I don’t have my own garden, a planting ground or a place where I can play with soil and mud. So, when I saw this prompt request from Free Tree Society on seeking volunteers to become ‘temporary gardeners’ at Plateau Farm at Janda Baik, I hopped straight right into the wagon.
On a Wednesday morning (the air pollution would turn greyer later in the day), I had the pleasure to jeep-pool with Baida, the brainpower and vice president of Free Tree Society, as we cruised safely to the hills of Janda Baik, which was located about 45 minutes from Kuala Lumpur.
Upon our arrival, we were welcomed by the legal dwellings of the farm by their natural chuckles, cackles, honks and mews. Yes, the rightful and full time occupants were a black cat named Lemon, a couple of ducks and geese who seemed to wander everywhere in each other’s company but mostly near the aquatic pond mini reservoir, and a family of chickens from various backgrounds. The names of the birds were adopted from the likes of Harry Potter and Lord of The Rings would certainly require another session of write up. There was also a rabbit and a quail which preferred to stay in their simple hatch.
Before putting our limbs into actions, Baida suggested a quick cup of coffee at her humble, cosy and sustainable cabin, which is mostly made of recyclable and ancient wood planks and a good resemblance of a kampong house with mini steps. The cool morning air was still hanging under the misty clouds. Nestled in the hills overlooking a valley adorned with steeps cultured by other farmers, Plateau Farm seemed to be a perfect place for recreation and any types of planting activity. Agriculture and a holistic lifestyle of organic, semi-organic or non-organic produce were prominent in this area. The air was fresh and the surroundings were green. Bliss and gratitude hovered in my mind!
Once the final drop of Lazza coffee was gulped, Baida showed me the way to the nursery which was closer to the entrance, and this was when I found my lesson for today began. Before we began, Baida made sure we were equipped with the right tools and materials: Mosquito coil, mosquito repellent or patch to get rid of the mozzies; scoops, small spade and trowel to transport soil; thin rubber gloves; a pair of scissors for pruning and trimming; and a good selection of music. Gardening can sometimes be a solitary activity just like writing and I realized that listening to the music that you like can be a therapeutic and relaxing moment.
The objective of today’s activity was to give proper maintenance to the hundreds of seedlings in black plastic bags. Earlier on Baida emphasized on the essential TLC needed by these plants especially when they are still at the early growing stage, which very much reminded me of the importance of early developmental period of a child. Since established two years ago, Free Tree Society has been giving out seeds and trees such as bunga telawang, pisang berangan, pandan, limau purut, dragon fruit and flame of trees on special event days, similar to Arbor Day in Canada and Australia, to corporations, organizations and individuals. As the demands grow, there is a need to supply healthy, fresh and presentable seedlings to the public. Thus, a non-profit organization like Free Tree Society depends on volunteers to maintain the lifespan of a plant or seedling by watering, pruning, fertilizing and sowing.
My first task of the day was to clear the weed and dried leaves from the small plastic bags where the plants or seeds are growing, at the same time checking for fungus and pests like aphids, snails or grasshoppers and trimming dead branches or leaves on the plants. After that, I added mixed soil while Baida put fertilizer that looked like yummy black pearls. Finally, I sprayed organic water as extra treatment healthy growing leaves and Baida put the final touch of water based insecticide around the area.
That day we managed to finish three quarter of the work, had a satisfying lunch prepared by the lovely Baida, and mingled with the animals. As I bid farewell to Plateau Farm (and say hello to the nursery at Bangsar), it is nice to know that there are still high hopes of conserving and preserving the environment using innovative activities like the ones conducted by Free Tree Society. Although the air pollution index in KL increased beyond 100 on that day, which spoiled my mood a little, it was a day well-spent with Baida and listening to her philanthropically and environmental ideas.
I arrived at Green School Bali one afternoon a fortnight ago. The petrol station 500m ahead was a good sign that the taxi driver had missed the school and had to make a u-turn and find our way back. How would he make a u-turn on that narrow road with almost torrential vehicles was beyond my judgment! Lesson Number 1 – When in a foreign land, learn to trust the locals.
My antennae of direction sprang and I stared at every signboard that would spell the words G-R-E-E-N S-C-H-O-O-L. Any type of signboard and whatever they were made of steel, plastic, more steel, any type of steel, until the modest letters that were etched on simple bamboo material shot out. “STOP! Turn into this junction.” The driver looked at me. “Where? No sign.” I pointed to the signage above us, thankfully the leaves of another tree were no yet long enough to cover the school’s name (if you remember how decorative Malaysia’s signboard can turn out to be). He agreed disdainfully and swerved the mobil into the kampung road. That’s when I knew we were so damn right on the spot of somewhere. Lesson Number 2 – On a reverse gear, a stony, hilly and bumpy road opens up a world least expected.
Late by 30minutes, I was lucky to be guided by Shanty to join the yet-to-be 20 people group at the Green Lodge. Not much time to take in the view of the bamboo building, we were brought jalan-jalan (sightseeing) by our lovely key guide Sara. Hence, begin the journey into the school. Lesson 3 – Relax and let go.
After the random jalan-jalan, we were given a chance to prepare our own pizza for dinner. In groups of four, we were given the golden opportunity, like once in a lifetime, to harvest a list of produce which can be gathered from the various gardens in the school. It was also a good ice-breaking moment. Lesson 4 – Take only what is needed from the garden. A lot of time the things we collected, especially food, goes down the drain. I read somewhere that ‘the earth has enough for every one on the planet, but not enough for everybody’s greed’. But then we don’t have a fridge to keep the produce, so yeah, just take what is adequate.
