Newsletter - December 2008
Message From The Director
by Visvambhara das
As the year comes to an end, it is only fitting for me to announce that this will be the last newsletter produced by the New Raman Reti School. No, the school is not closing – we are changing our name! Due to the need to properly structure the school as a not-for-profit charitable organization, we are establishing a new corporation. When we were advised to do this, the administration and staff began to conceive of many different names for the school. One consistent theme began to emerge – the desire to prominently affirm our institutions dedication to serving Srila Prabhupada’s mission. As such, all of the final name suggestions contained his name. With three finalists in hand, I asked our students and staff to vote. The results were definitive; the winning name garnered over 90% of the votes. So, beginning January 1st, the New Raman Reti School will become the Bhaktivedanta Academy.
We have a couple changes in store for the new year. First of all – uniforms. Krishna Dhama has been working very hard for the last few months to coordinate with our suppliers in India to produce a colorful devotional uniform for our students. After much debate, we have settled on a sky blue and navy blue color scheme that looks great. If we can get all our orders in on time, we hope to have all our students in their bright new uniforms by the end of January. Thank you to everyone who has turned in an order form. If you have not done so already, please get them in right away, as uniforms will be required as part of our revised dress and appearance policy.
Lunch time for Bhakti Bhavan
If any of you have had an opportunity to observe our Bhakti Bhavan (Pre-K/Kindergarten) class, you have probably noticed how nicely they assemble for lunch every day. Each student has a proper table setting, complete with placemat, napkin, plate, and utensils. They have all been trained to eat their prasadam lunch in an orderly and respectful manner. We want to share this same experience with the upper grade classes, so starting in January, Audarya (Grade 1-3) and Madhurya (Grade 4-6) Bhavans will begin to have their lunches in the same manner.
After seeing how much everyone has appreciated the after school classes organized by Padmaksi and Radhika Rani, we are looking to coordinate some more activities. You will soon get information on a devotionally themed physical education/exercise class. We are also looking into bringing Vishvambhara back to lead another series of bhajan classes. We would like to offer so much more, but need the help of our parents and community members. If you have a special talent/skill that could be shared with our students or know of someone that does, let us know.
Lastly, I want to say thank you for your support, encouragement, and trust. It is an honor to serve these young Vaishnavas. I look forward to seeing everyone back after the holiday break.
Bhakti Bhavan - Pre-K/Kindergarten
by Nataka-candrika dasi
November seemed to fly by for teachers and students of Bhakti Bhavan! We started off the month focusing on the life and accomplishments of our founder-acarya, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Children love hearing about his childhood pastimes and sat with rapt attention while they were being narrated. A few weeks later we spoke about the life of Gaurakisora Dasa Babaji and his role in our line of acaryas.
Radhesh and Tulasi participate
in a playground Rasa Dance
We also just completed the first volume of the children's Krsna Book by Parvati devi dasi. After students heard the story of "The Rasa Dance", teachers were surprised and happy to witness most of the children acting out this pastime during their playtime outside. We also learned about Srimati Tulasi Devi and invited a few students from Audarya Bhavan to come in and lead us in the Tulasi prayers while one of the older students demonstrated how to do Tulasi puja.
Bhakti Bhavan students greet
a special guest - Mali
November 12th was the last day of Kartika and since we had been collecting all month to buy hay for the cows of New Raman Reti, we invited Devaki, who is in charge of the cows, to come to our school. She brought one of the cows, Mali, with her and all of the students had an opportunity to feed and pet her. Finally, we presented to Devaki our collection of $52, just enough to buy one bale of hay. Everyone agreed this was a great way to honor one of the seven mothers.
Other areas we learned about were the continent, culture and animals of South America and in practical life, we learned to polish wood and slice carrots. These are in addition to some wonderful art projects such as making models of Tulasi trees, paper stand-up cows, tissue paper corn cobs and "thankful hands" pilgrims.
Bhakti Bhavan students enjoy a
wonderful Thanksgiving meal
We spent the last few days before Thanksgiving talking about the story of Thanksgiving and why we are grateful for the things we have. On the last day of school before the break, students and staff were treated to a delicious feast of over a dozen preparations provided by the parents. Tables were set with new place mats and napkins and vases filled with colorful flowers added a special touch. After saying an enthusiastic prasadam prayer, students honored the special lunch and ate to their full satisfaction! Thank you, parents!
Finally, Bhakti Bhavan students were surprised by the appearance of a special guest…singer/songwriter, Asta Sakhi, from Prabhupada Village in North Carolina. She is one of the main singers on the much-loved children's tape/CD titled Krishna's Children. In addition to leading the students in a few old favorites, Asta Sakhi taught them a new song, "Seven Mothers" which we will add to our song list for circle time. Next month, we will learn all about Europe, birds, time lines, nut cracking, the seasonal holidays of winter and more about Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura's life.
Audarya Bhavan - Grade 1-3
by Satyaki dasi
Hare Krishna! Audarya Bhavan has been very busy this month.
Lindsey demonstrates the didgeridoo
The children raised $51 for one bale of hay. Our gift was presented to Devaki when she brought over one of her cows, Mali, to the school for the children to pet and feed.
