Thursday, March 31, 2016

Mindfulness follow-up with teacher participants

Principal and teachers of Karmaling Higher Secondary School
It has been three months, since a successful 2nd mindfulness camp conducted for 40 teachers of Samdrup Jongkhar district.
The camp was dedicated to help Bhutanese educators express mindfulness in their everyday roles as influential teachers and explore the inner working of their minds so that they may benefit their students through their examples.

Students of Martshala School
As envisioned by Lho Mon Education, a project under Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative, teachers who participated in the camp are playing a key role in imparting the practices of looking inward. 
Following are some of the activities carried out in the schools by the participants:

Mr. Tshering Dorji a teacher from Garpawoong Middle Secondary School started a new club called ‘‘Mindfulness Club’’ with 30 students. He said ‘‘this club is convened to teach the students to be mindful of their deeds.’’ As a part of club activity he also organized a daylong nature mindfulness walk in collaboration with Chokyi Gyatso Institute to encourage students to develop an understanding of the world around them as well as their internal world and how the two are so closely related.

Sonam Dema, a student of Garpawoong School
A vice principal of Phuntshothang Middle Secondary School, Madam Ambikka Homagai and Miss Sherab Zangmo formed a club with 60 students and 6 teachers. They are going to conduct a School Based In-service Program (SBIP) about mindfulness to other teachers in the school soon. Zangmo wrote ‘‘we have divided the club members into three groups of 20 members for meaningful practice.’’

Phuntshothang School: Health and physical class
Madam Tshering Yangzom and Miss Sangay Wangmo from Karmaling Higher Secondary School did School Based In-service Program (SBIP) with other teachers including the principal and started practicing meditation and karma yoga. Yangzom wrote ‘‘I am doing meditation as well as prayer. I too became a vegetarian after I have completed reading a valuable book ‘‘What Makes You Not a Buddhist’’. I have introduced karma yoga and meditation in my School Agriculture Program (SAP) club.’’

Wangmo also integrated the practice in her teaching classes. She wrote, ‘‘I did a trial meditation session in class 9 and 11. Students are very eager to learn about meditation.’’

Karmaling School: Democracy club members
Pelden Drukpa Dorji a principal of Dechen Primary School wrote, “We have started training teachers in mindfulness practice to be able to help children with the practice.”Dechen Choden from the same school wrote, ‘‘we started implementing karma Yoga in our school. Teachers including our principal are busy with Karma Yoga.’’
Sonam Tshering a teacher from Rinchen Kuenphen Higher Secondary School wrote, ‘‘I am practicing daily in the morning about 15 minutes and I am going to integrate the practice in my Dharma club.’’
Phuntshothang School: Mindfulness club members and teachers
Madam Jampa Choden wrote, ‘‘Mindfulness practices has always been practiced in the school, but I am teaching them more on meditation with all the knowledge gained from the mindfulness camp.’’ She added, “I am taking life skill session in four classes and I am integrating the practice in the class.”

Garpawoong Middle Secondary School: Mindfulness club members

Garpawoong School: Karma Yoga practice


Friday, March 25, 2016

‘‘Nature Mindful Walk’’- Connecting the world around us and our inner world

“It is my hope that we can help children develop a broader understanding of the world around them as well as their internal world and how the two are so closely related.”
Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche

