SAIIER 2019:Nandanam Kindergarten
Nandanam Kindergarten is a space for experiencing Integral Education in practice for the teachers, children and parents.
We begin with the understanding that “The first principle of true teaching is that nothing can be taught” and that “The teacher is not an instructor or a task master but a helper and a guide.” We frequently work through projects because it is a very effective and holistic educational tool, starting with topics that children are interested in and then, widening the learning horizon each time. We essentially and strongly feel that the children should have the freedom to explore the world within and around them and to grow at their own pace and in their own way, trying always to come in contact with their psychic being and being guided by it. We therefore, try to balance between these two ways of working as we also try to balance between group activities, where they learn to coordinate with their friends and develop social qualities, as well as individual activities where they have the freedom to do things in their own way.
Jalam Group (2 ½ to 3 ½ years old)
This year Jalam was a full group of 15 children, with predominantly Indian nationality but a good gender balance. In the beginning we were two class teachers (instead of three) assisted by helpers coming in on rotation. Because of this constant change in helpers it took a longer time for the group to settle. To add to this we had children who had not attended pre-crèche and also a delayed learner who required one-to-one attention.
Our aims this year were:
- To create a harmonious, loving and nurturing environment for children to trust and settle in.
- To give children a variety of sensorial experiences for their developmental growth at this stage.
- Develop their language skills, particularly English.
- To help children emerge from parallel play to playing together in small groups, developing a first sense of a collective.
- To have a good communicational rapport with the parents so that together we create a beautiful understanding for the integral growth and development of our children.
Our class is set up with various activity corners like sand play, Legos, play dough, puzzles and craft corner. Children can move freely from one corner to the other. The facilitators flow with the needs of the children.
We also proposed activities to develop sensorial and social skills, so that the mingling happened naturally which helped us to move towards some group activity.
We tried to communicate in simple small sentences in English and repeated them several times till children were familiar with them. Children practiced speaking English especially during circle times, snacks and lunch time.
Some of the parents were involved in the projects that we did. We shared a lot with them every day to understand the needs of the children.
- Garden project
- We created a garden with the children so that they could satisfy their need to work and play with the soil; digging, making it wet, smelling the soil and planting saplings and sowing seeds. When our garden emerged the children enjoyed the flowers.
- Farm animals project
- We did an enjoyable project on farm animals, by visiting Alipsa farm in Kottakarai and looking at the different farm animals, touching, feeling and feeding them. We went on a tractor ride. We collected eggs and feathers. We worked on this project for over a month in our group with related crafts, songs, language games and puzzles.
Children learned to become responsible for themselves and for the environment especially for the materials that they were using. The children improved their vocabulary and were able to communicate and to express their needs to us, showing signs of discernment and independence.
They became more aware of their surroundings and explored the environment around them with confidence;. They developed a deeper relationship with Nature – plants and animals.
It was very joyful to observe how they had grown over in a year’s time.
As we were short of a teacher in the beginning of the year we really understood value of stable environment and did our best to offer it, learning to be more resourceful. Working with a special needs child was a challenge that led to us learning many valuable things. Seeing his progress was very satisfying and gave us confidence in our work and capacity.
We encouraged parents to allow children to meet after school hours in Certitude playground or at home. This helped families to open up to each other beyond language and cultural barriers, allowing children to open as well.
In the beginning of the year we observed a lack of focus in children mostly during craft activities. We realized that this was due to a lot of time spent on mobile games and television by the children. So, we had individual meetings with parents to create awareness about the negative impact of such entertainments. At the end of the year we could see the change; children were able to focus more.
As we did a lot of one to one craft activities with children this year, we observed that it took a lot of time of the teachers away from the group. Next year we would like to create a balance between the group activities, free choice and independent work, and one-to-one activities.
Prithvi Group (3 ½ to 4 ½ years old)
Prithvi group had 9 children this year: 5 boys and 4 girls. Our aims for this year were:
- To provide a safe, happy and interactive environment for the children by setting up in the classroom different activity corners that they could explore in a regular manner, according to their interest.
