Maleny, Australia pic 01

NHE Seminar and Conference

Ananda Marga River School, Maleny, Australia

Report by Didi Anandarama


Pre-Conference Programme


Maleny, Australia pic 02

Arriving from Laos, Thailand and Egypt on seemingly endless flights, seven of us were met by Prabha and Giita from the Ananda Marga River School and literally dipped into the cool refreshing ocean waves at the Sunshine Coast before reaching the rolling green hills of Maleny and the piece of paradise where the Ananda Marga River School is located.
The school is situated on 25 lush green acres of the Ananda Kamala community where several families occupy another 25 acres as a PROUT cooperative. We were accommodated with the families in the midst of vibrant nature, organic vegetable gardens, wild bush turkeys, grazing cows and the humming overgrown rainforest with its exotic sounding birds.


Maleny, Australia, sports

Maleny, Australia, swimming

The school has grown organically over the past 15 years starting in one building with a dozen children. Over time additional rooms were added and five more buildings donated and acquired to serve as classrooms for the now 200 children in 7 grades as well as three early childhood classrooms. The school has a sports ground, a kitchen, sheds for the buses, an Art Center where the art teacher teaches classes, and a shed for Fred who does the regular maintenance of the school facilities. The school has a good reputation in the community and is regularly favorably featured in local newspapers. Recently the Australian Government graciously has approved an over two million dollar grant for the school’s expansion for a new administration building, library and auditorium facilities.


Maleny, Australia, gardening

Although far from home the visiting teachers felt welcomed with kind hospitality and care for all their needs. This event was partly on the initiative of River School’s support for the Baan Unrak School in Thailand. Four visitors were sponsored by River School.


Observations at River School


Maleny, Australia, music lesson

We started our observations on a Monday at the collective Morning Circle time where the whole school gathers every week. Children light candles, say a blessing for the week, sing songs and draw a virtue card that will be emphasized by the whole school for two weeks.


Maleny, Australia, class room

Maleny, Australia, geography

Throughout the following week with lots of excitement to see a Neohumanist School in action the visiting guests mingled in all the classrooms, took pictures and video, talked to the teachers, helped in classrooms, studied the lesson plans of different grades and followed classes to the river when they went for a swim, or went on a hike with them to the vegetable gardens, observed their arts and crafts activities in the Art Center, tasted their fundraising snacks and watched their fundraising movie one evening. The Lao and Thai teachers shared about their countries and taught their folk dances during lunch break. Every day the visiting guests met, shared their observations, pictures, notes and interesting things that they could possibly apply in their own classrooms.


Visit to Ananda Marga Vistara Primary School in Lismore


An older primary school that was started 22 years ago, about three hours away, has been run by Didi Ananda Vitandra and Rukmini almost from its inception. The school has a family feeling of neohumanist love and care for the 60 children up to grade 7. It is similarly situated in the lush green nature of the countryside. The school is actively supported by the parents and community. Its outstanding standard and yearly spectacular drama performances are well known in the town of Lismore. The highlight of the school is the whole school celebration of Baba’s* Birthday in May attended by parents. Just after the first day of observing it was very clear that observation of a school in action is extremely valuable, along side NHE theory and seminars.


*Shrii P. R. Sarkar the founder of NHE is addressed as ‘Baba’ which means ‘father.’

Maleny, Australia

Maleny, Australia

Maleny, Australia

Maleny, Australia











Impressions and Thank You’s from Didi Ananda Anuraga


Almost a year ago Prabha gave us at Baan Unrak School in Thailand the amazing news: Ananda Marga River School of Maleny, Australia would sponsor me and some teachers from our school to visit and observe their school. On 19th March 2009 myself, teacher Janaki and Kindy helper Waranya left from Bangkok for Australia. We stayed at the Master Unit with the margii families who had bought the land 15-20 years ago. We heard about the hardships of the early days when the first few children were enrolled. They had only one building, the ground was all mud and there was no money. One can't notice any of that history now. The school has 6 buildings spread over a big, hilly area covered with lush green grass. As one comes into the school grounds one crosses the bridge over the river where students study eco-systems, create musical compositions and swim and play daily. It is absolutely beautiful. 200 students are enrolled there now.

