Practicing Mindfulness: a collection of letters exchanged between AIF Clinton Fellows and the students of the APV School

Nestled in the tiny town of Anjanisain, Uttarakhand in the foothills of the Himalayas, The Ashram Paryavaran Vidyalaya (APV) School provides local children with an holistic eduction and offers educators the opportunity to apply innovative teaching methods.

AIF and The APV School have a rich history of partnership and collaboration; the school was cofounded in 2003 by AIF Clinton Fellow Marc Alongi (class of 2003-04), and APV has hosted a Fellow each year since.

When asked in an interview to describe life at APV, the school’s current resident Fellow, Charlotte Brown explained:

“[APV] is a holistic school; there’s a large emphasis on creative expression and community. We start every morning with assembly, in which we meditate with the children and spend about forty-five minutes singing songs and prayers, most of which have been written by the headmaster [Anandji]. It’s a very grounding way to start the day, and if you ask most kids in the community what their favorite part of the school day is they’ll say it’s assembly.

Then, when you move into the classroom, all of the teachers are very innovative in their methods. They’re very creative and intuitive, and I think what enables this is that all the teachers live in the community together, where meditation is a crucial practice of the community, along with service, cooperation, and equality.”

This year, the AIF Clinton Fellowship class of 2014-2015 spent a portion of their Orientation program at APV, which served as an ideal setting for reflection and preparation for the months ahead. Fellows observed classes and engaged the students in conversation and play; they also participated in meditation sessions, as well as in staff and Fellow-lead information sessions.

Although Orientation lasted only a few days, both the students of APV and the AIF Clinton Fellows were moved by the experience. The teachers at APV use field trips and visits from guests as opportunities to engage students in creative documentation and reflection, so the students set to work illustrating and writing stories about their time with the Fellows soon after they said farewell. Inspired by the students of APV and eager to give something back to the school, Fellows wrote notes to the children and gathered photos of their favorite memories from the trip.

From this collection of photos and letters, Charlotte and her co-Fellow Ilana Millner (Media Fellow for the class of 2014-2015) compiled and designed Pangea. Named after a song sung by APV students during morning assembly, the book is a reflection of both the creative energy that the trip inspired in the students and Fellows, and of the strong bond that was forged between them.

Founded upon the principles of mindfulness in education, The APV School continues to impact both its primary school students and its visitors alike.

*Pangea was printed by ZoomIn, a Mumbai-based online photo service. The AIF Clinton Fellowship class of 2014-2015 would like to thank ZoomIn for its generous support and assistance.

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