- To provide many enriching experiences to the children, through activities and projects proposed, that would help the growth of each child according to his/her need and rhythm.
- To have a close communication with each set of parents to understand each child better and help him/her cope with socializing needs and their integral growth.
We started our school year by setting up lots of creative activity corners for the children to discover freely, alone or with friends and express their joy and curiosity. This helped us to build a relation of trust and harmony with each child and understand his / her uniqueness. The corners set up in the classroom which the children had easy access to were play dough corner, craft corner, games corner, puzzles corner, doll house and cooking corner, storybook corner, sandpit with easy access to water and nature, outdoor painting corner, outdoor games corner.
- Circle time:
- Circle time consisted of songs in different languages, action games, sensorial activities (exploring taste, smell, sight, touch and hearing), making mandalas with different materials, language games and conversations about whatever mattered to the children in their daily life, which was always very interesting to hear. We also had meditative activities like candle passing, placing fresh flowers around and lighting a small fire etc. All this exposure to various activities nourished and nurtured all of us.
- Physical development:
- Every day we had different kinds of activities and games to help the physical development of the children, along with yoga for kids, Awareness Through the Body, swimming and nature walks.
- We went on many outings to widen the awareness of our children. Solar Kitchen, PTDC, Auroville Papers, Mahalakshmi park, Bharat Nivas, Svaram, Windarra farm, spiriluna farm, Srima beach, Sacred Groves, Auroville Bakery, Bhrahmanaspai Kshetram, Botanical Gardens and a few Ashram farms are some of the places our children explored this year along with weekly visits to the Matrimandir.
According to the need and interests of our children the following projects were taken up in the class:
- Onion sprouting in glass bottles to see the roots grow downward and the shoots grow upward. Children were curious to see how the onion was growing every day. Each day we arranged the bottles according to the height of the onion plant – tallest to shortest. This was very interesting for the children.
- Sprouting of different seeds: the onion sprouting led to the children placing different types of seeds to sprout and observing them.
- We created a kitchen garden and we harvested our precious crops and cooked them. Cooking was done many times to enrich the sensorial exploration for our children.
- Rainbow project:
- There was a period when there were rainbows very often seen in the sky, which led us to explore deeper with our children the topic of rainbows.
- We created a song on the rainbow and created a little play that we presented to the parents. In the play each child represented different colour for which, with the children, we made our own sashes, bands and crowns.
- We did many crafts including a big collective rainbow, explored numbers, shapes, flowers which led us to the butterflies, fishes, birds finally a rainbow tree!
- Musical instruments:
- Children explored the sounds of different musical instruments. Each made his own instrument and created music with it. We visited Svaram twice during this project. We also created lots of sounds and rhythms with our bodies.
- Number books:
- We made number books with children. This came about because they showed interest in numbers and through this project not only did they get the sense of numbers but other skills were cultivated during the making of the books.
- Farm animals project:
- We visited many farms, made animal masks, animal sounds, animal movements, animal songs, puppets, stories of mama and baby animals, used flash cards for animal recognition, sandbox activities etc.
- Parent teacher rapport:
- Communication with all the parents was very good. We insisted that they come to leave and pick up their children in the first two terms. This helped develop relationship with the parents as well as helped us to see how each child is with the parents. Individual and collective parents' meetings including a potluck were held to build the community.
- Research highlights – Puppet Show:
- The many benefits of drama, role play and stories is well known for the social emotional development of children.
- This year teachers observed very closely what was happening within each child and how it was impacting the group. Based on what they observed they created stories or selected well known stories and offered puppet shows twice a week as means of addressing the social, emotional, psychological needs in children and helping them manage their behavior, in a beautiful, harmonious, joyful manner, bringing magic in their life.
- The puppet show was repeated several times till the children felt motivated to narrate the same story with their own imagination and in their own way. It was extremely interesting to observe how and what the children had grasped through the puppet shows. During story time it was observed that the children came forward with confidence to narrate stories which were narrated through the puppet shows. (Three little pigs, Lost sparrow, Giant turnip, Bear who wanted to be a bird, Carrot and the rabbit, Pongal and other festival and nature stories).