We spent nearly one month in Australia. We observed the classes at River School daily for 2 full weeks. The classes impressed me with the manifold choices the children had to explore, create and share and pursue their own interests. The children create the themes and plans with their teacher. There is daily story telling with students creating their own stories. As a result the students are very creative. They show responsibility and respect for each other. There is a strong feeling of unity and caring among all.


Maleny, Australia, Didi Ananda Anuraga

Easter holidays came and we went to see the countryside to see kangaroos and visit other Master Units. One was Ananda Pali, the first Master Unit outside India. We were lucky to visit Vistara Kindy and Primary School too in Lismore. We stayed at the school for a day observing the classes. It was striking to see how morality and values were interwoven into everything done and learnt. I read a beautiful article written by a grade 5 student on human rights and child slavery. It was very touching.

Finally we had a 4 days conference. For that Manorainjana took part, and Arun came all the way from New York. Australia was all about meeting amazing people and learning amazing things. We got lots of new wisdom and ideas on how to improve our school here in Thailand. So many bits and pieces of my dream on education came together. I got all the strength and confidence I need to continue the development of Baan Unrak School. Well back here we are having a seminar, sharing the new wisdom with all our teachers who could not get this opportunity to see River School and Vistara School and the kangaroos and the beauty of the people and the country.

I would like to thank all the wonderful people we came to meet and stay with. Thank you Kamala and Giita for housing us and taking such good care of us. Thank you Prabha and Dada who made this possible by sponsoring our journey and stay. Prabha is like a tree filled with love, always there for all of us. Thank you to Katy for the wonderful vegetables. Thank you to all the teachers and students for having us around and being so willing to share and explain. Thank you to Lokesh for his mind expanding DVD's and thank you to Manoranjan and to Arun sharing his wisdom so easily and clearly. Thank you to Didi Ananda Rama for always being a support. And thank you to all the others too, you were all wonderful.

Seeing the education of Ananda Marga so beautifully expressed and meeting all these people I can clearly see how Ananda Marga quietly is growing strong like a giant. With love to all, Didi Ananda Anuraga


Maleny, Australia, Administrators workshop





Administrators Workshop

Facilitated by Prabha Demasson


Prabha Demasson, Deputy Principal of the River School, has been managing the school for 15 years and has gained much valuable experience along the way that she shared in this pre-conference workshop. Mother of 5 children and 8 grandchildren, she lives with her husband on the PROUT cooperative land where she also takes care of 5 cows. She oversees the whole school on many levels from writing proposals to reviewing the teachers’ weekly lesson plans.


How to administer in a most efficient way?
How do ideas manifest?
What are the elements for a project to be successful?

To start a school you need at least one of three things - people, money or buildings in addition to yourself, the person who wants to start the school and to have it be successful. Any one of these three things will draw in the other two.

Then you start with the WHY. You need to be clear about the philosophy and the reason you want a school. The philosophy will be your closest guiding force. The philosophy will shape the WHO, yourself and your close staff who will work there. It will influence what you are looking for when you hire teachers. It has to be very clear in your mind what you want your project to be like. You need to have thought about every detail and prepare for its manifestation. It is important that you think about everything so that you are able to tell the WHAT. For example in the beginning of the year all the teachers sat together and wrote on a big piece of paper all the things that we wanted for that year and everything that we wanted came about.

Family Feeling at School
Then you look at the HOW. This is like making a lasagna, Prabha said confidently: You do everything purposefully keeping the ideas/the WHAT in mind and as you meet people you gather a pool of resources so that when you need to, you know whom to call on. You need to have the ability to bring people in and make them feel part of the family of the school. For example, we saved the life of a man who was an alcoholic by giving him a maintenance job at the school and eventually he got a shed with tools and ‘Fred in the Shed’ stayed on permanently as part of the school family.

Prabha shared that she goes to each classroom with her laptop doing her work and at the same time observing. She helps to improve the content to bring in the Neohumanist philosophy and suggests where to make changes in the methodology in the classroom. You communicate honestly and openly and do not push things to conflict. Children respond to the teacher who cares for them.

Your role as an administrator is similar – you care for the happiness of the entire school family.

