Teaching some of the Foundations of NHE through Morning Circle, Arts, Creative Movement and Dance
By Didi Ananda Gun’amaya
We had a joyful one-day intensive teacher training at Lotus. The attendance included our teachers from Lotus Children Center, one teacher from another school and the new teacher for the new Neohumanist School at Kasoa.
This teacher training was a new experience for me, as I let the participants contribute more and make most of the activities around their own ideas, guiding their minds to flow towards the foundations of NHE. I felt it was more effective to have more practical activities in comparison with the theoretical classes we have had in the past.
During this training we talked about the importance of the school activities being able to generate a family feeling amongst all, teachers and students, and the students including into their family other beings such as plants and animals.
We experienced the goodness of preparing the body for a new day using vigorous and stretching exercises. Physical activities increase the focus of the students, such as carrying objects while walking in a line and a’sanas (yoga postures), which work with the balance of the body. Other activities included:
Sharing stories with good morals and cardinal values;
Recycling materials to make art;
Appreciation of one’s heritage;
Exploring creative movement as a preparation for drama.
We felt the good effects as we sat together to do the Morning Circle, and as we made crafts with paper mache and danced and played together.
Each of us shared songs; some were created by the teachers themselves – happy songs to welcome the day, songs reminding us of the friendship amongst us, songs to bring the attention of the students when they are distracted during classes and songs to be sung at transition of activities. There was a beautiful diversity as each of us had the opportunity to lead. We felt a very special “togetherness”, as they like to say here.
Our teachers introduced to the newcomers the a’sanas which they like to do with their children, while I let them think about the benefits of those a’sanas to the general health and growth of the children. A’sanas can also be used to treat children who have difficulty concentrating or who are hyperactive.
After a’sanas and relaxation, when the mind and body are very calm, comes the moment to bring some beautiful ideals in the mind of the children. To give a practical example I told them the story from the wonderful book “Old Turtle”, which tells us of the Oneness of things and presence of the Supreme Consciousness in everything. It simultaneously exists in the stillness of rocks and speed of the wind, high above the clouds and down in the depths of the sea. Far away in the shining stars and nearby in things we can smell, hear and feel.
This story helps to present to the child this Supreme Consciousness as their goal in life: the culmination of all our aspirations, all that we dream of and all that we seek.
Different kinds of stories are welcome at different times during the day. Stories help to stimulate fantasy and creativity. They increase worldly knowledge, awaken a desire to read and make the students feel closer to the storyteller along with so many other gains. The stories in the Morning Circle at Lotus are selected with moral values in mind because at this time the children are very receptive. We don’t need to tell the whole book to the child, just what you can see they are able to grasp at that moment.
Our class included a brainstorm about sentiments associated with the cardinal values, such as “Honesty” to “Benevolent Truth” and “Togetherness” to “Universal Love”. So as well as working with values through suggestion (by repeating positive affirmation during assembly time such as “I like to share”) teachers are to select one sentiment to be treated according to a specific principle of Yama or Niyama in the Daily Routine. They may create their own stories or select books about that sentiment. So it will greatly vary and will give children a broader interpretation of morality.
The pick of the program was the local dance which started with our expert dancer facing difficulties to give the first step out of shyness; culminating with all teachers coming in to contribute with some dance or song they knew from their communities (our participants were from 4 different tribes). Others tried to follow along, playing drums, clapping, singing and dancing. It enriched the program very much as we brought out our gifts with our different styles and languages, letting our motor and sensory organs dive in those melodious flows.
It was funny when we came to the Art session and the teachers found themselves in front a table full of empty containers, bottles, boxes and toilet rolls. As I explained that we were to create animals from that material using glue made of flour, old books and tape, it seemed that I could hear some non-expressed voices coming from the newcomers: “Why, this is rubbish!” But soon (after encouraging them by saying that these days this kind of activity is appreciated abroad) they dropped their hesitation and engaged in their task. They created very beautiful works. There was a pleasant silence in the class and the artists lost the notion of time, so much so that I had to start packing the things so we could have a collective meal.
Drama is somehow challenging to our teachers, as in our community most people don’t spend much time playing and pretending in their childhood, instead they have a hard life helping to generate income for the family by selling. If they get the opportunity to study, the educational methods of the local schools do not explore arts and creative movement, and they rarely do drama. That is why we can’t force our teachers to do drama with the students without preparing them on expressing themselves through creative movement. So Didi Vinamrata started by asking them to walk in different ways and the teachers started to move as someone who is very happy; light as a feather; tall and strong; etc. Talents came out and everyone was delighted.
To close the training I continued with the book “Old Turtle” which talks about the coming of human beings in this world as a message of love from God to the Earth and a prayer from the Earth back to God. But by misusing their powers human beings started to destroy the earth and each other, as they forgot who they were. They argued about who was God or where God was; until they learnt to see God in one another and in the beauty of all the Earth.