In October of 1986, Zonnelicht started as a playgroup with four children, using a curriculum based on the development of the layers of the mind towards self-awareness, clarity regarding moral values, and an emphasis on having a strong and loving connection with the world around them.
Because of the personal attention and the challenging activities that we provided for children, the school grew rapidly and the parents were very inspired and supportive. The building that we used in the beginning was an old primary school that was to be demolished but was rented out to Zonnelicht for a maximum period of six years. Initially, the government was not willing to provide a new facility for Zonnelicht, but the parents organized a campaign and approached political parties to stand up for the school. This resulted in a small prefab building with three classrooms that ensured the continuation of Zonnelicht and the 43 children at that time.
The school was run by dedicated volunteers, who were practicing meditation and were inspired to bring out the best in children using a Neohumanist approach. Initially, staff training was done on an individual level. Since 1991 there was a need for collective teacher training, and due to that need a program was offered to the teachers including practical skills and philosophy. After the move of the school, Zonnelicht grew as an organization because parents wanted to expand to a day-care setup and a baby group to bring their small-ones to, because of their trust in the loving and caring environment. Slowly the school was growing but a small-scale approach was kept by adjusting the size in such a way that the calm and stable vibration could be felt. At that time there were three toddler groups and a baby group. In May 1991 a new building was purchased, because the monthly cost of buying was smaller than the amount of rent. The purchase was possible with help of a loan from the anthroposophy bank and 40 deposit letters from parents vouching for Zonnelicht. With this new building being situated near a Rudolf Steiner school and a Montessori school moving in our back garden, more parents and children were coming. Due to that situation teachers could receive payment for their work instead of being a volunteer. After working for 21 years as a volunteer I finally received a salary.
Model of Neohumanist Education
Zonnelicht has been running successfully for 36 years in Den Bosch in the Netherlands. Currently, there are 340 children between 0 and 12 years old in the school. About 40 teachers are employed in the school. The management is done professionally with a team using a quality management system specifically designed for day-cares. This team of eight people are in various supporting positions ranging from writing the quality handbook to creating conditions to safeguard the spiritual vibration and the vision. The staff keep a close relationship to guide and support the teachers in their developmental work with the children and the spiritual guidance that they provide. There is an ongoing process of training: basic philosophy in the context of Neohumanist education, including layers of mind, Brahma Chakra (cycle of creation) and yama/niyama (moral code), is part of the onboarding process for every new teacher. There has been ongoing teacher training since 1991, which has resulted in a lot of experience for training teachers towards Neohumanist education, in commitment as well as in abilities. Within Europe, Den Bosch has had a very good opportunity to develop Neohumanist education as a pilot for other schools, for the establishment of the education system itself and the potential for a physical accredited teacher training institute. The project ‘Sowing a sustainable seed’ will as a pilot have a ripple effect on primary school and daycares to take sustainability and ecology more seriously in their curriculum.
Throughout the 36 years of Zonnelicht’s existence, the development of the school has been stable regarding organizational and financial matters, despite the obstacles we faced in safeguarding its continuation. Wouter Vorsselman and I had always put the school first in our lives and focused on the development of teachers training to bring a Neohumanist vision to society. This resulted in the establishment of Lotus Centre in 2014 under the wings of NERI Holland that was initiated by Dada Shambushivananda in October 2000. Since Wouter died in 2014, it was hard to run the school, but the continuation of the school is now safeguarded with the help of my son Caetanya, who started working in Zonnelicht two and a half years ago.
Fundraising for the New Building
Parents were and are very enthusiastic and grateful for our services and development for their children. No marketing was needed, since word-of-mouth made more parents want to bring their children to Zonnelicht and made the school grow and grow. Zonnelicht even had to expand to wings in the Montessori school and Rudolf Steiner school. However, the school board of the Montessori school had decided to take down the wing that we were renting to rebuild their own school on the same spot. The local government agreed after a lot of negotiation to sell us another building at a different location including a sports hall since Zonnelicht needed more space for the children. We need to come up with 600,000 euros to be able to buy and renovate the sports hall. We hope to move in by the new year and hope to hold the annual teachers training event in February 23-25th,2023 in the sports hall. The sports hall has 640 square meters and will be used for the after school day-care children (6 groups) and for training, workshops and conferences.
For more information or to contribute to this project, please write to:
Planting a Sustainable Seed – New Pilot Program of Zonnelicht
Ecologically responsible development is an important part of dealing sustainably with the planet. Conscious human behaviour is a prerequisite for the longevity of our planet. In this context, sustainability is not a buzzword but an intention to continue life.
Childhood is an ideal period in which children develop fundamental behavioural patterns towards nature and each other. Supporting children in the development of their ability to make informed choices based on knowledge and understanding of ecology and sustainability requires a new form of pedagogy — a pedagogy in which the child’s own distinctive capacity and self-awareness are addressed and confirmed in order to truly connect with nature and sustainability education. Sustainability from within appeals not only to the child’s heart but also to the sense of responsibility to want to care for and contribute to the balance and harmony between man and nature.
The main goal of the pilot project ‘Planting a Sustainable Seed’ at KDV Zonnelicht is to set in motion a movement that pays optimal attention to sustainable thinking for children and young families. Programmes in the children’s workshop, the healthy kitchen, in the sports hall, the vegetable garden and in the classrooms aim to contribute to an empathic feeling for nature and sustainability. Discovery and design-oriented learning is encouraged with ideas for a fair and sustainable future. On the one hand, this is meant for the children of Zonnelicht, and on the other hand, the ambition is to use this platform to give an impulse to the necessary transitions in society regarding sustainable thinking.