EVENTS & PROJECTS

Introduction

Inspired by the guidelines of integral education laid by the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, Deepanam School aims to offer the children an atmosphere of freedom and creativity which supports their natural development and imparts the joy of learning with independence and responsibility. Our ultimate objective is to help identify in each child their full potential and bring out their best. Each child is given a chance to develop at his her own pace. Deepanam School caters to children aged 7 to 14 years.

Activities of the year

This was our second year working with multi-age groups. In a multi-age classroom the children have varying abilities, and the class becomes a community where everyone learns from each other. Each child can find his or her own pace without feeling "ahead" or "behind" in relation to peers. We have found that this way of organising adds a richness to the learning environment, helping to encourage cooperation instead of competition. Children in multi-age groups grow to value and respect the differences of each person.

In this model of working at Deepanam, a student continues for three years with the same group and with the same teachers. This lets the school give ample support and confidence to a child. A deeper bond is cultivated between the teacher and children, and the teacher can follow each child’s development over a longer period. This allows the teacher a greater possibility of seeing and meeting the needs of each child.

Another integral aspect of Deepanam School is our emphasis on the prepared environment. We are working towards creating an environment in which children can do things for themselves. The prepared environment makes learning materials and experiences available to children in an ordered way. This encourages children to take charge of the their own learning process.

Student groups of this year

Name Ages Number of students
Light group 7, 8 and 9 years 17 students
Peace group 10, 11, and 12 years 11 students
Faith group 13 and 14 years 15 students
Welcome group For new and guest students 7 students

Light Group (7, 8, 9 years old)

The main aim of this group is to welcome new children, help them feel at ease, and impart and strengthen their study skills. Areas include reading, writing, numbers and their operations, basic concepts of geography, and science. We follow a project-based approach of teaching.

There is a daily class routine. The day begins with concentration, and children chant Sanskrit shlokas. The aim of chanting is to introduce Sanskrit to the children, and this is followed by stories, questions, discussions and finally with integral concentration. Then in the classroom each child reads sight words - basic words that are used for writing and reading - according to their levels, before starting their “work plan”, their learning plan for the day and near future.

New concepts are introduced on Mondays and Thursdays. The various class subjects follow a schedule, and these include English, Math, French, Tamil, Gardening, Clay, Crafts, Art, Field study, Awareness Through the Body, and Sports.

Highlights:

A special reading program was developed for the children. Books were categorized into levels and each child had to finish a particular set of books before moving on to next level. Each child read with a teacher or a reading buddy in weekly sessions, so they received individual attention.

The class went on a field trip to the Dehashakti Sports complex to work with the horses. Trips such as these build self confidence and a love for the animals and understanding of their importance.

Our second term gave us lots of opportunities to work as a group. We took up the subject of Light and its different aspects. Our main focus, and the challenge of this project, was to cater this single topic to three ages with same enthusiasm. We also tried to keep the attitude of students and teachers “learning together”. For this project we guided our older students to share their knowledge with their younger classmates, which was a unique and a wonderful process. There were moments when each child found him/herself responsible, powerful, loved, respected. The project finally took the shape of a small presentation, “Light in Life”, which included a magic show, French narration, song, drama and dance.

In the last term we took up as a project 'myself '. Through this topic we touched the different aspects of a child. They were asked questions about themselves, which made them aware of their own thinking, and in certain cases they were also surprised to learn about their own likings and dis-likings.

The study of earth was taken up by the older children of the group. Topics like the Solar System, maps and globes, and continents and oceans were covered. Each topic involved hands-on activities, drawing and colouring which made it very interesting. The children made mobiles of the planets.

Peace Group (10, 11, 12 years old)

The Peace group follows the Work Plan method whereby children’s progress is monitored through their work in Math and English. This is the group where the older kids are on the threshold of teenage years; the multi-age age group stabilizes them, as they have to set a good example for younger kids. These children are ready to explore the world. To meet to their needs subjects like History were introduced.

Highlights:

The class did a geography project on the seven continents, learning the countries and capitals of the world through coloring and labelling of maps. In the second term each child selected one country and researched the details of the country such as its physical geography, wildlife and culture. Presentation of the project was done by making a folder of the country.

Each child made his/her own anthology of poems. Works and biographies of Ruskin Bond, Rabindranath Tagore, and Ruby Redfort were studied.

The students gave a presentation for parents and schoolmates of recitation, performance of science experiments on stage, and a geography quiz. It greatly enhanced their level of confidence.

