Maleny, Queensland (Sunshine Coast Hinterland), Australia
on the Ananda Kamala Master Unit
The Ananda Marga River School opened in 1994. It currently has 200 children from 2½ years of age to 13 years of age. Prabha Demasson is the director.
Our 15th year has been a year of great changes and amazing improvements for an already thriving school. Due to over $2 million in government grants we are currently in the process of building four new buildings: a large gym/performing arts building, new administration and staff room building, library and tuck shop (canteen), plus two new classrooms. We’re also able to add two new large play areas, a vegetable garden, and a parking lot. We’re upgrading some existing buildings as well, so we’ll be able to double our early childhood classes (2½ and 3½ year olds) as there is increased demand for these.
During this year also, we continued our growth as a leading school in sustainability, as we installed 15 solar panels (from a grant), and put in four new water tanks (as all of our drinking water comes from the roofs, and our waste water is processed through sand filtration on site. All hot water is from solar.). We continue to have an organic, sentient vegetarian, whole foods canteen three days a week and hope to expand this, plus all school lunches from home and at school events are strictly sentient, whole foods vegetarian.
We are also on the leading edge of technology, with individual laptops for all children from year 2, interactive white boards in all classrooms, and in seventh grade, each child has their own ipad! This all fits in well in our 25 acres of rain forested land, with a beautiful, swimmable creek running through it.
The school has specialist teachers for art, music, yoga and meditation, performing arts, ecology studies and special education. All children learn marimba (tuned percussion), plus recorder and have the option of private lessons in strings, piano or guitar. The school is also leading the region in sports, especially in track and field, swimming and soccer. This year, the River School for the second time, won the district soccer championships, despite being the smallest of eleven schools competing. The school also recently won a slew of prizes in the Hinterland Junior Art Awards, including overall school award, first prize in the junior primary and five encouragement awards (again, as the smallest school.)
We continue to innovate and improve our focus on Neohumanism. Each term (four per year), teachers submit their plans to the director, and must include in their theme a clear Neohumanistic statement and activities. For example, if year 7 has a theme of Science, they also teach “Mad Science” experiments that they have planned and organised, to the Year 1 class. Year 6 goes to Brisbane to serve a hot lunch at a large homeless shelter. Other classes raise funds for overseas service, study global relief organisations, visit adults in aged care, and many other activities. The school follows a “virtues” program throughout the year.
Each class practices meditation daily in their classroom and have one specialist yoga and meditation session weekly. This year our yoga and meditation specialist teacher was also teaching performing arts. She had the excellent idea of combining the two: each class does 1.5 hours of yoga and meditation combined with performing arts. This has had the effect of the children really looking forward to their weekly session because they love the performing arts; and it has also led to more deeply Neohumanistic themes in drama, as it comes after their internal focus.
We have seen that AM River School children continue to excel after they leave the school. This year, typically, at the large local public High School, both of the elected school captains are River School graduates.