Financial flow at school
As an administrator you pay the bills on time so that people trust you and then you can depend on them. The months of the school are busy and it is important to reward the staff financially for extra work. Make them happy. In this way you can deal with things as they come up.

How to deal with negativity
Identify 10 thinking patterns that are negative and communicate with all the staff about them. Give more attention to those who are positive, be it staff, kids and parents as a rule. Involve them in the flow of the school and in this way you add to the breeding of positive culture in the school. You can involve positive teachers and parents to help you do your job. For example give a parent facilitator the job of reading the suggestions in the anonymous box.

Tantric element
Watch yourself and write down everything you do in a day to check how you spend time in the school so that you can evaluate which things you can delegate and which you will maintain doing. Understand your own pattern of tasks. You need to be clear yourself about your duties and responsibilities. As an administrator you are a juggler of many things; parents come to you, children etc. All the resources you need are in the community of the school and you need to stay open and be in control. Do not keep any grey area; give people opportunity to be involved. You need to know when to ‘fire’ someone but make sure you gave them care to develop first. But show your courage to follow through if someone is not fulfilling the expectations. It they do not work out, they need to go and they will be fine. It is clarity of what you represent that is important. An example: a parent complained about the disallowance of her child’s T-shirt with the writing “my sister is a monster” saying, ‘I thought Neohumanism stands for freedom of expression’. I said, ‘it stands for subtlety of expression and not freedom of expression’.


Maleny, Australia, NHE Conference



Weaving a Neohumanist Tapestry

NHE Conference – April 11-14, 2009


The global NHE Conference was sponsored by Ananda Marga Gurukula and hosted by the Ananda Marga River School on the Sunshine Coast of Australia. Many thanks go to the local hosting school with a special thank you to Prabha, Kamala and Manorainjana. The focus of the conference was Primary School Education.


Maleny, Australia, Morning Circle

Special Guests included: Eric Jacobson, Director of the Progressive School of Long Island in the USA, Didi Ananda Vitandra and Rukmini, Principal and Administrator of Vistara School in Lismore, Australia, Dada Ratnadevananda and Prabha, Principal and Deputy Principal of River School in Australia, Didi Ananda Gaorii, Director of Sunshine School in Laos, Didi Ananda Anuraga, Director of Baan Unrak School in Thailand, Didi Anandarama, an NHE coordinator, and Dr. Marcus Bussey, NHE teacher trainer, and author of many books and articles on NHE.

Every day started with a Morning Circle, each one led by a different school: first day, River School, second Day PSOLI, third day Vistara School, fourth day, Sunshine School. For a detailed description of the morning circle from Vistara Primary School, please see the YES section of this newsletter.


Maleny, Australia, Evening program


Evening Programmes
The evening programmes were relaxed and stimulating watching the different schools present their videos, slides and even the Lao and Thai teachers performed their folk dances, and led a collective celebration of Thai New Year. It was a time to enjoy the incredible spirit that is hidden in the powerful effects Neohumanist schools are having on the children and the community they are in.

Baan Unrak Primary School in Thailand was presented by Didi Ananda Anuraga and Janaki. The school is in its 4th year and has 260 children with 2/3 coming from orphanages and the rest from the local community. They are well known for their high standard of English. One girl from our home won the entrance to a prestigious boarding high school. The school has a yearly environmental cleanup programme that other schools join. And they have a dog sanctuary with 20 dogs where they are taking care of abandoned dogs in Sangklaburi town.


'House of Love' Kindergarten in Venezuela told its almost endless struggle to get registered but now it is running well with 70 children. Didi Ananda Amegha has put in a bid for hosting next year's NHE conference in Venezuela. Sunshine Primary School in Laos has 320 children and Didi Ananda Gaorii showed slides of the school's theme of local native cultural events. Didi Anandarama showed slides of the STUVOL programme in Syria and the yoga for children programme in Cairo Egypt.

Rukmini presented the story of Vistara School and showed films of its spectacular yearly school drama at the Lismore City's theatre. Progressive School of Long Island showed slides and film made by a parent who just walked in one day and took scenes of the day's school flow. It was a very interesting glimpse into the various classes. Finally Ananda Marga River School presented a video of the school history from the very beginning 15 years ago.


