SAIIER 2013:Future School

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Deepanam School
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Last School
Future School



Inspired by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, the vision of Future School is to develop an educational environment in which Auroville adolescents and all those dedicated to their education may reach their own unique potential through a balanced development of body, mind, emotion and spirit. Underlying this integral approach is the development of faculties that will allow us to pursue the unfolding of our inner truth in harmony with the material world.

Interwoven with this endeavor toward individual development is a collective aspiration toward a manifestation of the ideals of Auroville as expressed in its charter. Toward this, we aim to discover the essence behind our diverse cultural, ethnic, and individual heritages while reflecting the international character of Auroville.

Our deepest aspiration is to progressively develop our consciousness to prepare the youth and ourselves to manifest a truer, higher and more joyful life on earth.

Objectives

  • Provide a student-centered, integral education for Auroville youth between the ages of 14 - 20.
  • Develop and offer programs which foster awareness and growth of the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of the being.
  • Encourage students to follow a value-oriented approach to life in which they have a deeper understanding of personal, community and global responsibility.
  • Enable students to become self-aware, self-motivated, and self-controlled.
  • Help students to explore ways to set and reach challenging goals.
  • Expose students and ourselves to new experiences and approaches to learning and understanding.
  • Provide educational programs and activities that open a wide range of possibilities for students upon 'graduation' from the school.
  • Establish an interactive environment of beauty and light which inspires progress and creates a variety of opportunities for growth.

Program details

Learning environment

As Auroville is an international community the school maintains an international character by bringing together students from many different nationalities, with their varied cultural and ethnic backgrounds, in an atmosphere of protected freedom and harmony. This is a basic step in the promotion of international understanding, peace and human unity. In addition to this, as most of the teachers are Aurovilians, they are truly dedicated to the ideals and Charter of Auroville and so can encourage, support and guide the mostly Aurovilian student body in their own explorations of their role in and relationship to Auroville. This influences the way they approach their work and sets the framework for the relationships amongst the students and the teachers. We hope that this environment, and the educational program itself, will help the students further understand themselves and their raison d'etre.

Program

Future School is currently offering a high school equivalent education to primarily Aurovilian students. This past year there were 63 adolescents/young adults from 15 nationalities enrolled in the school. Each student has an individualized program which is created according to their choices: around core subject areas they choose elective subjects as well as physical and creative arts activities. As most of these latter activities take place outside of the school campus, making use of the many diverse possibilities in Auroville at large, we actively assist them, usually through our mentoring program, in finding teachers/coaches/guides who can help their talents and interests in these areas to progress and grow. Students are generally expected to stay in the school for 4-5 years, which allows ample time each year for students to complete their core courses and explore and develop other areas of interest.

We consider Auroville itself to be a very rich educational resource for our youth so we regularly approach various individuals in order to organize other activities that are requested by students but have not yet been offered. In this way, there is more interaction between the community and its youth, and therefore more involvement and understanding on many levels.

The school incorporates many different teaching/learning methods and environments: projects, tutorials, independent research, traditional lectures; small groups, large groups, one-on-one approach, peer teaching, work experience and self-study. In this way we hope to meet the needs of each individual, and we feel that the combination of required areas of study with choice of particular subjects gives the students the chance to get in touch with new areas of knowledge and at the same time to explore their own interests and needs.

Evaluation

The students are actively involved in assessment and evaluation, of both their own progress and the effectiveness of the teachers and the school as a whole. As the Auroville schools do not give conventional grades or report cards, methods used for evaluation at Future School include:

Reflective assessments

  • Teacher and class evaluation by students
  • Student self-evaluation
  • School self-assessment by staff
  • School assessment by students
  • Observation
  • Mentor meetings and other conferences

Skill-based assessments

  • Internal tests, assignments and portfolios
  • Project work with presentations, internal and/or public
  • Written progress reports
  • External exams (UK O- and A-levels), if requested by students

Highlights of the year

Field trip: Dakshina Chitra and Crocodile Bank

A one day field trip by bus took place in December 2012 when these 2 sites were visited. At Dakshina Chitra the students and accompanying teachers learned more about traditional Tamil crafts, architecture and building materials, weaving and cloth making, foods and recipes, etc. through demonstrations, exhibitions and hands-on activities. At the Crocodile Bank the group was able to see and learn more about a wide variety of reptiles, including watching a demonstration of handling poisonous snakes and harvesting the venom.

Weekly seminars

These have been an ongoing feature of our school for many years. This year we had many very interesting people and topics presented, such as:

  • Introduction to Garbology (Ribhu and Chandrah)
  • French influence in Pondicherry (Animesh Rai)
  • Biodiversity (Rauf Ali)
  • Organic/Bio-dynamic Farming (Lucas)
  • Building tree-houses in Brazil (Philipp, ex-student)
  • Maastricht University (2 representatives from Holland)
  • Teen-aged Tibetan Refugees (group of 12 with Kalsang and Namgyal)
  • Africa trip overland in the early 1970's (Tim)
  • Presentation of new book My Husband and Other Animals (Janaki Lenin, author)
  • screening of video by 'Accessible Auroville' (Susmita and Alex)
  • Geography presentations by students
  • Our last guest speaker, Vrata, gave an introductory presentation of Quantum Mechanics and the Universe that was so well-received by the students that he will come back once a month next school year to give regular presentations.

Fund-raising event

In September 2012 a fund-raising event was held at school to enable us to continue to take field trips and plan other non-academic educational activities. The organization of this event was led by our Student Council (6 members) and had the active participation of every student and many teachers/staff. There was a flea market with goods donated by units and individuals, sale of foods prepared by students, and some class presentations. Also during this event our new library building was inaugurated.

