Sunday, April 15, 2012

Multiworld India

The Multiworld Network is an association of people from Asia, Africa and South America, who share a common objective to "restore the diversity of learning that existed from times immemorial." The Multiworld web site is very nice to look at and contains some excellent resources, especially for rural education.

In particular, the site hosts The Natural Farming Institute, a virtual center for the promotion of farming, based on natural principles in Asia and Africa.

They have uploaded a full curriculum that uses farming as a basis for education. When we started Lhomon Education, Rinpoche's very first request was that each school cultivate a vegetable garden, for their health and for their education. So I am very interested in what NFI is proposing, which is "to look closely into every aspect of natural farming, particularly knowledge of the soils and plants," as a means to education. They will maintain an on-line library of materials for organic farmers, directories of websites, and training courses for farmers presently using chemicals who wish to convert to organic methods.

Here is an excerpt explaining the curriculum available for download on their site:
An educational programme for the children of farming communities in India-FEB 2012:
A major focus of the Institute is the children of organic farmers whose future on the land is generally sabotaged by the existing educational system which has been designed exclusively for persons from non-rural, non-agricultural backgrounds.
"Our Land our Life" is the curriculum framework for an educational programme for children with specific emphasis on farming and farm related activities. It’s design provides a hands on approach to learning both academic and farm related topics.
The document was prepared by the Organic Farming Association of India, Taleemnet and the Natural Farming Institute with other collaborators to serve the needs of the rural and the farming communities of India. Although the emphasis is on the above, others too, specially home schooling children and alternative schools will find the document useful. 
The programme is the outcome of a yearlong research based on inputs from pioneer educators, organic farmers and academicians from across the country.
With so many wonderful initiatives and resources available, we must think creatively about ways to link and share information. We are planning to use the new Lhomon Education Web site as a resource hub, and to that end we are imagining tools and design strategies for making information easy to access and easy to share. Ideas are welcome!

A Bounty

Another magical tale from Bhutan.

One day I thought, wouldn't it be great to have a library of literature for teachers to learn about sustainable development and mindfulness? I went online and made a wish list of books. Within about one week, sponsors from around the world had donated all the books on my list. The mailing address we used was my very kind Bhutanese friend's apartment in Queens, New York. But it all happened so fast, I didn't really have a plan how to get them to Paro.

Another week passed and I was at the Dzong in Thimphu, meeting the Secretary General of the GNH Commission, Dasho Karma Tshiteem, who had just returned from the big UN Conference on GNH in New York. I shared information about the Lhomon Education Curriculum Development Workshop, and he discussed poverty alleviation. It was thrilling to be in the Dzong, by the way. There's nothing trashy about Trashichodzong, with its men marching and the gloved soldiers in glass boxes. I was in my best suit but was told to take off my scarf before entering the hallowed fortress. 

Just as I was leaving, Dasho remarked, "I think we have your books." He made a quick call and then told me that I would find the box at Am Yangchen's house, of all places. Am Yangchen! She's an old friend who I met when she played a small part in Travellers and Magicians (the village woman who detains Tshewang Dendup, forcing him to have tea with her as he tries in vain to catch the bus). I owed her a visit anyway so I walked to her house and we had a lovely catch up.

And there they were, my books. Almost 30 of them, neatly packed in a box and delivered, just 2 weeks after they entered my consciousness as a possibility.

Bhutanese resourcefulness at its best!

Many thanks to all who made this bounty possible, all the book donors, and all the couriers - I cannot imagine how they got from my friend's place Queens to JFK, through customs, off the plane, from Paro to Thimphu, then into my friend's house. And also thanks to all the writers. We are still interested in building our library so if you have any suggestions, please let me know. Our library now includes these books and more:

Affluenza – De Graaf
Big Ideas – The Center for Ecoliteracy
The Botany Of Desire – Michael Pollan
Buddhism Textbook by Dominique Side
Building Emotional Intelligence in Children - Linda Lantieri
Charlotte's Web – E.B. White
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed – Jared Diamond
Cooking For Geeks - Potter
Ecological Literacy – Stone and Barlow
Educating for Wisdom and Compassion - John P Miller
Education and The Significance of Life - Krishnamurti
Food Inc - 2 Copies
Food Rules - Michael Pollan
The Great Disruption – Paul Gilding
A Guide To Green Housekeeping - Strutt
Hungry Planet - What The World Eats - Menzel
The Holistic Curriculum - John P. Miller
Kalakshetra Reflections
Literature Based Maths Grades 4-5
Look to the Mountain – Gregory Cauete
Mind Up Curriculum - Pre K-2, Grade 3-5, Grade 6-8 - The Hawn Foundation
Mindful Movements – Thich Nhat Hanh
Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness: A guide - Shoeberlein
Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation by Daniel Siegel
No Impact Man – DVD
Omnivore's Dilemma – Young Adult Edition – Michael Pollon
A Pebble in your Pocket – Thich Nhat Hanh
Present Moment Wonderful Moment – Thich Nhat Hanh
A Proposal for GNH Value Education in Schools – Karma Ura
Quality Education in Bhutan – Jagar Dorji
Seeds Of Deception
Seeds Of Deception - 3 DVD set
Teaching English as a Foreign Language For Dummies
Think on These Things – Krishnamurti
What Einstein Told His Cook - Wolke
What's The Economy For Anyway? – De Graaf
Where There Is No Doctor - 3 Copies
The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies - Daniel Siegel
Wide Awake: A Buddhist Guide for Teens - Diana Winston