To help the students develop a broader understanding of the world around them as well as their internal world and how the two are so closely related, a day-long ‘‘Nature-Mindful Walk’’ program was organized by Lho Mon Education (LME) and Chokyi Gyatso Institute (CGI) in collaboration with Garpawoong Middle Secondary School, Dewathang on 20th of March, 2016. The program was participated by more than 70 students, monks, lopons and teachers.
The program was organized to provide opportunity for students to experience and learn from their immediate natural environment and to take this experience to another level by integrating mindfulness practices. It was also to promote positive attitudes, sustainable mindful actions and to recognize the nature as learning laboratory in achieving greater goals of environmental conservation.
The students were assigned with different activities in smaller groups such as bird watching, exploring the ecosystem of plants, trees and flowers to develop appreciation for the variety and creativity found in the natural world and moreover to cultivate curiosity and acute observation skills.
The sitting mindfulness practice, walking meditation and still- life drawing were other group tasks assigned to connect the external experience with internal world and to develop sense of positive attitudes broaden their outlooks toward nature and bring in behavioral changes in dealing with the nature.
The karma yoga practice was integrated in the program to inculcate and maintain a sense of responsibility and dignity in performing any kind of work from manual labor involvement to paper and pen work. It was stressed that when working, motivation is so important and if one approaches an offering of service with basic good intention, then one accumulates merit.

The collaboration of students and integration of mindfulness in nature exploration program was first of its kind and we hope to organize such a program from time to time in collaboration with local schools to provide a platform for students to broaden their understanding of the world around them as well as their internal world and how the two are so closely related. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Kolokpa Play in Decline

Kolokpa, a traditional game, has been played for entertainment by the people of Dewathang for as long as anyone can remember. “In the 1950s it was a very popular game.  Many young people, adults, and elder people of both genders would play and show keen interest in it.” said 77 year-old meme Khotsha. He added, “Back then the losar of the 12th month of the lunar calendar, was celebrated for more than ten days and they would engross in playing Kolokpa and archery during the day and at night would go for Changshay (drinking alcohol and local beverages) around the community.”
The game is played using a kolokpa seeds. These seeds are found inside a case which grows from the kolokpa plant. The kolokpa seeds are deep red and circular in shape (some are irregular). The few numbers of seeds are arranged in one line at three to five meters away. A seed, usually best of all seeds is used by player to spin throw and hit the targeted seeds on row. The throw will continue between players taking turn until all the seeds are finished.
Kolokpa is a team game and also an individual game. There are two ways of playing the game: “the gyelpo” (king) and “the gyelmo” (queen). Before starting, the players have to decide which one to play. The “gyelm means if a person hits one of the piled targeted kolokpas, he/she will win two kolokpas and subsequently if it hits on two kolokpas one would take four and so on. This is a quick game. On the other hand, the Gyelpo” meaning if a person hit one on the targeted kolokpas, he/she wins only one kolokpa. As a result the Gyelpo game lasts longer as compared to the Gyelmo. The winner and the loser are decided based on the number of the kolokpa possessed in hand after the play. 
Photo: Brodie Lewiss
As per Khotsha’s view, nowadays we don’t see as many youth playing kolokpa. He hypothesizes this is because they go to school from an early age and spend most of their time in the school and urban areas. "In our days in the 1950s and 60s we didn’t have to go to school and we spent all day playing this game. We played this game with a lot of energy and with complete fun in it. Today, because of modern entertainment facilities and other activities like football, volleyball and television, the traditional games like Kolokpa are paid less attention. Many young people do not want to come back to their community now and as a result that traditional wisdom remains isolated and vanishes along with the elder people."
Khotsha observed that the skill of spin throw, the charm of the kolokpa game to topple down all the piled kolokpa at one go if executed well, is not very visible in the youth. The skill, as passed down from parents and grandparents, should produce a high-pitched whizzing sound. It appears elegant to make the sound on every throw. However, the skill remained stagnant with only few elders of the community because of less interest shown by the present youth.
 Kolokpa is a fun game and can be an effective tool to teach simple arithmetic. Besides this student can also learn the skills like spin throw, game discipline, and keep up the tradition of game.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Rediscovering the Lost Soap