- The puppet shows were helpful in building concentration, stillness, imagination, experiencing various emotions, developing language skills, coordination and many other qualities in the children.
- Teachers closely observed how these puppet shows were received by the children.
Nine children developed integrally in their body, emotions, sensory perceptions and in their mental faculties. They development social skills, concentration, confidence, sense of beauty and harmony, and the joy of learning and being together. They widened the awareness of themselves and their surroundings.
Two teachers deepened their understanding of children and discovered various ways of supporting their learning needs.
Through regular interaction with the teachers nine parents could closely follow their children and support their integral growth.
All our aims were fulfilled and we truly had a wonderful year of progressive growth and learning, embracing all the children, parents and teachers.
Seeing how children enjoyed the puppet show and amply benefited by it, we would like to continue working this way next year and enrich it further.
We also observed that as we had a small group of children and a very good mutual understanding amongst the teachers, it was a very joyful harmonious and creative year for us all.
Next year, though we will have a much bigger group, we aspire to maintain the same peaceful and harmonious way of working.
Agni Group (Age: 5 ½ to 6 ½ years)
This year Agni group had 14 children: 4 boys and 10 girls. Agni group focused mainly on creating a learning atmosphere where each child could find his/her own area of interest and express his/her uniqueness in work and grow integrally.
The children participated in regular activities like learning alphabets – sounds, words, rhymes plus numbers and basics of Tamil language. They had Awareness Through the Body, Blocks, Play of Painting, Write dance, Swimming, Music, Role play in class and in the dollhouse and many Montessori sensorial and practical life games in the Children’s House. Many outings and nature walks were part of the program. We did two projects and the Circus along side the above mentioned the regular activities.
- Water project:
- Our first project was on water. We started with telling stories, playing games and a discussion about the importance of water in day-to-day life, its sources and how to conserve water.
- Observing the children’s interest to know more about water, we gradually introduced the concepts of the water cycle, sinking & floating, dissolving versus non-dissolving substances, the three states of water etc. We devoted four weeks for all the practical experiments.
- Then, in a natural way, the children’s interest took them to the various modes of water transport and water animals. Children had fun playing with water-filled balloons and making a tap with bottles and straw.
- We undertook various field trips to see different sources of water. In Discipline Farm we could see the open well, and children came in contact with a big water-irrigation tank, drip-irrigation method, preservation of rain-water and the use of cow-urine as manure. They saw different fruits and vegetables as well as the farm’s dairy.
- We went to Usteri Lake to see a lake body. It was amazing for them to watch the different kinds of local and migratory birds which were resting, swimming and flying. They also saw tourist boats and beds of lilies and lotuses.
- At Sadhana Forest they had great fun in the mud-pool and understood that the mud pool is a rain water catchment. Having mud-baths and covering each other with mud and then the process of washing off the mud was an extremely fulfilling sensorial experience. They also saw the dry toilets and how they use minimum water in their day to day life at Sadhana Forest.
- Lastly, they visited Sri Ma Beach and happily engaged themselves in making sand-castles, collecting the sea-shells, playing with waves and watching the fishing boats. They compared and experienced the differences between the ocean and the lake, the difference in vastness, the life on the water bodies etc.
- They also explored some skill-related work with this project. They made clouds by stitching two pieces of cloth and filling it with cotton-wool. They hung rain-drops made of paper mache on this ‘cloud’. They shaped different sea-creatures with clay and painted them. Drawing, painting, cutting & pasting, paper-folding work were used to make different water related objects like water bodies, water transport and water animals. We grew sprouts to see how water helps life. We completed the project by making a landscape and made a 3D model of the water cycle, displaying it to share it with the parents.