Saturday, April 14, 2012

How to Get an Intern in Bhutan

Anwen at the market with her big lemon

It is possible to impose a western way of doing things in Bhutan, making people stick to schedules, getting "straight" answers, doing things "logically". But I find when I relax a bit and let the Bhutanese way take over, sometimes a little magic happens. There is an undercurrent of unspoken, indefinable activity that flows through the culture. Sometimes I worry it might dry up if too much external influence is exerted.

Two Sundays ago, I went to the Sunday vegetable market in Paro to stock up on the basics (mostly inorganic produce imported from India, sadly) and meet up with my good friends Yann and Sally. We've made a little habit of meeting at the market then fixing lunch at my house and hanging out on the verandah every Sunday afternoon. This fulfills a major aspect of GNH – being social with friends, enjoying the outdoors, taking time to cook healthy meals.

I promise this story is getting somewhere...

Yann and Sally have a bright eyed daughter named Anwen who, being closer to the ground and also more attentive than us adults, found a pen drive amongst the chilies at the market. She showed it to Yann who showed it to me and back at my place we plugged it in to see if we could track down the owner. Judging from the files, I quickly knew that it had to be someone involved in integrated curriculum development and soon found a name: Mr. Karchung. So I called my friend who is a lecturer at Paro College of Education and asked him if he knows someone named Mr. Karchung. Of course he did. This is a small country. Mr. Karchung called me and I invited him over for tea. Turns out he lives just down the road.

Also turns out he is developing curricula for remote schools who require alternatives because of their highly differentiated needs. It's common for small remote schools to have only one teacher for a school of 40 students at all different levels. So we talked about Mrs. Das's active learning strategies and differentiated instruction and after handing over his pen drive, I invited him to the July workshop. I think he'll be a perfect addition to our group.

So because of the memory chip lying in the chilis and the sharp eyes of Anwen and all the little causes and conditions, we had this fortunate meeting.

But it gets better. The next day Mr. Karchung called again. He said that his daughter Sherub Chokyi, who just graduated from Samtse College, would like to meet with me. I'd mentioned that I'd been seeking a Bhutanese counterpart and Mr. Karchung said she was interested in possibly helping us out. So today they both came back over and we had a good meeting. I found Sherub Chokyi to be smart and eager and genuinely interested in the subject at hand. So I loaded her up with movies (Schooling the World and Dhamma Brothers), books (the MindUP manual) and some sticky notes and asked her to start familiarizing herself. She'll start on April 20. I finally have my intern! I hope to learn much from her. Thanks Anwen!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Introducing Sally Booth, PhD

We are very pleased to have Dr. Sally Booth joining us for the Curriculum Design Workshop in July. Sally attended the Educating for GNH conference in Thimphu in December of 2009 and we invited her to a roundtable discussion in New York at the Rubin Museum of Art's education wing last summer. It was a pivotal meeting for us and Sally was instrumental in helping us change our course to become more teacher-centric in our curriculum design. Since then she has been guiding us through important decisions and developments so it is wonderful that she is volunteering her time to come all the way to Bhutan for the two week workshop. Sally is also joining our advisory committee. 
Sally is currently working as the Director of Curriculum, Research, and Professional Development at Think Global School, a one-of-a-kind high school devoted to learning through international travel and cross-cultural perspectives.  She is working with Think Global School to create and implement a travel-based curriculum as a unique foundation for student learning and experience as preparation for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme.  It's a fascinating idea and we look forward to sharing concepts with our participants. For more information about Sally's history as an educator, please visit our new web site.

New Web Sites Launched

Lhomon Society and Lhomon Education finally have fully functioning web sites. The LME site will eventually become a storehouse of education materials including all the curricular units generated at the July Curriculum Development Workshop, videos, web links, articles, lesson plans, and much more. We welcome your feedback. Please visit the sites at the links below.

Lhomon Society

Lhomon Education