As a part of a unit on community in our class we were exploring local indigenous knowledge with students through discussion and group work. The next day a student came up with a nut and handed it to me. He said, this is called kiling se. "In my village, it is used by women to apply to their nipples to stop breast feeding for their children," he added. I took the nut to class and we had a class discussion around the nut.
I made a short post on wechat moments about this nut. Later one of my friends after viewing my post told me that his father collects these nuts. I was curious to see him and that evening I approached his dad. He was ex army and has spent a lot of time outdoors and has a lot of other local knowledge besides the nut.
I learned from him that the nut was used by elders in the community as a natural soap to wash their clothes. Their parents use to soak this nut in water along with clothes. I tried with a piece to clean my hands and it was very effective in removing the dirt. If we keep on rubbing the nut shell, we can see white foam starts to appear. It is very much like modern soap.
The round, black seed inside can be cracked, he said, to extract nut for consumption. We tried together to crack one and it tastes like a less-greasy walnut.
The nut in large quantity can be sold in neighbouring Indian. They use the nut to clean gold and silver. He said the nut polish will give a shiny appearance to the materials.
‘’Kiling se’’ is a term in the Sharchop language (the most widely spoken language in East Bhutan). It is a rough round dark-red kernel with a black seed inside it. Besides traditionally being used by the women in the village to ween their children from breast feeding, it was also used by villager as an anti-leech, medicine to heal the cracks on our heels and can be used as natural whistle for many children.
Another friend of mine recounted that, when she was a kid, she visits her aunt in a neighbouring community. They used to make use of the nut to wash their hair as a natural shampoo. She said it gives a shiny appearance to hair.
A monk from Martang said the nut is beaten into small pieces, mixed with a few pinches of salt; it is wrapped in a cloth piece then tied onto the end of a stick. It is ready for use to remove leeches and sometime the mixture is applied on the skin directly.
Later I learned the English name of the nut from Brodie, a visiting English teacher. It is called ''Soap Nut''. He told me that the nut is used in the west as a natural soap. He said now China is planting this nut to export to the west.

Personally I feel there is potential for SJI to take up this as a project for small-scale production after doing some research on it. LME students can take this as a community project to collect seeds and plant it around Shedra. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2nd Winter Mindfulness Camp for Local Educators

SJI was honored to have 41 teachers, predominantly from Samdrup Jongkhar Dzongkhag, join us for the 2nd annual Lho Mon Education Winter Mindfulness Camp, hosted at Chokyi Gyatso Institute from 20th-26th of December. All participants and staff were particularly fortunate to have Drubgyud Tenzin Rinpoche  attend  and provide daily teachings.

The event provided guided meditation practice to educators and facilitated discussion on the importance of mindfulness in the classroom, both for educators and students. With upwards of 6 hours of meditation a day, it was not an easy week!

From beginning to end, including teachings from Lopon Pema Longdro, walking meditation and karma yoga instruction from Jamyang (a visiting mindfulness practitioner), and discussions with Dasho Neten Zangmo, the camp was a great success.

SJI would like to thank all of our participants, our resource persons, and particularly

Drubgyud Tenzin Rinpoche for guiding us on such an unprecedented endeavor. We're already looking forward to next year!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Nickname