- Fire project:
- In the second term, as the children were connecting to volcanoes naturally, we worked on the second element ‘Fire’ as a project. Initially, we spent time in discussing the usefulness and the sources of fire. Since light is one of the important aspects of fire, children’s attention slowly moved more towards the light. We spoke about other sources of light, the need of light and natural light versus artificial light. Gradually the subject shifted to light and shadow. They played with shadows, making different forms of animals, birds and butterflies using the movements of hands and fingers.
- The children were introduced to the idea of a sun-dial to identify the time according to the shadow of a stick and the movement of the sun. They first marked the sundial at each hour then compared it with actual time. They were excited and surprised to see how time is related to the movement of the sun.
- Seeing their inquisitiveness to play with light and shadow effect, we introduced them to ‘shadow puppet theatre corner’ by making various types of shadow-puppets. It was a kind of magic to them to see the beautiful effect of the shadows. Every day they used to spend their time making their own stories and playing with the puppets.
- Observing the children’s enthusiasm in telling the stories using the puppets, we planned to make a story for a shadow puppet show. During circle time, each child had a chance to create a part of the story relating it to the previous child's content and thus a chain story was born. This story was named “Krishna and His Friends”. Each child illustration of the part of the story he had created, together it made story book for them to keep as a memory.
- Children moved on to making shadow puppets for the story, taking up roles and narrating the part that they had created. They practiced the story using their own puppet. It was interesting to see how they were developing hand-eye coordination along with the dialogue. It was totally a new and challenging experience for them because they could not see what was happening on the screen of the theatre. In the end they presented their story, as a the shadow-puppet show, to their parents and to the other classes of the school.
- Children painted the shadow of their own face with black color. It was an amazing discovery for them and an interesting challenge for parents to identify their child’s face. The children had a great time making candles, paper lamp shades, drawings and paintings related to light and fire.
- In the last term we focused on Circus with Kalou at Miracle where children learnt several skills of co-ordination and collaboration. At the end of the year they presented a show for the kindergarten children and their parents.
Project ‘Water’ provided the children with the space to develop basic understanding about water and build a deeper relationship with it. The science experiments helped them to explore and experience the properties of water in a hands-on manner. The field trips exposed them to water utilization and conservation. Spending time in and near the mud-pool, lake and sea helped them familiarize themselves with water birds, boats and a feeling of different types of water bodies. They became aware of the necessity of water for Life.
Project ‘Fire’ provided the children with the idea of sources and usefulness of fire and light. They came to know the practical effect of light and shadow and its relation with the movement of the sun. They learned how to create different figures using hand movement and light. The whole process of shadow puppet show helped them enhance their ability of forming a story together and working in a team. They increased their language skills and developed the eye-speech-hand coordination, delivering dialogues and holding the puppets at the same time. They developed patience and behind the screen they learnt to contain excitement in the presence of parents. Children learnt to light a candle using match sticks and passing it around during circle time. This helped them overcome their fear of fire.
The Circus helped them to develop flexibility and self confidence. Initially they felt that the movements were difficult & challenging but slowly, after practicing a lot, they could see the welcome changes in their bodies. They learnt to follow instructions, help and support each other and develop a team spirit. Finally the show gave them the confidence to perform in public.
In general, throughout the year, they improved their language, fine & gross motor skills, observation and reasoning. It was amazing to see their creativity, imagination and clarity of expression. The projects helped each one of them to become more independent in his/her learning process and more skillful in his/her work. They also learnt how to work in groups and improved their social skills.
This group was very responsive to things offered to them and so it was a pleasure to explore and work with them. They were very enthusiastic about things that they were learning and were also very sure of what they did not want to explore. Thus we could go into the depths of a topic which was very meaningful for the children and the teachers. Each child was confident in his/her own space and to meet all their needs was challenging. It was just because this group was so eager to learn and receptive that a very in-depth work with projects was possible.
The year was a very smooth and balanced journey together, where the children had space to explore and learn according to their own nature. As facilitators, we feel that the field trips added much value to the learning experience and we will concentrate more on it next year. Our prime emphasis will be both to address the needs of the group and to be creative and flexible in determining strategies to meet these needs.