Visit of members of the GB and IAC

In September 2012, members of Auroville's Governing Board (GB) and International Advisory Council visited the school. Present to receive them were students and teachers of Future School, Last School and Udavi School, several alumni students, members of the Auroville School Board, members of the SAIIER Board, and members of the Working Committee. Two students were assigned to each GB and IAC member to give them a tour of the campus and have informal interactions. This was followed by a round-table discussion and then lunch donated and catered by Tanto and the Visitors' Center Cafeteria. The feedback about the interactions and general experience was very positive from all involved.

Work at the Youth Center

One afternoon was dedicated to helping the Youth Center team prepare for the annual Christmas Fair.

Matrimandir

In November of 2012 the students and teachers of the school went to the Matrimandir as a group for the second time. Once again, there was a strong feeling of unity and peace, and a joy to be together there, that was felt by all.

Graduation

This year saw the successful completion of the program by 6 students: 5 Aurovilians and 1 guest. Once again, for the tenth year, on the last day of school an event took place to honor the accomplishments of these students with the presence and participation of fellow students, teachers and staff members, and parents of the graduates. There were dance and music performances by students, speeches, poetry readings, a powerpoint presentation with photos of each student at different stages of their lives, and a gift of a 'Goodbye Book' to each student. This event has become a very important one in our school and is always filled with laughter and tears, joy and some sadness; it reminds us that we are a family.

Course spotlight: Tamil Brahmin Cooking

The students wished to explore the healing properties of food items, so we restructured the Health and Social Care class into a cooking class focusing on the Tamil Brahmin Cuisine. The students explored the healing properties of vegetables and fruits and prepared them according to traditional recipes. The aim of this class is to make students aware of the indigenous varieties of vegetables and to integrate that knowledge into daily life. (Michael K., teacher)

Workshops and extra-curricular activities

First Aid: About 15 students participated in an intensive 2 day workshop to learn the basics of administering First Aid care when needed. The course was given by Anna (Aurovilian, certified nurse from France) with the assistance of Michael K. (Aurovilian, teacher in Future School, certified nurse from Germany).

Instrument-making in Svaram: This workshop was spread out over 3 days, from the 1st of March to the 3rd, where three Future School students (Kani, Sasha and Yun Sung) had participated in learning about how to make musical instruments, starting from materials, all the way to finally tuning for creation of music.

This course was a very interesting experience for me because I am a musician and it allowed me to discover other aspects of music, such as percussion and the quality of sound from different materials. I also love the instrument that I made, partly because it makes beautiful sounds and also because I made it mostly by myself (and got to keep it for free). I feel like this is something that would motivate people in Auroville towards getting more in touch with the art of instrument making and understanding the sounds we hear around us better. (Yun Sung, student)

Veena-playing world record (team): One of our students, AuroPremi, participated in an attempt to set a world record in ‘Longest Marathon Playing of the Veena (Team)’ on 30th Dec. 2012 in Pondicherry. The team of 12 students and the founder/director of the Shri Veena Arts Academy played for 12 hours continuously, which successfully set a world record.

Bharat Natyam performance: On the 12th of December, 2012, Soundarya Seraphina, a first year student of Future School and a student of the Rasika Bharat Natyam School, gave a solo dance performance at the Bharat Nivas Auditorium. The performance was accompanied by live musicians and was titled 'The Rainbow Dancer'.

Installation of on-grid solar array: Several of our students participated in various stages of the installation of an on-grid solar array with Sunlit Future, an Auroville renewable energy unit. This installation is the 6th such project in Auroville that is feeding into the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB) grid. Although it does not charge the battery bank, it will reduce our grid use and therefore reduce the electricity bills of the school. The hope is that in the future there will even be rebates in the event that we produce more energy than we consume.

Follow-up on previous goals

Complete the raw structure of upcoming Multi-Purpose Space and Classrooms (Ground + one) as part of a two-year construction project generously funded by the Government of India

  • The new building was completed that includes 3 large classrooms, 1 arts room and an open multi-purpose space. This will be inaugurated and put to use at the beginning of the upcoming school year (July 2013).

Refine documentation of our ex-students: where they are, what they are doing, what are their plans for the future (short and long term), etc.

  • One of our alumni has offered to work on this and take it forward.

Goals for 2013-2014

  • Review and improve the balance between academic and non-academic aspects and activities in the school program, to continue to offer high quality academic education while also offering ore to those who may not be academically capable or inclined, such as apprenticeships/vocational training opportunities.
  • One of the primary and ongoing challenges that we face is a shortage of teachers with the necessary level of knowledge for high school education, who have the ability to teach courses in an organized yet creative and integral way, and who integrate well with the existing team. Also, we are anticipating increasingly large incoming classes in the next few years. Therefore, the most important goal for the coming years will be to add individuals to our team who meet the above criteria so we can continue to meet the educational needs of Auroville's teens with high standards and great diversity.
  • Work with an alumni to continue to refine documentation of our ex-students: where they are, what they are doing, what are their plans for the future (short and long term), etc. with the intention of creating a support network for Auroville youth who are exploring the world.
  • Build a set of staff quarters on campus that would support and encourage new people to join the school.

Conclusion

Within Auroville's endeavor towards unending education and human unity, the development of an educational system that equally benefits teachers and students is a necessary step in helping us reach our fuller potential as conscious, discerning individuals who are open to different ways of thinking about and responding to the world around us. Our primary goal continues to be the development and implementation of an integral education that is deeply rooted in the ideals of Auroville.