The schools of Auroville.
Here is a glimpse of the Auroville schools that include ATB as part of its curriculum.
ATB is offered in two Auroville kindergartens: Centre Field Kindergarten and Nandanam Kindergarten. About 60 children from ages 4 to 6 have ATB for about an hour per week. At the kindergarten level, Lison, Isora and Francesco are sharing the work.
It is around 9 am when we enter the kindergarten. The school is filled up with playful children. As soon as a child sees us, he comes running towards us with a big smile to give a hug, and right after, he runs back to his classroom calling out to the other kids, “There’s A.T.B. today!!”
We set up the hall in which we work with the props needed. Then we go to their class to pick up the children. They are sitting in a circle already waiting for us, curious to know how are we going to go to the hall today: may be by train, or airplane, or as a huge snake…?
Once we arrive at the hall, the class starts. A surprise, a special object, a puppet animal, a story, or a new game kindles the interest of the children and magnetises their attention. This allows us to propose exercises for their development while playing, which fosters the wonder, the magic that is unique at this age.
The rhythm of the class is fast;the intensity of the involvement in the activity is high. One activity quickly follows the other. As soon as the interest begins to decrease, the teacher comes up with a new trick, be it magic or game, which will spark another wave of fun and interest in the class. This goes on for 30 to 50 minutes, depending on the age of the children, with short “water breaks” when needed.
We end with all of us taking a break and going to relax at “a beach”, or going to sleep on a “giant pillow”…, or imagining that our belly becomes a colourful balloon… or turning into shells, we lie at the bottom of the sea; whatever is appropriate and helps to enjoy a pause for some time before the children go back to their class. When the class is over and they leave, they never fail to say to us: “See you next week!”
Transition School is an elementary and middle school with 160 children from ages 7 to 14. Here, four teachers are offering ATB twice a week to the eight groups of students. Paula and Tanja are leading the first four groups and Joan leads the four older groups.
About the school year 2012 – 2013 grades 5th to 8th
After observing, at the beginning of the school year, the dynamics that were taking place in the different groups, we decided to place our focus on activities that would foster honesty – being honest with oneself and with the group that one is working with – and that would help to develop awareness of the interactions between “me and the group”.
We chose to address these objectives through cooperative games and an activity that is particularly useful in this regard: Sticks.
In the cooperative games the key point is the sharing at the end of the game when we observe together what worked and what didn’t and learn from it for next time. Another key moment occurs when we request a pause in the middle of the activity, every time the dynamics of the group get muddled without the children realising it.
This helps children to learn to talk to each other in effective and respectful ways. By emphasising honesty and goodwill we help them to overcome common habits like: blaming, shouting at each other, not listening to each other, not daring to talk or letting go of a legitimate thing to say because one feels not listened to, fear of confronting particular members of the group, not caring for the group, etc.
The Sticks activity is very useful to improve group dynamics. It is a group exercise in which people simultaneously throw and catch sticks. It is highly demanding and compels each member of the group to be totally present and responsive to what is happening in it. After working with it for about a month an important change took place in the group. The children felt integrated in the group, cared for it and felt taken care of by it.
As a 13 year old girl put it in a feedback at the end of one of the classes: “Before when a stick fell, people would blame, get angry, complain; now when a stick falls people say sorry and ask what to do better. We are learning to work together!”
awareness through the body in de kindergarten – book
First steps towards cultivating attention, relaxation and self awareness.
This book illustrates the way we work at kindergarten age to help children begin to develop the basis skills and abilities for attention, concentration, relaxation, self-knowledge and self-regulation.
Deepanam is a small primary and middle school with about 60 children from 7 to 14 years old. The school has divided the children into four groups. Three teachers, Patrizia, Lara and Natascha lead the ATB classes for about an hour twice a week.
At Deepanam we work with mixed age groups. This gives ample opportunity to work on certain aspects we would like the children to develop so they can share their classes together harmoniously.
To achieve this aim, we use different types of exercises: cooperative games to learn patience, respect for each other’s pace and acceptance of their differences; attention and concentration activities to help them come into contact with their inner being; relaxation exercises in pairs and breathing exercises so they learn to let go and to center.
At times we just let the class become a space where they can share and receive guidance on issues that we feel are important for them to talk about.
One of the activities we do is a concentration class where we asked the children to focus their attention on the flame of a candle stuck in the middle of a plate. They are to move silently about the room trying to keep the flame from flickering.
The children are to divide their attention between this and observing the effect the exercise is having in their being. We end this session with an exchange of candles amongst themselves while they look into each other’s eyes.
The following feedback is from two different 8 year old children:
“I never felt like this before; I felt I was in company… not alone.”
“I don’t get easily along with X, but today when we exchanged the candle it was so nice, we were like best friends.”