I can’t believe I’m quoting Whitney Houston in a blog (let alone in the first line!), but she was right: “ I believe the children are our future; teach them well and let them lead the way.” I’m sure it wasn’t intentional, but that’s certainly the premise and concept behind The Anak Atelier.
Anak means child in Bahasa Indonesian and an atelier is a workshop or studio, where concepts and ideas are created and developed; so it’s the perfect name for this early childhood learning centre. I was introduced to the amazing teaching team at The Anak Atelier through a colleague at Bali WISE and after hearing about their programs I just had to know more.
You see this is no ordinary kindergarten. I was there for an hour before I realised there were no toys…anywhere. At all. Yet all the kids were playing, racing from one play station to another and never being bored despite no toys or iPads or gadgets. In fact when I first arrived, the kids were all involved in a great game involving dance moves and capoeira.
The only way I can explain how The Anak Atelier looks is magical, and if it’s magical to an adult, imagine what it does for the unbridled imagination of a child. I literally didn’t know where to look or what to do next: from the vegetable patch; to the smaller version of the bypass (that helps kids learn numeracy by charging a pretend toll fee); to the musical instruments made from bamboo or old tyres; to the outdoor art centre created by using old perspex; it’s no wonder the kids don’t want to leave at the end of the day.
Much of the learning takes place in the form of projects which involves the children as co-constructors of their own learning journey, and environmental science plays an integral part in the curriculum. Currently the kids are learning all about water, what dissolves, what separates, what floats, what clogs up water ways. They even have a small child size and friendly river they can do experiments in. A large part of the curriculum is based upon sustainable projects and adopting sustainable practices – a vital part of ensuring the environment is protected in future years.
They have sustainable projects everywhere including recycling, using old plastic waste to create re-usable items, exploring concepts in old versus new, and sharing ideas while learning in a way that encourages the kids to be curious, to question, and to problem solve. The Anak Atelier has created a curriculum to ‘empower children for lifelong learning’ and with so many play stations, or learning stations, set up throughout the open joglo rooms it’s easy to see how the kids are engaged in their learning.
And this is why I started the blog with a Whitney quote – these kids will learn from an early age, the importance of the environment and the incredible value recycling and environmental care has in Bali, and the world. With children from Indonesia, Australia, America, France, Russia, Japan, China and more, these children will grow up already questioning how things can be managed better for a cleaner and greener environment.
Whenever we need change, education is the key. And we know the world over, we currently have a huge rubbish and recycling problem, extremely evident in Bali where waste disposal and recycling techniques are still ‘new’ and being developed and implemented in every day life. The introduction of plastic into developing countries was rapid, too rapid for recycling methods and processes to be integrated in time to prevent environmental damage.
There are amazing groups all around Bali doing incredible work to clean up the beaches, to ban plastic bags (see the inspiring team from Bye Bye Plastic Bags), to maintain and monitor dive sites and marine life, and running education programs to ensure everyone in Bali understands their responsibility to the beautiful country they call home or their holiday spot. And we can add The Anak Atelier to this impressive list of people making a difference.
While I was there watching the kids do capoeira, I couldn’t help wonder if I was looking at the next generation of scientists who will make world-changing discoveries, heal our environment, invent ways to re-use rubbish to improve the earth and how we live. If your first learning experience shows you how previous our environment is, you surely grow up wanting to preserve, protect and improve the condition of that environment.
The Anak Atelier has holiday programs, after-school care, kids club plus long term or short term kindergarten and toddler classes. With the curriculum featuring literacy, numeracy, music and dance, Zumba, Bahasa Indonesian, yoga, storytelling, environmental science, cooking, art and creative exploration, the kids are being prepared for the next level of schooling and education but with a very broad and diverse learning base.
The core of the schools belief system focuses around ‘Respecting the past, Embracing the present and Sustaining the future’ , and just walking around the kindergarten you can see this in every aspect of the rooms, the gardens and the learning centres. For more information on this magical learning centre, see their website www.theanakatelier.com , or email firstname.lastname@example.org or join them on Facebook www.facebook.com/theanakaterlier/