History was introduced to the older children of the group. We started by connecting the subject to the children themselves, through studying their personal timeline and family tree. After personal history, we explored the history of Auroville and biographies of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. Children were greatly inspired and could connect with young Aurobindo and his fantastic academic skills, his love for poetry and writing. The Mother’s biography inspired them to develop aesthetic sense and love for sports. Continuing on the theme of biographies, each child chose one famous person to focus on and made a biography booklet about him or her. Inspired by “The Great Lessons” given by Maria Montessori, we did a project on the history of the universe including the story of the earth, coming of humans, and evolution. Presentation of the project was done through booklets, charts and paintings of each geological period. We made time lines to understand the subject visually.

The subject of Creative Writing spontaneously turned towards Auroville. For different titles we visited the Matrimandir, Visitor's Centre and Savitri Bhavan. We invited veterans to share their stories of the early days and their work in Auroville. After collecting information we processed it and the outcomes included stories relating to the qualities of the Matrimandir petals, a poem about Auroville, descriptive articles and reports.

Faith Goup (13, 14 years old)

The Faith group uses the broad spectrum of work in Auroville as a base for their curriculum. This includes having Auroville as their resource for exploration and learning, inviting Aurovilians to interact and share their knowledge with children in the school, and reaching out to different units and workshops in Auroville where the children participate in the work throughout the year.

Highlights:

Together with students of The Learning Community the group did a project on solar energy. Three groups were formed and each was given the assignment to make a prototype solar collector - conical, rectangular or parabolic shape - of cardboard and foil. The students tested their prototypes, measured temperature and inferred which model worked better. They took the project further by making a solar oven with wood and glass which could be used in school. One important outcome of this project was a strengthened feeling of cooperation between schools.

The students attended weekly art classes at Cuboid Last School Campus where they explored various media including clay sculpture, painting and carpentry.

At the beginning of the year the students built a clay oven at Deepanam with Johnny's help.

We took up the “Localicious” movement with Krishna of Solitude Farm and planted fruit trees, tapioca and sweet potato as well as vegetables. Children took up preparing snack and serving to the school once a week. Local dishes like idli and vadai were prepared with produce grown by Auroville farmers.

A filmed documentary ”Life science at Deepanam” was prepared with Rakhal’s assistance. Children were exposed to the various aspect of movie making including script writing,, direction, sound, editing and filming.

Theatre was given major importance in the Faith group. Two hours weekly are devoted to theatre and the aim is to perform for parents and community. This year we had visiting teacher Francesca who worked with the group through games, improvisation techniques and preparation for the play “The White Elephant”. The children also took up designing the stage and preparing props.

The group had a recycled art workshop with Zeevic at Well Paper.

The students made some interactive math games and a science presentation with the Scratch computer program.

Activities common to all ages

Life Science Lab and Eco Trips: Life Science and Ecology have been an integral part of Deepanam. To learn about the local wildlife of our bio region and realize the need of conservation in our own backyard is most needed today. Three type of activities are undertaken in life science:

  1. Rescuing reptiles, taking care of animals, fishes, birds and insects.
  2. Preparing habitats for the animals (cages, shelters, etc).
  3. Maintaining the freshwater and saltwater aquariums.

An exhibition about Auroville wildlife was organized. All children contributed towards this event through posters, charts and presentations. During the year there were several field trips to explore and learn about nature for all classes as part of their study programs. Topics like reptiles and birds were most sought out by students. The awareness that comes through spending time in nature ensures that the children will automatically be sensitive to the need for conservation. See also the Life Science Lab report.

Languages: Our team of language teachers worked at creating practical and interactive sessions through games, stories and theatre. The intention is to make the process of learning languages more effective and at the same time lively and fruitful. During the last two terms the children were encouraged to present their language skills in the form of songs and drama. The students worked on culture, vocabulary, pronunciation and memory to present their work to their friends and family. On the 25th of April we had our Language Day where children presented dramas, songs, and dance, in Sanskrit, French and Tamil.

Arts and Crafts: see separate report.

Gardening: We try to bring the awareness that “we are what we eat” to the kids and have made gardening part of our curriculum. Activities this year included designing, planting, soil experiment, preparing beds, sowing seeds, mulching, watering, weeding , harvesting and ...cooking then eating.

Reflections

In a multi-age classroom the children have varying abilities, and the class becomes a community where everyone learns from each other. Each child can find his or her own pace without feeling "ahead" or "behind" in relation to peers. We have found that this way of organising adds a richness to the learning environment, helping to encourage cooperation instead of competition. Children in multi-age groups grow to value and respect the differences of each person.

A teacher comments on the Light group, "It is actually wonderful to work with this age as they are so pure, innocent, and curious. Their sense of wonder keeps us also wondering. We look forward for the next day of school."