A Summary of the four day program follows:


DAY ONE


The conference was opened by Dada Ratnadevananda and Prabha, welcoming the over 50 participants who came from Mongolia, Venezuela, USA, Egypt, Laos, Thailand, Mexico and from local places like Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Lismore. Dr. Marcus Bussey, professor at University of the Sunshine Coast and Associate of Prout College, was the facilitator of the conference.


Maleny, Australia, Dr. Marcus Bussy


Foundations of a Neohumanist Curriculum:

Curriculum in Abundance


Dr. Marcus Bussey gave the opening presentation. A summary of his talk prepared by Didi Anandarama. Follows below.

Consciousness – Longing: Neohumanist Education is a story of creation – the story of emergent consciousness. “Love is the starting point… Love is the last point.” It is the story of a Divine Spirit who felt lonely and in need of relationship and thus started the creation to populate the emptiness and bring about matter and substance, joy and happiness.

Diversity – The World of Forms: Divine Consciousness transformed into more and more diverse forms, and over millions of years, human beings came into being and developed language to communicate ideas and awareness.

Self-awareness: Consciousness deepened, world culture developed and we began to live in a conscious story. We developed maps (stories of meaning, myths, ideologies) and pathways.

Relationships: We created us, a collective mind where we share and connect together and where we exist in relationships as a result. There are webs of meaning, social webs, family webs.

Acceleration: Today we experience intensification on various levels, yet as human beings we are clever and can make choices. Do we see crisis or opportunity? It is a time when fear is either confining us to our ‘kitchen’ where we are in control, or it is an opportunity where we can have a human, a planetary consciousness.

Creating a New Wave in the Collective Mind: Through self-knowledge, collective learning and flexibility in various contexts we link personal transformation with global transformation. A spiritual revolution is going on in so many micro-worlds. There is a dynamic longing for healing relationships. In our weaving a new form of language.

NHE Curriculum in Abundance
As NHE educators we are part of this spiritual revolution. Many groups and schools work at the level of social reconstruction that hinges on consciousness. In NHE schools, we educate the human and we have a different map of what it is to be human. Each NHE school is unique but each shares the aspiration to make a difference. In this conference we are sharing our trying to make it happen; as we share our experiences we are making the map. We are learning collectively to make a difference. NHE gives us the tools but the process needs to be grounded in spiritual practice which makes us truly human. Love is the central force, love binds us together; it is the dynamics, and it is the reason and the goal.

Neohumanist comes from neo – new which is a Greek word and humanitas is a Latin word chosen by Shrii P.R. Sarkar who hails from the East thus bringing East and West together. We are tied together in subtle ways. With our many schools we share local and global wisdom. We are a very rich community group as we represent this Neohumanism as a form of shared experience.

Curriculum is about community, knowledge, family related ideas, how we deal with them, how we process them. We embody a different understanding of an abundant curriculum. Abundance is what we are about. We are becoming transitional beings having to negotiate the immense pressures … especially in the west …or in a very impoverished area… but we are all becoming Neohumanists.


Maleny, Australia, Eric Jacobson


Designing an NHE Curriculum


Eric Jacobson, director of the Progressive School of Long Island told the story of developing the curriculum at PSOLI. At the beginning he researched the best curricula from the best schools available in America. He got curriculum material for each grade with specific objectives. Then he mapped out Sarkar’s philosophy as an outline of many different points and saw what in the available curriculum material needed to be erased, added to, or changed.

In the course of two decades he developed every subject at PSOLI in this way and finally wrote his findings in a Teacher’s Handbook. (available from AMGK for $10).


Why – Goal –Philosophy; Who – People – (Teachers and Students); What – Plan –Curriculum; How – Method –Lessons; Where – Place –Community

Eric emphasized that philosophy is the essential leading constant in NHE that percolates down to the teachers and children, into the curriculum content, then methodology and into the environment and community of the school. Philosophy is the outer nest in which all the other layers of what makes a school find common shelter. The nest of Neohumanism is the same for all our schools around the world. It can be evaluated and understood by answering any of the three following questions: “What is Neohumanism? Why are we creating Neohumanist schools? What is our goal for a graduate of a Neohumanist school. We must be 100% consistent on what this Neohumanist philosophy is. On this foremost outer layer there is not now, and should never be, any difference amongst our schools, though its description may vary. For example, some may describe it as expanding our circle of love, while others may describe it as the movement from crude towards subtle.

