Chakra Announcements

Mayapur Preschool Offers Learning Through Play

by Ila devi dasi

Posted January 7, 2007


What is happening in the Sri Mayapur International School's Preschool?

After attending the morning temple program with their parents, three- and four-year old devotees eagerly come to the Preschool for their day of learning-through-play.

Clearly, preschool years are very important. Research shows that the first five years of a child's life will have a major impact on his learning potential for the rest of his/her life. Children have to develop certain skills -- Gross Motor skills involving using larger muscles of the body, Fine Motor skills in preparation of using the fingers and hands for writing, Language and Communication skills, Cognitive skills (developing the logical faculty), Self-Help skills and also Social skills. Most importantly, a child must have a positive experience of early learning and develop an interest in school that will help to give him enthusiasm and determination in later years.


Needless to say, in a devotee school, they also have to learn devotee etiquette and devotional service. Under the expert guidance of Vamsipriya dasi and Magini dasi, the Preschool offers a range of activities to develop all the above skills.

The spacious Preschool room is divided into sections for cognitive work/play with puzzles and blocks, creative art activities, reading activities, dramatic play, Deity worship and music. Outside are areas for sand and water play and even a bicycle track. Children also have yoga lessons, and the creative expertise of Vamsipriya prabhu is endless as she prays to Sri Sri Radha-Madhava to serve the children of the community.The children often return home with interesting creations made from simple, easily available materials.

Sometimes special events take place, such as the exciting First Writing ceremony performed this year.This Vidyarambha ceremony normally takes place when the child is four years old, or before entering school. After chanting certain mantras, a brahmana holds the child's hand and helps him to write "Hare Krishna" in Sanskrit. This year we were fortunate to have HH Jayapataka Swami as that brahmana.

Once a year, during the Rathayatra season in June, there is the ever-popular "Mini Rathayatra." The preschoolers spend a whole day preparing by making decorations, garlands and flags and decorating the cart. The next day early Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra are dressed, and the small cart is pulled by the children around the grhastha compound in Mayapur.Some children play karatalas or offer incense to the Deities at intervals. Others distribute prasadam.

For a small child to leave home the first time and be on his own without his/her parents' protection is always a big step, but the loving and caring devotee environment at the SMIS Preschool always ensures that the children love to come to school. When the little Vaisnavas reach the age of five, things take on a little more serious turn.Now in addition to practicing devotional songs and arati, playing, creating and constructing, they also have to start in all earnest with learning how to read and write.

Magini prabhu, who is a qualified Preschool and Kindergarten teacher from South Africa, expertly guides her class through all activities, phonics and maths skills. They also start learning Bhagavad-gita verses. Her well-organized, colourful class is always brimming with activity.This is a crucial year for the children.Now they must learn to pronounce sounds and overcome the hurdle of distinguishing "b" from "d", all along building a love for learning that will carry them to the stage where these very essential first reading skills will help them become avid readers, eager to read the whole Srimad Bhagavatam.

Magini prabhu also oversees the Preschool section and offers her expert advice to all. She and her husband live in the senior boys' ashram and oversee that project too. She is noted for her hardworking and enthusiastic, ever-optimistic nature. The Preschool and Kindergarten also have a team of helpers and cleaners.Shana dasi prabhu is a young devotee in the community who is assisting in the Preschool.In this way the school renders a very important service by providing service and training opportunities for young school-leaving devotees.

Lalita devi dasi prabhu is the principal of the Sri Mayapur International School, and she can be contacted at SMIS@pamho.net.

The school works closely together with the Child Protection Office of Mayapur.