Farida Sobhani Vahedi - Head,Youth Empowerment & Capacity Building City Montessori School, Lucknow

City Montessori School (CMS) believes that every child is a mine rich in gems of inestimable value and that education, alone, can allow it to reveal its treasures and enable mankind to benefit therefrom.

Hence CMS follows an integrated approach to education in order to empower every child to understand the purpose of life, the essential identity of each human being, and the role of knowledge and volition in initiating and sustaining the dual process of individual and social transformation. To harness the great potential that each one has in order to understand concepts, gain, generate and diffuse knowledge, act and reflect upon action, analyze the positive and negative forces and make responsible choices in life, CMS has introduced elements in its educational curriculum that cater to the spiritual, material and human education of all its wards as well as its teachers and staff. Understanding the inter-linkages between various aspects of our existence, our interdependence, our stewardship of nature, etc. demands that educational institutions take up their role in the promotion of social discourses that lead to constructive social action.

Hence CMS programme of education is not just restricted to classrooms but also to participation in conferences and seminars that broaden horizons and help in appreciating the fundamentals of sustainability.
Below is a highlight of some of the efforts made at CMS to reach the goals of sustainable living.
1. Junior Youth Empowerment Programme
City Montessori School (CMS), which has over 50,000 students across 20 campuses, has integrated a programme for the empowerment of junior youth (12-15 years) into its school curriculum. This has provided a unique opportunity to empower and nurture the capacities of literally thousands of youth and junior youth to arise and fulfill their potentials for initiating and sustaining the dual process of individual and social transformation, a kind of education that is rarely made available to many youths today. The objectives of the programme are to enhance their power of expression; develop their ability to work with their peers in an environment of unity; analyze the positive and negative forces around them; make responsible choices; and engage in acts of service to their communities.

An integral part of this programme in CMS has been to train volunteers from the students of the senior section to serve as animators: class 9 animators go to class 6; class 10s go to class 7 and Class 11s go to class 8. The animators build strong bonds of friendship with the junior youth and a group identity is formed as they go through this process with the same group for three consecutive years. As of now, we have a total of around 400 animators in six campuses of CMS. Each animator has a group of 10-12 junior youth and hence 4000-5000 students of CMS in the junior section (classes 6-8) are engaged in this programme.

In addition to conducting the JYEP books, the animators engage their Junior Youth groups in activities related to the concepts in the lessons, as well as in service projects. For example, junior youths of one of the new campuses of CMS identified a slum area just beside the school and decided to do a Soles for Souls project – they donated a lot of their own shoes and clothes and gave them to the poor children in the neighboring community. After giving them these gifts, they decided to invite those children into the campus twice a week and teach them moral values through songs, prayers and drawings as well as lessons in numeracy, literacy, public health and hygiene. Other service projects include making assembly presentations and hosting radio shows to addressing certain issues that junior youths face in their campuses; engaging in peer-tutorials; teaching literacy to campus support staff and moral values to students of the primary section.
Read more at: http://www.cmseducation.org/jyep/index.htm

2. Environment education and projects:

CMS is dedicated to changing its 50,000 students’ mindsets in favor of sustainable living. All 20 campuses of CMS have an environment coordinator (a teacher) dedicated to motivating students to preserve the environment. All the campuses have Eco clubs where students get the opportunity of consulting, planning and executing environment projects in the campuses with the help of the environment coordinator. Below are some of the activities conducted by CMS:

  • Celebration of international environment days – World Environment Day, World Water Day, World Ozone Day, and International Day of Forests are celebrated in all CMS campuses. In addition other environment related occasions are also observed. On these days, the students make presentations (eg. poster-making activities, assembly talks, skits) to spread awareness of environment issues (eg. climate change, pollution)
  • Students participate in competitions (eg. painting, essay) on themes such as Climate Change. These competitions are organized by the campus, and sometimes by the Center for Environment Education and the Council of Science and Technology, Uttar Pradesh.
  • Students are taken on nature walks to places of environment importance, for example visit to Nehru Bal Vatika, the National Botanical Research institute, Lucknow Zoo, etc.
  • Students undertake projects such as rain water harvesting, testing quality of the water being consumed from different water sources. CMS is developing the infrastructure for the storage of non-sewage water and rain water to replenish ground water aquifers in all campuses. CMS is dedicated to store water to meet demand over time and to recharge/reclaim waste water or runoff water and restore/renew natural resources. This Rainwater Harvesting Project has been launched in all its campuses.
  • Tree plantation is another project that our students are involved in as well as growing and taking care of medicinal plants in the school campuses itself.
  • Solar energy and installation of solar panels in order to use renewable sources of energy is a project that is being followed by the management.

