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  • Agastya International Foundation

The synergy of Agastya

Updated: Jul 9

Agastya’s children, along with the art and science instructors, recently constructed a colourful and artistic mural depicting the various layers of the earth’s soil. It adorns the steps built into the small hillock that lies between the astronomy center, the art center and the discovery center that houses life-size science exhibits. The hillock itself is dotted with trees, plants, herbs and flowers. Today, when any child or teacher walks up the steps, they find that the mural has rendered the earth beneath the hillock almost transparent – they’re able to see the many layers of the soil. They see clearly, perhaps for the first time, the earth beneath our feet, around us, and an earth that is most certainly a part of us. At a time when these children are not even “in-class” and therefore not “forced-to-learn”, the experience catches them unawares. And that deeply felt, almost involuntary and unconscious learning borders on the magical. 


That mural is quintessentially Agastya. So is the caricaturized depiction of the water cycle that the children will see when they walk between the Center for Creative Teaching and the Model-Making workshop. The 170 acre campus houses over a dozen science learning hubs in addition to open-air classrooms, a teacher training center and art and media labs where over 500 children and their teachers visit from surrounding government rural schools. These hubs serve as a place where human knowledge is deconstructed and taught to children in lively, interactive parcels. But the learning is special because of the fluidity with which learning continues between and across labs without boundaries. With the learning of knowledge and the unlearning of boundaries are born new and exciting modes of creative expression - like the small gazebos made of waste plastic bottles; or the mural in front of the kitchen – made of waste kitchen utensils. 


In effecting a synergy between various labs, Agastya has taken inspiration from its own conservation efforts to restore the once-barren land to its natural, green state. The appreciation for the interrelatedness and dependence of all species that continues to drive its regeneration efforts in ecology is now feeding into Agastya’s innovative efforts in learning. Just as the birds, animals, trees and insects exist in harmony with each other, the learning labs and people exist as a balanced community of innovation centers. It is this sensibility that inspires the Center for Creative Teaching – where teachers learn and practice new methods not in isolation of their students but in the presence of their eager and hungry minds. And the harmony enables a spark of curiosity from anyone’s mind – a child, teacher or staff can instantly spread and ignite the entire system. For e.g. at the model-making-workshop where life can be breathed into anyone’s idea for a teaching aid by fabricating it in the shop on the bottom floor and testing it out with the class of children on the upper floor.

 

A healthy ecosystem, it is said must be capable of expanding and reproducing. With over 70 mobile labs spread across 10 states, Agastya’s innovations are part of a thriving knowledge ecosystem. And Agastya’s Young Instructor Leaders, a group of innately curious 12 – 15 year olds that being nurtured for leadership, confidence and creativity are already taking root like a banyan tree.


Tucked away in rural hinterland, the campus is right in between the cultures of 3 southern states. In the center of the campus stands the statue of the great Sage Agastya who is said to have crossed the Vindhyas from North India to Southern India, unified the two lands, created the Siddha school of herbal medicine and authored a grammar for Tamil Language (an ancient language that flourishes till date). Perhaps as an ode to the Sage, Agastya is creating a new grammar for innovations in learning.

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