The next layer is the “WHO” that is, the children who will be in our school and the teachers who will be teaching. Philosophy helps to guide us to be clear on what qualities we are looking for in teachers. They need to be neohumanists as far as possible. Some variation in personnel will occur around the world. As we move away from the pure philosophical outer layer, this variation is natural and acceptable. It allows each school to have a unique footprint, and enables our schools to respond to the ever changing elements of time, place and person.

Then we come to the plan or the “WHAT” that has to be taught which is the curriculum, the main focus of this conference. The content that we add in the curriculum is inspired by the philosophy, the WHY. Here the subjective philosophy is objectively adjusted to the students or the WHO.


Maleny, Australia, Didi Ananda Rama

Once these priorities are clear we come to the methodology or the “HOW” best to teach and formulate the specific lesson plans, and how they will be carried out.

Finally we come to the “WHERE” or the specific circumstances of the school’s locale.

Once again, as we move away from the philosophy, and apply it to the personnel, curriculum, methods and facility, the variations from school to school will gradually increase. The beauty of this system is that the same universal love is evident in all we do, yet it promotes an abundance of creativity and freedom in learning how to apply that love through all the layers of the institution. Best practices can be shared, but not compelled in a uniform way.




The Language Tree: Building Neohumanist Literacy


Maleny, Australia, Eric Jacobson

Eric Jacobson introduced the discussion on Language Arts in an inner circle into which others could step and share their perspectives. The Neohumanist philosophical starting point in Language Arts could be thought of as how can we attempt to increase the circle of our love.

What is the value or purpose of reading and writing? In general language curricula have the following priorities:
1. acquisition of skills to pass tests with high grade
2. habitual reading, regardless of content
3. good content if at all possible

In NHE, however, the most important question is what is the effect of the literature on the reader. Guided by our philosophy of the importance of imparting cardinal moral values, we have reversed the list and gave foremost importance to content:
1. Content must be meaningful, soul-touching, neohumanistic, and allow for deep thought that can lead to related lesson activities
2. Great content, and application of lessons learned inspires the child to develop a reading habit
3. Habitual reader will gain skills at an accelerated rate

At PSOLI, they kept to these reverse priorities in comparison to outside curricula and have proven successful in the course of 25 years. They are outperforming public schools’ students because they changed the focus from short term to long term learning. It is a difference of getting someone ready for tests and getting someone ready for life. Eric then shared many personal stories from his school demonstrating this success.

The qualities we seek in selected literature are:
1) moral content
2) expansion of the mental horizon
3) stories that encourage the reader to re-evaluate what they believe
4) allow the reader a glimpse of the world from a new perspective
5) inspiration to dream great dreams
Our schools need to have a collection of books that have cardinal human values and neohumanist values that expose children to different religions and cultures. For example at age 10 children may struggle with lying. We have several books on lying with Christian, Buddhist and other cultural backgrounds. There are many genius authors who help you in this. Your job as an educator is to find good books and to continuously add to it.

Another example that was discussed in some detail was the use of biographies of great personalities.

Discussion and Follow-up Plans

Maleny, Australia, Discussion and Follow-up Plans 01

Maleny, Australia, Discussion and Follow-up Plans 02


Teachers shared their favorite literature and lesson extensions. Didi Ananda Gaorii, the principal of Sunshine School in Laos, described lack of suitable literature in Laos. She suggested that we set up an exchange of good example of books and circulate them in our schools along with suggested extended activities that worked well with the students. (see "Global Project" for details) An extensive book list provided by Vistara Primary School is on the NHE Resources and you are free to add your books to this list. (www.nhe.gurukul.edu/resources.htm).




DAY TWO


Subjective Approach and Objective Adjustment:

Neohumanist approaches to all round personal development


Maleny, Australia, Dr. Marcus Bussy

Dr. Marcus Bussey introduced this session: There is me (WHO) the person on a neohumanist journey in alignment with philosophy (WHY) and life’s activities (WHAT). The HOW – the doing is the cultivating our life field. On this conscious journey the Subjective Approach opens up the heart – it is the ‘Cult’ – the practice is a process of alignment of inner and outer. Therefore as you open the door when you enter a school such as Vistara School or Sunrise School you encounter a positive microvita energy.

