School In The Forest

The Sanctuary's educational work is first and foremost concerned about the death of the living world and the insane degree to which modern humans are out of touch with life. Our premise is: to be human and alive requires the company of non-humans. Our experience is: we return to the living world through participation and surrender, when we touch, and are touched by, the many intelligences of the forest.

Modern civilization shuts out the processes that sustain human existence, and this distancing from our bodies, senses, other living beings, and ecological processes disorients and narrows us. Rich or poor, we become estranged from wild nature, and this furthers the split with our own humanness.

The thousands of people who visit the Sanctuary every year to experience the diversity of forest life are themselves diverse. Adivasis, urban children, college students from small towns, farmers, botanists, rural womens' self-help groups, academics, artists and back to nature urbanites: each enters the wild world differently. One of the most profound learnings for us has been that this variety of minds and bodies and worldviews and skills and creativities and thoughts and questions, stands itself in danger of disappearing.

We begin with ourselves as learning individuals, and we ask a few basic questions. What is seeing and how can we see better? What is it to listen? And how can we listen better? What is it to relate to an idea of something and to the actual thing, be it a person, a plant, an emotion, a happening, a process? What comes first: the idea or the experience? What are the implications of either? What causes closure, shut down? What facilitates opening?

It seems with children so much is just natural and effortless. Learning is effortless, language is effortless, observation is effortless, play and sleep and relating are all effortless. We see this with kids who have grown up here, how effortless is their participation in this complex dynamic rainforest world, how at ease they are with plants and animals and trees and land and river and fish. We see even with youngsters who are not familiar with this world here, give them some time and they magically unfold into supple, dynamic new beings, shaped anew by the forest and the terrain and the non human lives they encounter.

Residential Programs

Caring for the natural world and finding our place in it requires us to open our senses, enter natural spaces and to learn from wild beings. Our residential programmes for schoolchildren are aimed at addressing the increasing alienation of humans from each other, and from non humans. This is accomplished primarily through an experiential approach to natural history: the cultivation of sensory skills in intensive 'immersion' programs in which contact with the forest is core.

More than 1000 urban school children have spent a week to a month at GBS and have participated in these intense residential programmes. Many of these have been documented and are available as resources for other educational initiatives. The impact of these residential programmes have been at various levels, for example, sensitizing young people to the urgency of forest protection, profoundly affecting their worldviews and inspiring some of them to take up conservation as a vocation.

Landscapes & Lifeskills Course

The aim of this five-month course is to help young people-discover their connection with the living world, while acquiring the knowledge and skills to understand nature and act sensibly with it. It is built on a series of interlocking units about the processes, organisms and influences within a landscape, including the relationships between people and their environments. The course is facilitated by the Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary and Himal Prakriti (Munsiari, Himalaya). In their different places, climates and cultures, both parties' central concern is the complex web of connections between individuals, their communities and their landscapes. Learning is primarily experiential: classes are conducted in the field via a series of questions and exercises.

The course is intended for young persons interested in the natural world. It requires an open spirit, a capacity for self-inquiry, a willingness to be challenged physically, psychologically, and intellectually, an ability to cooperate with a diverse group of people, the stamina to live for long periods in simple conditions, and fluency in English.

The L&L course has been steadily attracting more and more interested youth from around the country and the world. Offering both hands-on as well as study modules, the programme is founded on the perception that there is urgent need for "head, heart and hands" approach to environmental action. It is unique in that it is open to anyone over the age of 18, whatever the background, tribal, rural or urban.

Student gallery

Here are some projects done by some school and college students.

Insects Project with CFL students
Feedback notes from 7th std students of Sahyadri School, KFI
Sruti Yusufi Field Study-1
Sruti Yusufi Field Study-2
Sruti Yusufi Forest Recovery Study for Cambridge University

And here is Vlado Sav's Expanded Awareness Exercises

Here is an article written by Jen Knox, visiting educator from the US.

Go to Writings page for various articles on education

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Courses for Teachers & Adults

We offer courses for teachers and adults on request. Please see the announcements page to learn more about these. We can design them together depending on special interests. . If you are interested please contact us well in advance. Group size should be 8-10 only. Payment is on a sliding scale with privileged individuals and groups supporting underprivileged ones.