Read more at: http://www.cmseducation.org/environment/

3. International Conferences of Chief Justices of the World
CMS holds 32 international events a year, one of which is the International Conference of Chief Justices of the World (which is in its 16th year). In these conferences, chief justices and judges from different parts of the world, come together to hear the concerns of children. In preparation for the Conference, CMS holds weekly Youth Leadership Seminars, in which the students study documents and engage in discussions around different contemporary issues such as human rights, international law, gender equality, political and social governance, establishment of a New International Order through structural reforms at the United Nations, as well as through releasing the power and building capacity of the individual. In addition the issues of the world undertaking towards the eradication of poverty in all its forms, promoting religious co-existence and respect for diversity are other important areas that the students of CMS learn about, discuss and deliberate upon in the course of these seminars.
During the conference, some of these selected students present appeals to all the judicial luminaries present. These include appeals for international arbitration; for administration of justice; for human and child rights; and even an appeal to hold states and governments accountable to their commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals for the eradication of poverty and social, economic and environmental development of the whole of humanity by 2030. * Read more http://www.cmseducation.org/article51
4. Children’s International Summer Village (CISV)
What does CISV do?

  • Provides a range of unique, educational group activities, which develop cross-cultural understanding in children, youth and adults from around the world
  • Contributes to research in international relations and conflict resolution
  • Cooperates with like-minded organizations
  • Inspires people of all ages to strive for a more just and peaceful world.

A 4-week long camp (called a ‘Village) is held annually since the last 22 years at the City Montessori School, where twelve delegations comprising four children each of 11 years accompanied by an adult leader, junior counselors and host staff stay and work together under one roof. Through a set of activities, at the core of which lie the educational principles of diversity, human rights, conflict & resolution and sustainable development, participants develop cross-cultural understanding. By encouraging respect for cultural differences and the development of self-awareness, CISV empowers each participant to incorporate these values into their lives as they become global citizens and strive for a more peaceful world.
The first CISV delegation from CMS to participate an international camp called a ‘Village,’ was sent to Cincinnati, USA in 1972. Since then, CMS has been regularly sending children’s delegations of 11 year olds to international camps all over the world. Till June 2015, 102 delegations have traveled abroad to these international programmes.
Some other resources for information on Sustainability Activities of CMS students, teachers

  • For month-wise details of activities and achievements of CMS since 2001 do visit: http://www.cmseducation.org/bulletin/index.htm
  • With the threat of war looming large in 1999 between India and Pakistan, the urgent need was felt for starting activities and programmes that would help build defences of peace in the minds of children of both countries who are eager to live together in peace. Thus, started the children’s Indo-Pak Pen-friends Club called ‘Aao Dosti Karein’ with the objective of facilitating person-to-person contact between the children of both countries. More can be read at about this effort at http://www.cmseducation.org/aaodostikarein/
  • CMS believes that the responsibility of the school is not merely to provide academic education to the children but also to use the opportunity to reach their families, community and larger society with its mission of oneness of God and oneness of humanity. As a lighthouse of society, schools should be concerned with the affairs of the age and therefore in collaboration with the media which is one of the most powerful pillars of a vibrant democracy, seminars are held to raise consciousness of the children and their parents to protect the girl child and woman from all forms of violence and agression in society. More can be read at http://www.cmseducation.org/media/
  • The fire of religious intolerance and hatred is devouring the world and therefore there is an urgent need for people of different faiths to consult together on issues of respect for diversity and religious co-existence. Teachers at City Montessori School directly engage in interfaith dialogue at the International Conference on Promoting Interfaith Dialogue in Multi-Religious Communities. You can read more at http://www.cmseducation.org/interfaith/index.htm
  • With a view to promote the ideals of World Unity and World Peace across the globe, CMS campuses organize international events. A stimulating environment lets children appreciate first-hand the similarities and celebrate the differences between people from all over the country and the world. http://www.cmseducation.org/events_conf/eventindex.htm
  • International accounts of the impact of CMS education can be read at http://www.cmseducation.org/cmseduimpact/int_acc.htm