When I wanted to get my PhD in Neohumanism I was asked “What is Neohumanism?” I couldn’t reply in any concise way and so my personal story started. I went to the university, worked patiently, and chanted and meditated to align. We need to cultivate a devotional sentiment in life if we choose to be aligned with principles. As you apply philosophy you start shifting the collective mind. Resonating the alignment is a subjective internalization process. In this blend of inner and outer, Neohumanism in one’s life becomes a mission. With a sense of mission it is hard to feel depressed. As I teach kids “I never let my heart fall into darkness.” Neohumanism is infectiously happy. Mission helps maintain a balance in the midst of the day to day struggle of a school, or any other project.


The discussion that followed included:
Teachers need more clarity on philosophical points to be able to use them. There is a need for Neohumanist teachers training for personal development and to get a good grounding in the philosophy.
Parents and teachers need to be educated in philosophy.
There needs to be inclusiveness and exchange between schools.
STUVOL activities that support personal development are needed.

Aesthetics in Neohumanist Education


This session began with a surprise musical performance on the flute of a piece from Bach by Bhaktaviirya and Shivani. Marcus Bussey started the discussion by saying that children from the moment of conception are open to music. Music opens up the minds of children. He shared a personal story as a teacher when he began to teach guitar and flute to a few of his students. Before long, 80% of the students in the school became interested and learned how to play. They were always playing. What he learned from this was that children loved the sound of the pure notes of the guitar and flute and that music broke down barriers. The children also became more engaged in their whole school learning. Eric Jacobson added that the artist through art practices can go beyond the mundane world, beautifying and enhancing the space we live in. The most important person in school is the music teacher. Second important is the art and drama teacher. They set the aesthetic tone of the school.

Marcus continued to elaborate that Neohumanism is loving stamina and all will be achieved in good time. What is the energy behind it? Joy. Cultural practices bring that subtlety with them. We are dancing to a universal rhythm. Each school radiates energy. The entire aesthetics is the only charming thing in life. It is about synthesis, expanding the circle, our relationship with the subtle. That subtle take us on a journey. Our identities are threatened when we take on something revolutionary. We are a practicing cult all the time. Aesthetics science is at the heart of all knowledge.

For example Eric’s song “What if life were a circle…” can be used for curriculum practices. Take some aspect of this song – how can we use this as a lead into a lesson? What kind of product can you draw from this? How do you bring that subtle energy into the school or cultivate aesthetic science into the school or home? A group discussion followed.
  What if life were a circle…
To hold every one we love?

Keep them safe…
And so happy…
Would I be inside your circle?

Can you grow it?
Is your heart big enough?
Let more in it—

Tell me …
What of the creatures?
the flowers, the trees…
Or the fragrance on the breeze?
Can you tell me, would I be inside your circle?

What if God… Drew a circle…
To hold everyone He loves?

Just how big would He make it…
Could it go around the world?

Or even greater?
Could the whole universe
fit inside His cosmic circle?

What if we could…
Draw a circle like that…
Could we know the heart of God?
Can you tell me, could we know the heart of God?



DAY 3


Discovering the World: Neohumanist Sciences and Mathematics

(the focus here was on curriculum, not methodology)

Maleny, Australia, Eric Jacobson

Eric Jacobsen opened this discussion by pointing out that math and science are integral unto themselves so to talk about them neohumanistically is to link them to other aspects of the school that brings neohumanist meaning to an understanding of math and science – i.e. math and science as service (running a neohumanist business project in school) or using scientific learning to increase the school’s sustainability profile and reduce its environmental footprint. Both math and science should also inspire awe, wonder and curiosity. Looking for patterns in math such as the Fibonacci series or studying Pythagoras’ Theorem and Sacred Geometry, or enjoying the night sky with students, will expand them beyond their current sense of self and introduce the wonder of the cosmos. These are also neohumanist applications of math and science.

