The Vana School being a creative experiment reflected Vana’s evolution, where the Retreat transformed into a school of learning, creativity and play, offering week long retreats for children from 0 to 15 years of age. While Young Vanavasis were accompanied by adult family members, it was them who were the focus and protagonists of the Vana School.It was a one-week retreat from Friday, 11th August to Friday, 18th August, 2017.
Each day of the Vana School was thoughtfully laid out in a structured itinerary. Specially curated activities with elements of fun and learning, practical daily life skills, developing respect and gratitude for nature, understanding traditional wisdom, and lifestyle guidance from Indian and Western cultures were included. Young Vanavasis participated in all the activities. Our aspiration was that children should become curious, learn and acquire beneficial skills through the Vana School, which would help them live a better life.
To create meaningful impact, we had accompanying adults with a spirit of trust and surrender to this experience. We were also delighted to consider their contribution through the special skills and talents that they had. We integrated the expertise of our team members with that of our partners and friends, to facilitate all the activities. Our approach was to see children as saplings that need mindful nurturing and not vessels to be filled with information. Our team, with an eclectic mix of expertise in wellbeing, cuisine, nutrition, music and creative arts fostered Young Vanavasis with love, care and gentle discipline.
Vana’s cuisine offering was adapted to communal family dining and our menus were made more relevant to Young Vanavasis. The repertoire of wellness treatments was revised for the Vana School and a few treatments beneficial for children were offered to Young Vanavasis. As we do with all Vanavasis, a brief wellness assessment was sent to understand routines and wellbeing concerns, if any.
Young Vanavasis were offered treatments on alternate days, decided during an informal specialist consultation, in the presence of accompanying adults. A gentler form of yoga and also exercise were part of daily activities. Infants and toddlers also received in-room massages with the assistance of their parents who could learn relevant treatment techniques. Adults had one wellness treatment per day as well as consultations.
An orientation for accompanying adults as well as a fun orientation for Young Vanavasis was done at the start of the retreat. Retreat spaces were made more comfortable and fun for Young Vanavasis, including designated areas for creativity and fun.
Some important points to note:
Vana welcomed Young Vanavasis to a week of enriching learning and meaningful experiences. Our activities, spaces, cuisine and treatments were transformed and adapted for this retreat. New activities were curated by our team and external facilitators with special skills and expertise in children’s learning and development. We also appreciated contribution of their talents to make the Vana School more wholesome and engaging for everyone. We created a daily itinerary that allowed for uniqueness and preferences while giving structure to the day. Below is what we followed:
Yoga, meditation, breathing, mindful walking
Wisdom Learning | Life Skills
Interactions, story-telling, cooking, house chores
Exercise | Sports
Animal moves, free form dance, trampoline jumping, tennis
Working in Nature | Play
Gardening, composting, outdoor games, drum circle
Creative Arts | Indian Traditions
Music lessons, pottery, block printing, rangoli
Games | Treatment
Board games, puzzles, Ku Nye, Abhyanga
Music recitals | Movies
On specific days, we had an excursion, a festival, a themed evening and a Puja. The activities listed above were only a few amongst the vast choices we offered during this special retreat, mapped throughout the week.
As you can see, there were options of activities suitable for each Young Vanavasi based on age, comprehension and interest. While some were more dynamic and energetic, others were more relaxed and playful. On alternate days, we scheduled treatments for them. The involvement of Young Vanavasis was facilitated by our friends and partners along with the Vana Team. Their expertise and backgrounds spanned sports, exercise, creative arts, dance, music, child psychology and education.
It was a colourful and enchanting experience indeed. We hope to see more such Vana Schools in future.