Also this month, Lindsey Dank, Tulasi's dad, gave a presentation on Australia. One of the highlights of the performance was when each child was given a chance to play their own didgeridoo.
Later in the month, Patrick and Gail from the Public Works Department visited our school to show us how to recycle at school and at home. The children enjoyed playing a relay game to help reinforce their understanding of which everyday items can be recycled. They left us with the slogan: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rethink. The children were given pencils made out of recycled denim and money, and shopping bags made out of recycled plastic.
Asta Sakhi visited our classroom. She sang some of her classic songs and then taught us a new one about our seven mothers.
To conclude the month, we visited the Alachua Library where librarian Renee read stories to our students and showed them how to use the library's resources for independent research.
Madhurya Bhavan - Grade 4-6
by Krishna Priya dasi
Vaishnava Saint Trading Cards
Vaishnava Saint Trading Cards
Science Learning Centers
Madhurya Bhavan students share their stories
What is an Education?
by Navina-Shyama das
Is education a race, wherein one should get ahead by any means? Or is it a wild adventure, wherein one should find one's own destination by one's own means? Or perhaps it's a roulette wheel: you just pop yourself in and see where you end up. During my short tenure so far as an administrator at New Raman Reti School, I can already see that the answer to this question is (and should be) quite different here than it was during my own academic experiences.
My high school years were like a no-holds-barred wrestling match. No one was really sure why we were there or what we were supposed to be doing, but we just got into the frenzy of trying to outdo each other in whatever seemed to please our different teachers. Memorize that Roosevelt's economic plan was called the New Deal? Sure. Calculate the volume of a torus plus a pyramid minus a cone? Okay. Read a modern Portuguese epic inspired by the ancient Greek Iliad? No problem. And through it all, shrouded in the most impenetrable of mists, was the vague goal of getting into a good college and securing a good job.
A Vaishnava education is markedly different. School is not a place where attendance is just a legal requirement and where every teacher has their own life philosophy that they are trying to imprint on the young minds in their midst. The activities consist of more than just memorizing obscure historical facts, performing bizarre and abstract calculations, and absorbing the mental impressions of anyone that can put pen to paper. And the goal is something more tangible and weighty than a sheet of paper with a fancy seal (or just a pile of green paper, for that matter!) Indeed, the relationship, activities and goal for a Vaishnava student are all clear and sublime.
The sambandha (structure of relationships) at a gurukula centers on the guru. For ISKCON, this guru is Srila Prabhupada, and he serves as the harmonizing center for all the members of the school community: parents, teachers, and students. He is the common authority for all three of these constituencies, and his teachings are the shared standard for conduct. I have a large poster of Srila Prabhupada above my office desk to remind me of this, but his influence at New Raman Reti School goes beyond mere symbolism. The teachers dress in the attire he brought to the West, each of the classrooms has altars with the same deities he installed in his temples, and when the children sing kirtana or read scripture, it is the mantras and purports he gave us that they recite.
The abhideya (process of practice) at a devotee school is to follow in the footsteps of Srila Prabhupada as bhaktivedantas. As he stated in a letter in 1972:
“The main point is that these children may be given the two-fold program of education in Krishna Consciousness, namely chanting and performing devotional activities on the one hand, and some knowledge of our philosophy and other subjects of knowledge on the other.”
Whereas devotional activities are critical for the spiritual development of the students themselves, mastering philosophy and other subjects aims at the betterment of society. Only if the children are equipped with a complete array of academic and intellectual skills will they be able to effectively share Krishna Consciousness with others and influence them with their exemplary behavior. These ideals are put into practice at New Raman Reti School by reserving the first part of the morning for kirtana and Bhagavad Gita study, and the remainder of the day in honing the students' skills in mathematics, reading and writing English, systematic inquiry into the natural world, and fundamental historic and geographic knowledge. Particularly with regards to the latter two areas, every effort is made to show how contemporary empiric knowledge is a small subset of the greater and more comprehensive framework of Krishna Consciousness.
The prayojana (goal and standard of success) at an ISKCON school is to produce Vaikuntha ladies and gentlemen. The children are trained to be of the highest character for we expect them to become the leaders of the world. As Srila Prabhupada stated in another letter in 1971:
“If children are given practical guidance on the transcendental platform, above the bodily and mental conception of life, then they will develop into perfect citizens - moral, honest, hard-working, law-abiding, clean, faithful to home and country.”
Adorned with such attractive traits and well-acquainted with an array of skills, graduates of a Vaishnava education will lead others along the path to self-realization, and show that there is more to being successful than mundane wealth and fame. Surely, such enlightened individuals are sorely needed in today's troubled times.
I am excited by what I am seeing and doing at New Raman Reti School because of these differences in structure, activity and goal compared to what I experienced in my own education. But I am even more excited by the opportunity that lies ahead to more fully develop these principles. As part of an institution that is at the vanguard of education, I look forward to playing my part in helping our students see education as more than a race or a game or a maze, but as a path to perfection.
Dedicated to the the service of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada