Maya’s day begins around 5:40 in the morning; her daughter has a 6:30 swimming class at La Piscine as part of her Sports Program, four times a week. Facilitators at The Learning Community (TLC) begin around 8:10 by cleaning the learning spaces. In TLC, great educational value is given to caring for one’s own space, so no hired help is employed to clean the school’s learning environments. Instead, all facilitators and students are expected to keep their campus clean together. In a lush and open environment like TLC’s Base Camp, visiting dogs, snakes, scorpions, leaves and other critters often find refuge in ‘The Lab’, the space that Maya maintains. The Lab is a covered yet open area packed with science, history, geography and math materials ranging from language books, Montessori Math books, and a variety of maps and charts through which the children can explore the great stories of the Universe, Life and Humankind.
Facilitating activities in The Lab depends on student interest and developmental needs. This week, for example, older students needed support from Maya to explore cube roots and square roots. Maya explains that all of this is rooted in TLC’s specific philosophy, rooted in the work of Sri Aurobindo and Mother: “The methodology used in Integral Education has three main principles namely that 1 – nothing can be taught, 2 – that the mind has to be consulted in its own growth, and 3 – that you learn by working from the near to the far.” Today, Maya guides the students in their self-exploration of visualizing Math. Deep conversations often emerge, reflecting the student’s individual needs to understand where they are in life and acceptance of self. Maya is constantly searching for different ways to address and bring forth those inner faculties which the being is capable of.
One of the ways in which this inner work is supported at TLC is through classes in Nonviolent Communication (NVC) which is offered weekly by the Restorative Auroville team for students, parents and facilitators. Compassionate communication techniques and skills must be acquired and developed by the adults so that they may help and guide the students in their process. Students do the same in the form of Community Gatherings twice a week, where the children become the facilitators and bring forward topics that they would like to see addressed. Today, some children felt that the rule to not ride doubles on bicycles may have to be reviewed. The collective decision-making process to create school rules is an empowering experience… just as much as reflecting on our behaviour and how it affects others, which is how most issues at TLC are resolved through constructive and compassionate dialogue.
Students and facilitators get to enjoy snack and lunch cooked by the Kitchen/Garden Team composed of children and adults. Today, there was papaya, bread, tahini and lemon grass tea ready for morning snack. Lunch consisted of rice, beans, cucumber salad, red rice idly, sambar, tomato and coconut chutney. The concept is to connect the children to what grown locally and seasonally, and to learn to appreciate these flavours. As much as possible, produce is harvested from the Auroville farms and brought to TLC by the students and facilitators on the Kitchen Team. By the way, if you are interested in assisting in this Kitchen Team, TLC is often on the lookout for dedicated volunteers!
Afternoons are usually filled with meetings among facilitators or other afternoon activities. On the day of our interview, Maya shares that today’s meeting is dedicated to creating a research proposal to document the process of assessing Integral Education in TLC. “We want to document the work done at TLC through ‘magic moments’, moments in which the facilitator can sense that there is growth taking place. If we can assess the work done with the three principles that I mentioned before, we would be able to better communicate with parents and student on their process and progress.”
Currently, the TLC activities are being filmed daily to provide an ‘objective observer’ perspective. These videos will be used by the facilitators for reflection, so that they can learn how to develop new skills in documenting Integral Education and sharing it on a larger scale. The children will be involved in the research project through their weekly reflections, to help them understand what happens inside of themselves that allows growth to take place. It is a unique experience for everyone, where they can identify their blocks and resistances (such as fear or lack of interest). Identifying and documenting their ‘aha’ moments will help other facilitators guide lessons so as to encourage empowering moments to emerge.
Being a facilitator and a parent at TLC does not end when school gets out. As part of the ‘Co-Or’ (coordination/organisation) team, Maya is in all the TLC Whatsapp groups (Sports, Pitchandikulam, Swimming, Circus, Surfing, Facilitators, Supportive Learning, Ubuntu, Mediation/NVC, and the Coordination Team). She often has to shuttle her child to afterschool programs like piano, horse riding, Fertile Forest and Awareness Through the Body. Her Whatsapp groups are active around 7:30pm till 11pm and after that, it is definitely time for bed!
The Learning Community has a Facebook page and they are seeking assistance to help develop the TLC website. If you are interested in this school and its projects, kindly e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org