He explained that math is a relatively pure science and compared to other curricular areas, will have little variation around the world in what is taught. At present the only change in math curriculum in Neohumanist schools is the addition of sacred math, Fibonacci, or the math of nature into the curriculum. The NHE methodology of math is quite unique however, in that it values application over knowledge, moral intent over fact. Examples were given of math projects that benefit the community. He also told stories of young people who he would not even teach math to until they had corrected their character, explaining that we cannot equip an immoralist with all the power they need to exploit others. First comes character, then you can add the power of knowledge to it.


In the sphere of science curriculum, he explained that science curriculum should be limited to 4 topics per 10 month school year to allow deep exploration of each topic as it relates to everything else around it. Once again the theme of long-term learning taking precedence over short-term memorization came up in the discussion of yearly curriculum plans. Other specific ways Neohumanism is applied to science are through the emphasis on deep ecology, and through teaching about the universe as a set of systems nested within each other, each operating in compliance with certain natural laws.

Teachers shared stories of neohumanist adventures in science and math.

Neohumanist Pragmatics: Developing Social and Practical Learning Contexts


Maleny, Australia, Dr. Marcus Bussey

Then the rest of the day was devoted to an Open Space meeting, introduced by Dr. Marcus Bussey. Participants formed interest groups and developed curriculum themed lesson plans. This was a lively sharing and brought a shift in the conference as now creativity was turned on and the teachers were seeing possibilities of how to incorporate philosophy as the first step into the process of developing curriculum. Philosophy organizes, identifies and brings cohesion and breadth to our thinking. The practical and creative responds to the philosophy and can always be reinvented, with many different possibilities; frame and re-frame.

  The Structure for Open Space Day

Building from the Philosophy
Growing Structure

Philosophical Principle: Choose an aspect of philosophy to explore

Who: Teacher; students; others

What (Topic): Can be general or specific e.g.: “Great Artists” or “Art for Service and Blessedness”

General Statement: Map context; outline how the principle aligns with the topic; acknowledged contextual possibilities and limitations

Goals: What do you want to achieve in the realm of personal and collective development (qualitative); what do you want to achieve in terms of concrete outcomes (quantitative)

Mind Map:
intercurricula/transdisciplinary/institutional web:
Demonstrate awareness of how this unit of work sits within the overall context of school curriculum and community

Resources: What do you need to pull this work together

Outline Time Frame: Develop a time line with key achievements marked out

Unit/Topic: Attach the document

Assessment: How will you assess this work?



Maleny, Australia, Eric Jacobson

DAY 4


Telling the Story:

Neohumanist Assessment and Student Enrichment


Eric Jacobson led this session which was a very focussed discussion on how NH philosophy applies to assessment and student enrichment. With assessment, there was a consensus that it becomes very important in NHE to pay attention to Sarkar’s statement “Educated are those who have learnt much, remembered much and made use of their learning in practical life.” While current practice of evaluation is heavy on the first third of the statement, much more development needs to take place to value long-term memory and use of knowledge. To that end, some suggested techniques are observations, portfolios and project sharing. He also suggested that moral development should always keep pace with academic development. PSOLI uses a simple check, check plus and check minus system on four basic standards of behaviour: Interpersonal (good relationships), Intrapersonal (introspect and correct errors), Respect (rules, consistency outside of classroom, respect to adults), Silence (meditation, concentration, attention)


Maleny, Australia, Working in groups 01

Eric stated that student enrichment was the single most important tool he has found for helping young people achieve the PSOLI stated goals for an individual graduate of NHE: “To discover the gifts given by God, to develop those gifts, and to overcome all obstacles in offering them to the world as a life mission.” In order for students to achieve these ends, there must be time allotted in the week for personal exploration, discovery and sharing. He suggested about 10-15% of the week be devoted to this, and that other less important lessons be scrapped if necessary. The learning that takes place from the sharing of each student’s interests is worth much more than the few lessons that may need to be sacrificed. The genius of the teacher is to not only help a student find and develop innate talents and interests, but also to connect these to needs around them, so that they begin to see their life as a service.

