Report by Kamala
Rave Reviews from School Board
We recently had our first official inspection in many years by the Non-State School Accreditation Board. This board is responsible for determining if we are fulfilling the criteria to run a school. The inspecting group were all high-level education specialists with many credentials. School Deputy Principal, Prabha, writes about the visit: “They were here for about two hours… When they first arrived they were quite formal; by the time they left they were very sincere about their admiration for what we have achieved here at the River School– yes, they could feel the vibe, too! For me it was an important confirmation of the school’s integrity in the larger world of education. They have since sent a letter to the school management committee commenting that they enjoyed their visit immensely and wished us well for the future.”Huge Ten Year Anniversary Celebration
December 2004 was the end of our tenth year. To mark the occasion parents and staff organised a gala ten year celebration event attended by around 400 people from the school and the community. The evening included performances from all the school children, especially highlighting the new music program which was in place for the first time in that year. There was also a beautiful DVD video made by Narada Muni showing the school’s history and including interviews by past students, talking about how meaningful the school had been for them. The evening ended with a lovely vegetarian dinner followed by a friendly and enthusiastic bush dance! Everyone was so impressed how in ten years the school had grown from 23 children to over 130!We also had a beautiful school graduation which felt like a microvita explosion there was such joy and positivity expressed. Each child received a certificate from their teacher, which was read aloud, telling aspecial quality that child offered to the school. Then the graduating class gave beautiful speeches, gifts and appreciations to the school. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room by the first ten minutes– it was so touching and powerful. (Knowing how it would be from past experience, one of our teachers began by walking in with armfuls of tissue boxes so we would be prepared!)
Uplifting Our Meditation
At the end of the recent holidays, we held a “Meditation In-Service” with the Primary teachers to discuss how to improve our “Quiet Time” programs. The half day program was inspiring and informative, and we all feel it has brought together some nice changes in the classrooms.
We began reviewing the current programs the teachers were using in their classrooms. It was interesting to hear about a variety of techniques teachers have used integrating music, meditation, visualisation, relaxation, yoga, virtues, discussion, journaling, storytelling, sending love to the world, and gratitude work in a variety of ways. Generally the teachers thought their programs were going well and I was impressed with the creativity and sincerity of the approaches.
We discussed the reasons why we teach meditation at the River School. These included:
• Helping children utilise their full potential
• Giving our minds a “rest”
• Helping children find happiness and contentment inside, so they don’t feel only material objects can fulfil them
• Change ourselves, change the world
• Creating peace and relaxation to enhance the ability to learn
• Creating an environment so that children may have a genuine taste of spiritual bliss and peace at least once, and ideally often, in their school experience. Such deep experiences will never be forgotten.
We also discussed with the teachers some in-depth information about meditation such as the science of mantra, techniques for helping mind withdrawal, and scientific research showing the many benefits of meditation in education, health and general well-being.
One change that will affect the whole school is we have decided to begin our Monday morning circles with meditation. This means the children come in and seat themselves quietly. Then we dance the kiirtan dance, and sit for a meditation before we start our songs. Our first trial of this on Monday went very nicely with plenty of enthusiasm.
We now have a “tuck shop” once a week. This means children can order sentient vegetarian food from a short menu (pizza, lavash rolls, mac and cheese, some cakes and ice blocks) in advance, and get served the food at school. The parents run this, and it helps raise money for various programs. (otherwise the children bring their lunches.) The food is yummy!
Late last year the school finally completed building our new Jagriti. This is a two story building with a meditation hall below and a three-bedroom “Dada house” above. No sooner was the paint dry on the walls, then we began pracar classes and workshops which have all been well attended. The new hall also gives us a venue for our all-school morning circles and is used as a much needed music room several days a week.
Swimming Carnival makes a Splash!
We held our first swimming carnival last month at the town pool where all the River School children had been having lessons for the term. The carnival included races, where children received “ribbons” based on their own level of improvement (rather than competing against each other.) There was also lots of fun, dancing and games!