[Note from the editor: Although a born optimist, I cannot but think that something went very wrong when I observe the awful and chaotic mess our planet earth is in. Mankind seems to have taken a wrong turn somewhere along the line. We need to go back to the drawing board and work from the bottom up. That`s why I believe that the ATA initiative, where all is focused on Learning and Growing through Transformative Education, is one of the many admirable projects the Theosophical Society, Adyar, under the leadership of International President Tim Boyd, is currently engaged in. It definitely deserves all our support! – JNK]
Term I of Transformative Education at Adyar Theosophical Academy (ATA)
Message received from Sonal Murali – Adyar
It was on 24th June 2019 that ATA commenced its task to realize the vision of ‘Learning and Growing through Transformative Education’. It has been an eventful term for students who have taken to this novel adventure with great verve. The term has seen a plethora of activities and interactive sessions, all experiential in nature.
From experiments to demonstrate scientific principles to marveling at architecture in Nature, ATA uses the method of elucidating principles in an interactive format. The term began with Anoop Jaiswal demonstrating scientific laws with experiments using inexpensive, easily available scrap material. The sight of fire burning under water, a hardboiled egg squeezing past the small mouth of a bottle, and a pin standing atop the point of another pin, were the marvelous sights that held the children’s excitement and they exclaimed it was ‘magic’!
Using clay to make Ganesha
Architect Gilles Delage held a delightful session with children on how Nature is the best architect, be it the weaver birds or coral reefs and what bio mimicry is. This was followed by a building exercise where children created skyscrapers, bridges and townships. Research Scholar Harini Alladi took the students through the metamorphosis of the medium and its x-factor that draws us to our favorite pack of chips.
This method of elucidating principles in an interactive format with an eye on the big picture was adapted to other subjects as well. An aspect of Math was introduced with the help of colorful marbles. Biology was exemplified through Art – be it the cardboard aquariums, hand-paintings to depict the life cycle of a hen, finger-printed books on insects, or an exhibit on internal organs to demystify what lies beneath our skin. Field trips helped further associate their learning. Grade I and II visited the Chennai museum. They were there specifically to explore the Human Skeletal System but a trip to the Dinosaur section was mandatory! The younger ones went to the Zoo for an introduction on animal habitats and conservation.
A visit to the museum
An appreciation for Nature was sparked right from little instances such as looking out the window to admire butterflies as they flit, duck and dive – or, by taking regular walks around the green campus to identify flora and fauna. A visit to the Dairy and Sapota Gardens was a cause for great excitement as the students got to observe horses, donkeys and foals up-close and garner appreciation for their fellow beings. Post these nature walks, the classroom would come alive with the smell of paper, glue, paints and excited chatter as the pupils recreate the sights and sounds, each unique in its perspective.
ATA deems playtime an essential and integral part of the learning process, both sensory and free play being given equal importance in child’s day. Children took initiative and crafted a car after a week-long discussion, built their version of Chandraayan – 2 (Indian Lunar Mission) and had the confidence to take on role-reversal on Teacher’s Day. Inculcating Life-Skills is a key focus at ATA, students can now whip up a healthy bowl of fruit salad or sandwiches, and even make a refreshing cup of lemonade.
Celebrations are an occasion for the children to come together and foster a sense of community – One such was the Independence Day. Decked in white, the students put up a fabulous showcase of Indian National Animals, India’s progress in space and sang a patriotic song celebrating our diversity.
Singing their hearts out on Independence Day
Prof. Krishna, a Senior Trustee of The Krishnamurti Foundation, visited ATA and spoke to teachers about exploring with students as friends in a non-hierarchical manner. He urged to encourage the students to question, reason, examine and discern what is right.
Tim Boyd planting a tree
The highlight of the term was when Tim Boyd, the President of the Theosophical Society, planted a sapling of Peepal – the tree that symbolizes wisdom, on the occasion of Vijayadashami, the Festival in honor of Goddess Saraswati, the Goddess of knowledge and all arts. Tim addressed the gathering and spoke of his shared vision for the school and what it embodies. Here is an excerpt from his talk:
It is time that education moves towards a holistic view of a human being. Instead of ‘pouring in’, it must move towards ‘drawing out from’. Theosophical education begins with creating an atmosphere where there is absence of fear, competition or differentiation between ‘me’ and ‘you’. It is about creating an atmosphere that invites the deeper aspect of a human being in its complete expression and seeks to connect with something that is resident within each human being as also in every form of life. If we can learn to access that, it can become the basis of how we live. Theosophical education will become the basis of that possibility to create that as the ‘character’, an imprint.
ATA looks forward to more such engagements with theosophists from world over, that will nurture students to be the empathetic individuals the world needs.