Current developments on site

January 2024

During their stay in Shanthimalai in January 2024, five foundation board members visited the newly founded kindergarten with Montessori educational approaches. Here they describe their impressions.
It is 9 o'clock. Twenty lively children are singing, speaking verses in English or Tamil and moving in a variety of ways. "Getting in the mood for the day and activating the brain," explains Mrs. Kanimozhi, the kindergarten teacher. "Clap your hands, jump, sit!" The children learn English by listening and reacting, being told simple stories and discovering meanings through pictures. Of course, they are also encouraged in their mother tongue, Tamil. Mrs. Kanimozhi introduces a new learning material almost every day. Most of them are made of wood and have a colorful design. The sets belong to the areas of sensory and language development, practical life exercises or basic mathematical understanding, for example. Montessori kindergartens around the world work with the same materials - with minor cultural adaptations. During free play time, each child chooses a set to learn in a holistic and playful way. 

"Help me to do it myself. Show me how to do it. Don't do it for me. I can and want to do it alone. Have patience to understand my ways. They may be longer, I may need more time because I want to make several attempts. Allow myself to make mistakes, because I can learn from them."

These well-known statements from the perspective of a child show us how timelessly true the insights of the pedagogue Maria Montessori are. This pedagogy is well known in India, as its founder herself lived on the subcontinent for several years and founded kindergartens and schools. In addition to independent learning at the children's own pace, mindful interaction with each other, materials and nature are central to the pedagogy.
After having lunch together, the 3- to 4-year-old children sleep on their mats in the classroom for a good hour. Mrs. Kanimozhi then takes her class on a walk through the campus and encourages the children to observe nature. Sitting under a tree, she tells stories and also lets the children play freely. 

The kindergarten with Montessori learning methods was opened in August 2023. Mrs. Kanimozhi brought a lot of experience and enthusiasm with her. Commenting on her move to the school in Shanthimalai, she says: "I was looking for a new role and wanted to support disadvantaged families from the region, for example mothers who have to work full-time." Mrs. Kanimozhi enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience with her colleagues. She explains the basics of Montessori education to them in training courses, shows them the specific learning materials and lends them out to interested parties. She also introduces Mrs. Satya, another teacher at the school, to her work in the form of a year-long internship.

The school management would like to incorporate this pedagogy into a second class in the next school year. Learning through independent discovery and action is promoted throughout the school. Teachers expand their skills in this area through internal further training. The Aruna Foundation provides financial support for the purchase of practical learning materials. This year, for example, magnifying glasses, sports equipment and educational games for math and language lessons were purchased. Mr. Durai Ganesh, the main person responsible for school development, explains: "Learning content should be meaningful and lead the children and young people to think and act independently. They don't learn for school and good grades, but for their lives."

Pongal festival

Pongal is a multi-day harvest festival celebrated in Tamil Nadu in mid-January. According to tradition, it marks the end of the winter solstice and the beginning of the sun's six-month journey north. The rain, the sun and the cows, which are considered sacred in India, are at the center of the celebrations. To ring in these holidays, Armin Stocker, who is currently working on site at the SRM school, has initiated a kolam competition among the pupils.
Kolams are artistic mandalas that are traditionally drawn on the ground in front of house entrances using colored flour. Before sunrise, these works of art are scattered by hand by the women and girls. An incredible variety of colors and shapes are created every day. According to ancient tradition, the gods visit the earth at dawn. The works of art are inviting and promise blessings and prosperity for home and family. At the beginning of the festival, the kolams are usually particularly large and varied.
Around 60 high school students took part in the competition. They had 1 1/2 hours to create their work of art on one square meter. A jury then awarded prizes to the 10 most beautiful works. Martin Bütler was there and photographed the creative event.