Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Farm as a classroom

Schools provide space for creative thinking and learning wholesome and healthy growth of our children, who are always inquisitive. Schools help children find meaning of their lives and prepare them to live their lives well as good human beings. Students are not in schools just to follow the mundane daily routine of completing the syllabus and passing the exams. Schools help children to find joy in knowing about and exploring the world - simple things like source of water, food, plastics, etc. Students learn through gradual exposure to external world and by connecting the inner self with the outside world. Students learn by doing things themselves.

Here with Lhomon Education (LME), we provide students the opportunity to learn and prepare themselves for their lives and to fulfil their daily needs through practical hands on experience. LME endeavours to make learning joyful to its students.
One of the activities carried out by the students is organic garden, through which we strive to close the gap between knowledge and practical aspect of learning. The garden becomes the classroom. Students make compost; terrace the land and plant vegetables. It is part of their lesson and taught by a local farmer, who does not have a teaching degree. Instead of competition, cooperation and team work amongst students is encouraged. Harvesting vegetables from their garden is a matter of great joy and satisfaction for the students. Learning is taking place simultaneously.
When I was student, we had to do agriculture every Saturday. We did not learn anything from it as we were all focused on production since it was a competition between houses and classes. Learning on the farm and from a farmer was unthinkable then. We must be reminded that students learn more when they are able to connect with the external world, otherwise what they are taught in class remains abstract and irrelevant. And in LME, students enjoy gardening and they do not focus on production. And, I learn more here than during my sixteen years of schooling.  

Monday, January 2, 2017

Small steps towards building mindful schools & communities

The 7 day mindfulness camp held at Chokyi Gyatso Institute Dewathang ended on 26th December, 2016. Its content included meditation, mindful offering of butter lamps, selection of local agriculture produced, waste minimization, cooking, eating & walking, karma yoga (work as practice) & sharing of experiences. SJI as mindful choices, universal human values as a skilful means (by Director, JNEC) & contemplative education (by Dr. Yang Gyeltshen, LME lead teacher) as being integral to mindful teaching-learning were also presented at the camp. Post camp school activities & experiences were shared by the participants of the 2nd camp. The participants proposed about 25 activities, which could possibly be implemented in schools. A platform for continued dialogue among participants, participants-SJI-CGI, etc. has been created.
The camp was resourced by Yangsid Drubgyud Tenzin. There were 43 camp attendees: 22 teachers, 9 lopens from CGI, 3 civil servants, 3 youth from Menchari village (GNH model village) & 6 from SJI. The camp is integral to SJI's education program (LME) conducted annually, primarily targeted for educators. Three camps have been conducted till date with over 100 attendees.
Alongside the camp, SJI focused on waste minimization and served only locally available produce. The 7 day camp produced only few plastic wastes like the wrappers of salt, sugar and atta flour. Compiling with mindfulness practice, the only waste generated in the kitchen of the mindfulness camp was 5 salt packets, 2 sugar packets and 4 packets of atta flour. In other words, only 11 plastics in 7 days. Even if we measure it will come around 150 gram only. If it was not prepared mindfully it would have produced tons of waste in a week which is against the philosophy of SJI and of course against GNH. The meals were all organic and nutritious.