Bringing Neohumanist Education to the Italian Alps
By Michela Urbani
About three years ago, the “Nuovo Mondo” project was born in Losego, a small village in the province of Belluno in Italy by Katiujsa Viel. She had inspired her family to turn their ancient building at the centre of the village, which served as a place of cheese making and then as a discothek and bar for 40 years, into a spacious yoga centre and kindergarten. The desire to bring a new type of education to the community and to be able to raise children in a joyful, family context and mutual collaboration between families made this dream come true. And so the kindergarten was born as a growth path that respects the development of each child and that does not subtract from their free and innocent minds the values that too often we adults lose but that are so natural for them: empathy, respect, curiosity and fantasy. Carefree, but also courage and a fair amount of recklessness!
Currently the kindergarten is aimed at children aged 2 to 5, but there are plans to also create a primary school this October where the educational programme during the first years of learning can be continued.
The teaching within Nuovo Mondo is based on experiential learning, learning alone, learning together and from what nature offers us, and has as its backbone the philosophy of Neohumanist Education. Education is therefore based on the principles of universal love, on the need for spiritual development, on the ability to make the most of one’s rationality and feelings, taking care of oneself and of all creatures on the planet. This is possible only with activities that put us in close contact with nature, that make us explore, understand our creative potential and that remove any inferiority complex. Only from a new education can we think of a new society.
The Alpine environment, meadows and woods are the ideal setting for the type of teaching offered. Children are encouraged to stay outdoors as much as possible by offering sports in the meadows and forests, vegetable gardening, and carpentry workshops. Other activities include yoga and meditation, kiirtan singing, artistic painting and drawing workshops, and manual skills such as recycling, building small objects etc.
Learning also includes food education. Sentient food is proposed and parents are encouraged to do the same at home. Children are actively involved in cooking, picking fruits and vegetables from the garden, preparing jams and biscuits, and experimenting in the kitchen.
The “ancient grainz” project was particularly appreciated. The children were able to see from scratch how wheat is sown and cultivated. With 2kg of wheat borrowed from the local seed bank and sewn in 220sqm of land we harvested 1200kg. We grinded the wheat and used it in the preparation of bread, pasta and lasagna. This is the experiential and learning by doing approach we believe in.
A special aspect of this project is that children and adults learn together. Families are directly involved; mothers and fathers are called to actively collaborate in the realization of this project which aims to be a common and social project. Based on their availability of time and their skills, parents can cook, help with the work in the vegetable garden and garden, build games, accompany the children on trips, etc.
Families thus have the opportunity to understand Neohumanist philosophy in a practical way, both indirectly through their children, and with courses, meetings and in-depth evenings created ad hoc for parents.
The desire is to grow up human beings who are happy and aware of the important values in life, and who can live within a peaceful and balanced family and society.