Sri Aurobindo Foundation for Integral Education and Research (SAFIER), the educational wing of Sri Aurobindo Society, conducted a workshop on Integral Education organized by Auro–Mirra Centre of Education (AMCE), Patiala, at their premises in Patiala, on December 7 & 8, 2019, for their primary teachers. The workshop was attended by 16 teachers who came forward to learn about different aspects of Integral Education.
There were also introductory short sessions conducted for the pre-primary and higher secondary teachers. All the sessions were conducted by Shivakumar and Priti of SAFIER. The participants undertook a transformational journey through the principles and practice of Integral Education, as envisioned by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Here is a report by the participants.
We started the day with chanting of mantras followed with their meanings. Before the chanting, the importance of accuracy of pronunciation of long and short vowels, developing right attitude (bhaava) along with the knowledge of the meaning was elaborated. The chanting created a peaceful environment, necessary for grasping the intensity of the sessions to follow. Knowing the meaning and concentrating on the pronunciation made the session more meaningful.
An introduction to Integral Education
In this session we understood:
● the need to educate ourselves first in order to educate children
● in order to educate ourselves, we need to know ourselves and eventually learn to control ourselves
Shivakumar explained very concretely about the Physical, Vital, Mental and Psychic parts of our being through the skit performed by five teachers of the school.
The skit presented was like holding a mirror in front of us. The participants could relate to it very well. Through the skit it was very easy to know the three parts of our being and their nature: The Physical, the Mind, the Vital, and our Best Friend Forever (the Psychic) deep inside our heart. The fifth was the ego who prevents the psychic from being seen and only when it turns within it creates space for the psychic to make its presence felt.
Body Scan and Expression through Drawing
We did a body scan by focusing our attention to different parts of our physical body in the beginning and then focusing on the mind space and heart space and finally shifting our attention to the quiet presence behind the heart space and then widening and spreading outwards. This was a meditative reflection on how we were feeling in our different parts with reference to the world around us and then we translated the sensations and feelings as a graphic expression on paper. Priti rejuvenated us by bringing a global awareness with reference to our body, thoughts and feelings.
The session began with an interesting game which led us to understand one of the ways of implementing Project Method. Then Priti gave an introduction to Project method with case studies of Project implementations in a free progress environment. She also enunciated the three principles of True Teaching as given by Sri Aurobindo as a basis for project implementation.
The afternoon session started off by playing awareness games with bean bags and tennis balls. This was an enjoyable game to develop the faculty of concentration for better body, emotions and mind coordination.
A language game was played in the form of a story as a prelude to the session in order to develop the faculty of listening which is the foremost stage of language development. Priti took us through the various stages of language development and as a language enrichment exercise, we developed a creative story with the help of everybody’s imaginative ideas.
The sessions were aimed at developing an experiential understanding of Integral Education in the teachers by developing inner quietude and outer dynamism, and thus being wholesome human beings and teachers, so that an appropriate environment can be created in classrooms. The sessions also provided a way to develop originality in teaching methods with the help of the free progress environment. This would eventually enable the child to integrate with his true self, his surroundings and society to become the complete human being.
The teachers cheerfully participated in all the sessions and displayed their fullest enthusiasm in knowing more about Integral education practices and their implementation.
The school management and teachers expressed a further need to enhance their understanding on the Project Method implementation in detail with the help of a practical approach suited to their school environment. They also felt a need for the body awareness games as a part of their physical education program.
Sessions with Higher Secondary Teachers by Shivakumar
The session started with chanting of mantras. Shivakumar also explained the meaning and importance of chanting mantras. We also understood that according to our culture, the rhythm and sounds of mantras creates positive vibrations, peace and releases stress, which in turn helps us to have better control over ourselves.
An introduction to Integral Education
Shivakumar elucidated the importance of integral education in today’s world as it helps to bring out what is best, most powerful, most innate and living in a child's nature. He covered the following principles of integral education through the skit performed by our school teachers.
- Physical education (body) needs body balance, coordination, stamina, energy, health etc. for its perfection.
- Vital education (emotions) focuses on developing sensorial development including the aesthetic sense and deeper values such as truthfulness, courage, compassion.
- Mental education (mind) revolves around the development of concentration, organization of ideas, analyzing and synthesizing, critical thinking etc.
- Psychic education (soul) teaches us the true motive of existence and harmonizes the body, mind and vital.
- Spiritual Education tells the main aim of education is to prepare man for the divine life.
Shivakumar also gave some suggestions on ‘how to be with a child’, one of them being, not to scold the child without good reason as children are very keen and clear sighted observers, they soon find out your weaknesses and note them without pity.
Some activities were also done to foster body consciousness. Emphasis was laid on balancing and coordination. These activities were experiential in nature.
The twelve qualities of the Mother were discussed and the value ‘Courage’ was discussed in detail. It has been decided to take up one quality as a project work to do with the students of Class 8.
Sessions with Pre-primary Teachers by Priti
Introduction to Psychic education
As little children are very close to their psychic being (soul) and their body, mind and emotions are still developing, it is important that the people around them are also in touch with their psychic being. Priti beautifully explained this through various experiential activities and songs and discussed how we can easily make kids aware of their psychic being by being in touch with it ourselves.
We played a fun game with balloons through various ways like blind fold, guessing, balancing, coordination. Thus we learnt how to be conscious of our senses and body movements and conduct similar activities with young children as a body exploration.
Story-telling, Tool for Language Development
We understood that with so many ideas are within us, we can create a story on a simple topic, our imagination being strong. The session was very interesting as we understood how one can develop writing and listening skills through games and interactive activities with the children.
In a nutshell, the workshop was interesting, inspiring, thorough, well organized and based on interaction and sharing of experiences. It will definitely help in understanding the child in a better way. There was a lot of learning from the various activities done during the session. All the teachers particularly enjoyed the practical illustrations which made the content easily understandable.
The awareness games were very appealing as it would help the kids to develop their senses and faculties in an enjoyable manner and the discussions regarding ‘Applying Values’ and ‘Parent Orientation’ were very meaningful, thus the teachers are looking forward to apply the same in the classrooms.