brought into the awareness of the teachers.
An orientation of how the teachers can best immerse themselves to gain the maximum during the four days, along with the schedule, was given to the group by Priti and Shivakumar.
Visit to Playground
Physical education is one of the rare few things which was made compulsory by the Mother at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education (SAICE). The teachers first visited the Playground of SAICE, which also houses the gymnasium, and understood the significance of Physical Education and its impact when it is practised regularly without any break.
Visit to the Primary Section
An interactive session was facilitated by Gayatri-di of SAICE where the arrangement of various things happening in the school was discussed. An interactive discussion emerged on how sessions are taken at Neevam and what can be gained from the approach at the SAICE.
Visit to the Kindergarten Section
Shilpa-di, a senior facilitator of the kindergarten section at the Ashram school helped the Neevam team to understand how the Ashram KG section functioned. She shared Ideas on class control, resolving conflicts, and the importance of creating a positive atmosphere at the school.
History of Sri Aurobindo and Mother
Shivakumar and Priti introduced the teachers to Sri Aurobindo and Mother, the founders of Integral Education. Their life story was taken up in a brief manner, focussing on the history of Integral Education and through it, a brief introduction to the three principles of true education by Sri Aurobindo.
Language Development Session
Auroposse, an ex-student and a primary level facilitator from SAICE, took a session where she discussed the different parameters for the development of language, especially English. She shared some practices which she has been taking up in her classroom for enabling language development in 7-8 year old students: engaging students in project work, practising spelling, reading books according to the child's interest, playing games to enhance the child's vocabulary, enacting skits, etc.
Session on Origami
Teachers were asked to make an origami crane while following the instructions given by Abhipsa. This was a demo class of how origami can be taken with children in a quiet and efficient way. Speaking in a soft voice, taking up games to engage a child's concentration levels, etc. Some measures to facilitate class management were also discussed.
Session on Obstacles Faced by IE Facilitators and Some Methods to Overcome Them
During this interactive session Alok-da discussed that while facing any obstacle, although the negative side is predominant, the positive side of the situation should be considered. This is because each and every thing has both positive and negative sides. Hence, we should not be depressed while going through hard times but see its positive side
and work accordingly to overcome and benefit from the situation. This discussion helped the teachers of the Neevam school to widen their outlook and look at situations in an integral way.
Visit to Auroville
Teachers visited Auroville kindergarten and were guided by Claire and Meirra into the functioning of the kindergarten at Auroville as regards to the arrangement of classrooms, how the game of painting is taken up with children, different crafts created by children, etc.
It was observed that in all the schools that were visited, the child to teacher ratio was very small and one-to-one interaction with children was given utmost importance.
The group also visited Matrimandir, Bharat Nivas (Exhibition of Sri Aurobindo's work and some painting), Savitri Bhavan (teachers explored the book ‘Savitri’ over here, Svaram (exhibition of various musical instruments), and Auroville Bakery. All these were rich experiences that added to the immersion experience.
Visit to Sports ground of SAICE
Puru-da facilitated the visit to the sportsground and gave an exposure to the different collective sports that were taken up every evening of the year. The teachers were asked to observe the architecture and the facilities. It was also discussed that children were encouraged to practise all sports and not just one of their choice. Football, Volleyball, Swimming, Basketball, Hockey and Athletics are different sports provided by the school.
Awareness Through the Body
The purpose of this ATB workshop facilitated by Amir and Lina was to make oneself more conscious of their physical movements and the surroundings. This was a full-day engagement filled with awareness games, reflective
activities and discussions on the parts of the being. The whole group was energised and looked forward to more such engagements.
Conclusion and the Way Forward
The whole group gathered together to conclude the immersive experience. Shivakumar and Priti facilitated a reflective sharing of the experiences that had touched the teachers the most and this brought about a wholesome recollection of the intense four days spent in the atmosphere of Integral Education. The insights from the experience were further elaborated, discussed upon and an aspiration was lit to take the beautiful journey of Integral Education forward in the space of their lives and work in the school with the children.