In both Student Assessment and Enrichment, there is a common element: Multiple Intelligences. Howard Gardner’s theory is in keeping with NHE philosophy. It is very useful in evaluation in that it values intelligence not typically rewarded in school age children. Schools tend to reward only linguistic and mathematical intelligence, leaving many to feel worthless and lost as they then attempt to discover their niche later in life. Also, a multiple intelligence classroom will allow for more diverse enrichment. Recently, naturalist and existential intelligence were added to the list, making nine in total.


Maleny, Australia, Working in groups 02

Eric also pointed out that student enrichment was the great weapon in dealing with pseudo-culture. If children’s lives are filled with positive experiences in the arts, sciences and community, then their self esteem is high and they are less interested in destructive behaviour. Therefore Eric asserted that the Music teacher was the most important teacher in his school – followed by the art teacher. These teachers are central in developing cultural programmes that capture children’s attention, are fun and enriching, have strong moral and ethical implications (not necessarily didactic) and also tie in with themes running through the schools academic programme.

The following discussion focused on anecdotes relating how pseudo-culture was kept at bay with positive culture and also on issues relating to how to structure time in the classroom for extension work that allows students to follow their passions. Eric notes that the time allocated to core curricula – math, language arts, etc, was less than that mandated by the state but the extra time spent on student enrichment clearly correlated with higher academic performance and stronger character development in Progressive School students.


Maleny, Australia, picture


The Neohumanist Tapestry:

Harnessing Abundance


Dr. Marcus Bussey offered an overview of humanism and neohumanism in historical and philosophical context. This was important as many administrators, teachers and parents are often asked ‘why neohumanism?’ and ‘what has it to do with humanism?’ His summary (see article elsewhere in this newsletter) led into an overview of outcomes from the four days together.


There were many positive outcomes of this four day conference summarized here below:

  • Yearly global NHE Conference in different parts of the globe hosted by an existing NHE school, with additional NHE seminars offered along with an opportunity for observing at the host school. Schools may apply as hosts to nhe@gurukul.edu

  • NHE Guidebook for schools and teachers with examples of school processes from various schools – by Didi Anandarama, Didi Ananda Gaorii and Arati.

  • Book Circle - share good literature books between our schools (see "Global Program").

  • Book on NHE – in which philosophical principles of NHE will be illustrated through stories of real life experience and real anecdotes from the schools around the world. The stories in the book will be a very powerful tool for underwriting what is NHE in action - By Dr. Marcus Bussey with Gurukula staff. Please send in your stories to nhe@gurukul.edu

  • Informational and educational audio-visualized presentation of PSOLI for the benefit of teachers, directors and new schools - by Eric Jacobson.

  • CD of songs from Quiet Time at PSOLI - by Eric Jacobson.

  • 2nd CD of Joyful Things – by Kamala Alister

  • High School in planning at Ananda Marga River School – by school board and parents’ community.

  • Adding to NHE resources by teachers from River School and Vistara School.

  • AMGK Global NHE Book Contest (details in this newsletter here)

  • Ten day seminar at Baan Unrak school with Didi Ananda Anuraga, Janaki and Varanya with the rest of the teachers at Baan Unrak in Thailand. (see "NHE Seminar Thailand")
 

Maleny, Australia, picture

Maleny, Australia, picture

Maleny, Australia, picture


Maleny, Australia, picture    Maleny, Australia, picture    Maleny, Australia, picture    Maleny, Australia, picture



Impressions from Didi Ananda Shubhada


I am working in Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur. I just started a children’s project and was at the conference and would like to say it was a great opportunity that I had come to the conference. It gave me a better understanding about the philosophy of neohumanism and in a better perspective, too.


Maleny, Australia, picture

It is also important for me to know how to use the ideas in the classroom so with a lot of discussion among the educators at the conference, I gained more confidence in how to work with the children. Not only that, but by observing the classrooms it gave me practical training, which I love also. I feel I learn faster by this method. I feel I have a better understanding of what a neohumanist school should be like.

I was so inspired by the presentations in the different projects around the world and they gave me strength and energy to bring back to Malaysia to improve and expand the small project here. I really enjoyed the company there, too. It was a blessing for me being there.

Personal thanks to Gurukula for organizing this activity and especially to River School for hosting the program and last but not least to the organizer who put a lot of effort to make the program successful. Thanks again.