I was teaching the topic''what's in our name?'' to the monk students of Chokyi Gyatsho Institute at Dewathang, East Bhutan. One of the interesting words that we have discussed was ''a nickname''. What is a nickname? A simple answer is a name given to a person to substitute an actual given name.
Who gives those names? Many a times our friends give those names. Why?
So, what is the big deal? Well, nicknames are a most commonly used form of identity next to our given names in many social settings. Be it in the school, college, institute or office, we have gotten a nick name. Certainly, I have one, and presumably, you are not excluded.
A nickname undoubtedly has many implications to a person and is subject to change depending on place and environment. My friends in college call me ‘’Naku’’ as my complexion is dark. In middle secondary school, one of my teachers call me ‘’Dagap’’ as I am originally from Dagana, a district in South Central Bhutan. I have a friend in high school who is known as ‘’Khenpo’’ (a master in Buddhist philosophy) because he likes to share and talk about Buddhist ideas and philosophies, and a friend known as ‘’Kuchu’’ (bulged forehead) are some of the names associated with individuals who manifest personality, habit, an appearance and cultural environment. 
There are situations in which a person would be recognized easily by a nickname rather than by his orher real name. I still remember how I could not answer one of the visitors who asked me the name of one of the lecturers in the college. I knew him by his nickname but not his real name. It is quite interesting how nicknaming culture has evolved and influenced us.
I asked a question to the students in class if they have any nicknames. Certainly the response was a loud yes! All the students have at least one. I was curious and asked them to share it. A boy at a corner said I am a “Zala” (monkey), next a “Solo” (chilli), then ''Nado'' (dark appearance), a “Khengpa”(belonging to one of the communities in East Bhutan), a “laughing Buddha” (a boy who keeps on smiling), a “Yedpa” (a boy who belongs to yak herders in Singye Dzong, Lhuentse, East Bhutan), a “Phagpa” (a pig, because of his body size), a “Manchereatoka” (Mancherea is a place name in Dewathang and toka means an oxen) and so on.
The origin of those names show a strong relationship with their physical appearances, personalities, habits, likes and dislikes, cultures, and social backgrounds. Knowing and learning those names are worthy particularly for educators, because it gives some information about their personalities and their identities. 
Calling someone by a nickname has charm and humor in its own way, and it expresses personal understanding of a person. Nicknames have a sense of identities, and these identities often reflect our cultural backgrounds and belief systems of the place where one is born. There are different ways of nicknaming with their own significance to the name given.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Stethoscope -Zero Investment yet Thoughtful

One of the common devices that we see worn by a doctor is a stethoscope. Learning the name of stethoscope, its function, short history, geographical location of its origin and reason behind its invention in a integrated lesson is exciting for a teacher and students alike. The fun part of a integration lesson is the art of designing a workable stethoscope using garbage. It involves creativity of the individual student, an agreement for a best idea within the working group, and the idea of turning litter into a productive item.
Students in groups of four members were asked to make a stethoscope using available materials from the environment. So, using flexible plastic tube found in and around the Chokyi Gyatso Institute, small pet bottle with cap on it, plastic wrapper and cello tape, all the groups came up with their own creations. The investment for the construct was very simple yet thoughtful. It was a collection of garbage. However, there were other educational values such as using their creative thinking, motor skills, hands-on practice and changing the way they look at garbage.
Here is how the stethoscope is made, as explained by one of the groups to the class. They need approximately a 3 feet long tube. Cut the flexible plastic tube into two parts. Tube A measures 2 feet and Tube B measures 1 foot long. Tube B will be used to plug into our ears as the listening device.First, to construct Tube A, we need a small pet water bottle. Take a measurement of 2 inches from the bottle cap and mark it. Cut off at the measured point and level it with scissor. We will get a funnel shaped like structure.This will be used as a vibration device to be placed on the chest. Wrap a piece of plastic tightly to seal the opening over the cut off edge. Now make a hole through the bottle cap. Connect it with one end of the Tube A and seal it air tight with cello tape. Now we have one end ready. The other end will be connected with Tube B. For that, make a hole in the middle of Tube B (at 6 inches) and connect the other end of Tube A by sealing it air tight with cello tape. To make ear plugs: take a measurement of 2 inches from the end of Tube B on both the ends. Cut half way through each measure and bend it 90 degrees. Next, seal it with cello tape. There we have a stethoscope.
Each group has come up with their own design of stethoscopes with some distinction in the shapes and some additional designs such as ear plug, the size of the pet bottle and the materials they have chosen. Some groups have constructed it using a big tube and a big pet bottle. Those were very large and heavy to carry, nevertheless are good and loud for listening the heartbeat. Students were making fun with each other for those big stethoscopes for checking the heart rate of an elephant.
While there is learning taking place, there should also be fun. The combination will result in retention and excitement in education. The way of learning that has fun with practice orientation should take place within the content of ecological integrity, waste friendly ideas and learning as creativity, and we are providing those experiences as much as possible through similar activities of construction.