The second best activity that I loved on the arrival day is Collaborative Artwork. Who ever said that art is the work of a singled-out soul. It is especially therapeutic when art is done in a group. We were given the space, freedom and time to fill the white half A4 paper with warm and cold colours within the boundaries that were highlighted by the coordinators. And voila, this was what we made out of it on the last day – Bali map. Lesson 5 – Smart at art and do your part.
* The taxi fare from Ngurah Rai airport to Green School is now IRD250,000, and can increase to IDR300/350,000 at midnight hours.
Many a times, for whatever reason the universe proposes, certain events are meant to happen only at certain times, no matter how much one tries to push it forward.
Nearly ten years ago, I applied for Montessori’s elementary course in England, only to get a reply that the course had just closed with no intention of openings at that time. After that, I put this notion of attending another course at the very back of my mind. Subconsciously and unknowingly, I still keep this dream of completing an advanced course in Montessori inside me, somewhere.
This year, for reasons unknown to me, my intuition and curiosity started to prick my resolution list. The one reason that I can rationally think of when asked why I want to do an advanced Montessori course that covers education for children aged 6-12 is simply because after the age of six, children are empowered with another type of educational plane that is different from the early years as they are now bestowed with the power of independence, a sense of discipline and responsibility to use their fundamental skills and leadership skills that allows them to educate, assist and contribute to the local and global community at various levels. And the question that I ask myself inevitably is how can I guide this age group of children in matters or subject lessons pertaining to in depth level of geography, history, science, mathematics, art and music? This also leads me to rethink about our roles as humans in the cosmic plan, which needs to be relayed to the next younger generation.
This course comes with a hefty price which also motivates me to set a goal to find funding within these two years. To achieve this goal, I am setting up a website with a couple of friends that sells natural, organic or recyclable materials that can be used for Practical Life areas in a Montessori environment. The project is still in its zygotic form, so I would really appreciate any feedback or suggestions. (Current progress: We have agreed on a name for the website or blog. Next: Create the site on Blogger and create a Facebook page.)
Remember the first few lessons in the Practical Life area in the Montessori course. One of them is the Folding Felt exercise. I sew a couple of folding exercises from felt material for a toddler and a 3-year-old child. Later, I presented an origami exercise-dog- with aged 3 and 6 children.
Three workshops this weekend for under 3s and teenagers. YEAY, triple celebration from Montessori Association of Malaysia! Let’s network and see you at the events.
To give the maximum impact on everything Montessori, let’s start the new year with a couple of blasting gatherings in UK and Malaysia:
On 1st March 2014, at the Institute of Education, University of London, there is a conference with the theme ‘Re-engage with Montessori (inspired by 1946 lectures)’. The speakers will address topics that continue to engage Montessori practitioners’ discussions, such as links between sensorial activities and foundations of mathematics, the youngest children’s creativity and the spiritual preparation of the teacher. Direct links to current neuroscience research and its relevance to children’s learning and our teaching will be explored, bringing the topics within the realm of current education debate.
Keynote speakers are: Crystal Dahlmeier, Principal, Montessori Lab School at Xavier University, USA; Dr Paul Epstein, Head of School, Rochester Montessori School, USA; Penny Johns, Director of Studies, Montessori Centre International and Jeremy Clarke, Distance Learning Academic Leader, Montessori Centre International.
Tickets are priced at £55 for MSA members, £85 for non-members. For more information, go to http://www.montessori.org.uk/msa/msa/conference
In May/June, there will be the annual Montessori Forum organised by Montessori Association of Malaysia (MAM). More details will be available at their website at http://www.montessori-malaysia.org.
I would like to do a brief survey before
getting some children related
drama vcds for age group 3-17. Parents,
teachers and adults in this network, please
give some suggestions on the type of shows
that you have seen children enjoy
watching. (Suggestions are based solely on
experience or expertise, and not opinion.)
There are many ways to spend a Sunday. And I’m one of the few people who is fortunate to get to know Enid Blyton closer by reading her more likeable children book – The Green Story, Dragon Series.
The book is not about dragon. It is a collection of short stories with lots of lovable fantasy characters like gnomes, fairies and pixies for young independent readers and those who are young at heart , like me
The Bed That Ran Away would be a very good reminder for children who like to stay in bed until it’s time to spell the meal that begins with letter ‘l’. The Boy Who Was Afraid is a fantastic therapy for aqua phobics. Santa Claus Makes Another Mistake is just the story very much needed at this time of the festive season that certain things are just as real as the imagination can shape.
I first read in awe this book (reprinted in 1974) which was meant to be given away by a friend a few months ago. The first story made me flabbergasted and immediately transferred me back to the planet of Childhood. The page after the last story (shown in the image below) left me yearning and planning for a non-existing shelf space.
One thing I asked after finished reading this book: Would my world be a tad bit different if I’ve read any of the Dragon Series books by Enid Blyton when I was a child? Because now, this book has swiped a little hue in my life’s page.
If you have run out of ideas on Practical Life/AEL activities for the younger and older children, take some hint from the images below, which I borrowed from Tomorrow’s Child magazine:
I join and follow all posts in this group called IMS International Montessori School yahoo group which is facilitated by Lee Havis. In one of his posts earlier this year, there was a message from a Montessori teacher showing interest in school exchange programme. Below was her mail to Lee Havis:
I teach ninth and tenth grade at a Montessori School in Munich, Germany. We are looking for Montessori Schools in the US that might be interested in joint projects, communication via E-Mail or possibly even student exchange.
If you have any ideas or recommendations I would be most grateful!
On “linkedin”, you can contact Birgitta Berger:
I am an ardent fan of school exchange and have been toying with this idea for so long. If anybody is interested in this type of programme within the Montessori community, please write your ideas or thoughts here.