SAIIER 2019:Transition School - Auroville Our Home
|Auroville, Our Home|
A project of Transition School
Last year was Auroville’s 50th anniversary. The Transition School team decided that it was time to try to develop an all-school program to help our students learn more about Auroville. Our children from many different nationalities grow up together in Auroville. Many of them were born in Auroville and now, we are ‘old’ enough that many of our students’ parents grew up in Auroville, and some have grandparents here. For some children, the line goes back even further.
They know that Auroville is different from other cities and towns – they have known from an early age that the purpose of Auroville is to realize Human Unity, but what does this mean to them?
For this project we agreed on the following themes: Vision, History, People, Organization, Work and Activities.
Description of project:
The base for this program is already there: Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are our guides and the Charter of Auroville is a frame for our work. Action research, our study and inquiry into how to improve our curriculum at Transition, our methodology and our approach to education in order to help us get closer to the realization of the ideals of Auroville, is central to our work.
When we asked the children what aspects of Auroville they wanted to know more about, they had many questions and thoughts. They want to understand more. We started the year with discussions and ‘wonderings’ in the classrooms. “What is Auroville? Why are we here? What would you like to learn more about?”
To get a direction for the project, classroom discussion was encouraged: What do the children want to know? What do they already know? Some questions were:
- What type of Government does Auroville have?
- How do new communities start?
- Is there a youth community? What does it do?
- Where does the food for Aurovilians come from? Is some of it grown in Auroville? How much and what?
- Why do people say that Auroville is not a religious place, but then there seems to be a religious view of the Mother? It seems that many people look at the Mother in a religious way. I would like to know as it is confusing how spiritual and religious matters work.
- I would like to know about Future plans for Auroville and who makes these plans?
- I would like to know about current problems in Auroville and how they are worked on.
These questions were taken seriously and the students met several Aurovilians to try to get some answers. Some of our outings and activities were:
Visit to exhibition on the Early Days of Auroville (Grades 4-6)
- In February, just before the birthday week, we went on a cycle trip to a video art installation about the early days of Auroville, which took place in Kalakendra, Bharat Nivas. The exhibition was entitled “A tribute to the soiled hands and feet”, referring to the pioneers of Auroville. Clips of video footage from the first couple of decades, from 1968 to the early 90s, were played simultaneously on an assortment of old TV sets. There were also some rare historical images and texts by the Mother displayed. Frederick, who has been in Auroville since the beginning and also happens to be the grandfather of one of our students, talked to the children about the inauguration of Auroville in 1968 and answered their questions about what life was like in the early days. They also saw him as a young man in some of the video footage, as well as some of their parents, and even one of their teachers, Emma, riding a pony through the greenbelt when she was their age. This exhibition was a wonderful way for the children to get better acquainted with Auroville’s history and realize how life was different in the early days and how things have changed since then. They enjoyed it a lot!
Visit to Eternity Beach (Grades 4-6)
- We went for an outing to one of the beach communities of Auroville, Eternity. There, Jonah taught the children about the ocean and its eco-system, as well as marine life. We went for a walk on the beach, where the children got to observe different creatures like soft-shelled crabs, sea urchins and clams. They also collected some plastic litter, which they found lying around, to help clean up the beach. They then went for a swim in the sea and had a great time playing in the waves. Later, we had a snack and Jonah talked of his experiences as a diver and different issues such as sea erosion and pollution. It was a great, educational outing. When we were back in school, we watched a beautiful little movie: “The Blue Waters of Pondicherry through the Eyes of Jonah”, which he had filmed during his diving adventures under the sea.
Visits to Forecomers and Ravena (Grade 8)
- The eighth grade students went on field trips to Forecomers and Ravena. Many of the students had never been to the Forecomers/Ravena area, which is the largest contiguous stretch of green belt in Auroville and one of the earliest settlements where reforestation work began. The forest stewards, Jaap and Renu, shared their knowledge and enthusiasm with the students. After the trip, students wrote reflections on their experiences and interactions. Here are some of their thoughts:
- “I learned about the water crisis around India, and about dams and bunds to store water.”
- “I didn’t realize how hard it is to distribute water to all the plants.”
- “Jaap has a nursery of about 200 species of plants and 5000 saplings, which he distributes throughout Auroville. He plants TDEF species, which used to thrive before the deforestation.”
- “Renu told us about her struggles with the quality of the soil which results in some of the trees being below average in size. She also told us that she quickly removes dead trees to prevent forest fires.”
Visit to Maroma (Grade 8)
- The eighth grade class visited Maroma, where they met Laura and Paul, the executives. Maroma has been operating since 1977, and it has a team of about seventy-five people. The eighth-grade students reflected:
- “I learned that a candle takes three days to make and the mould is refilled five times to get a perfect size.”
- “Maroma has a lab where they test each batch of a product. The researchers have a very important role in Maroma.”
- “Paul told us that sandalwood is the most popular perfume. Incense is Maroma’s most sold product.”
- “We visited a room with a huge machine which is used to make soap. I learnt that Maroma does not use palm oil in its soaps, but 99% of soap producers use palm oil.”
- “It was interesting to learn that Maroma is shifting from using plastic packaging to parchment paper to pack products.”
- “Paul, the founder, started Maroma to make money for Auroville because the '70s were a difficult time for Aurovilians, and there was a lack of food and money.”
- “I found it interesting that Maroma produces fair-trade products without chemicals.”
By the middle of the year many activities and discussions had made the theme ‘Auroville Our Home’ alive in the classrooms. So the teachers had a workshop to listen to each other and share ideas as to what they had been doing with their students, and ideas on how to develop our project. As our students range in age from 6-14, the teachers made smaller groups according to the age of their students, and brainstormed together.
One of the main outcomes of this discussion was the recognition that the outings, meeting and speaking to Aurovilians in their work places, were not only enjoyable but also made a big impact on the children. They learned not only about the people but in many cases were made more aware of the history of Auroville and the vision behind its origin.
With this in mind, we created reflection slips for the students' portfolios, and started to keep lists of people and places to visit as well as audiovisual presentations. This is just a beginning and we plan to develop this project further.
The students expressed their questions and reflections through writing, through artwork and in their personal portfolios. Some of the older students presented poetry by Sri Aurobindo to the whole school. Students from all groups went to the Matrimandir. Some of the teachers made a program that they will try to follow.
Reflections and Conclusion:
What was most meaningful about this project was that the whole school was involved in learning about Auroville, Our Home. The children were enthusiastic and really enjoyed meeting Aurovilians , young and not so young who shared their stories and their enthusiasm with them. The teachers had a lot to share with the students and they also enjoyed and profited from meeting other Aurovilians and hearing about them. This project got the older students thinking about the future of Auroville and their place in it.
This was a year of exploration. Next year, when we continue this project, we will need to meet together more often, share ideas and look for ways to build up the program.