Ashram Paryavaran Vidyalaya (Ashram Environmental School / APV) has provided holistic and mindful education to the rural poor of Uttarakhand’s Garhwal hills near Anjanisain. The project was founded in October 2003 and has been led by Anand Dwivedi, a local educationalist who has taught at some of best progressive educational institutions throughout India including Shantiniketan [ made famous by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, whose vision became what is now the university town Visva-Bharati University ] and Rishi Valley [ a school dedicated to the philosopher J. Krishnamurti‘s vision of education ].
APV teachers live together in a community where all practice mindfulness. This community is at the heart of APV and the school is guided by the same principles by which the community lives: equality, empathy happiness, inquiry, and mindfulness.
Each school day begins with an assembly where students and teachers gather to practice mindfulness, sing, and perform dramas. Classes are based on practical, experiential learning activities and teacher-student cooperative investigation; everyone teaches and learns together. Curriculum design is based on the LINK syllabus, which links state and national standards to the interests, needs, and context of the student. To this aim, the vast forests surrounding APV are often used as a classroom.
Due to the great success of the model and community, APV is currently focused on expanding its influence and spreading its message of Sa Vidya Ya Vimuktaye, or “knowledge is that which liberates.”
APV teachers use a mindful approach to structuring their lessons. Each lesson is designed to link government curriculum standards to APV’s holistic development model. Classrooms often start with mindfulness exercises before beginning practical, experience-based learning activities. Each activity is designed to physically engage the student in learning which leads to a strong, positive emotional response to the work. From this engagement, students then investigate the topics with the teachers and other students. In this way, knowledge is grasped rather than received.
Peer Management/Peer Education:
Students at APV are leaders in the community. Each grade level is responsible for simple tasks related to maintenance of facilities but as students mature, they receive more and more tasks and assignments intended to help their holistic development. Older students are tasked with peer-teaching activities. Often, students in classes six through eight are utilized to help best explain complicated topics to younger students. In this way, APV emerges as a full community rather than individually segregated classes. Within individual classes, peer tutoring is used as a very effective method to support and strengthen the learning of all students. Teachers often design lessons so that student leaders who quickly grasp topics can maneuver around the classroom to help others achieve mastery.