Walk to Learn

Devwart (14): This was the most extraordinary school outing ever, of which I will carry the memories with me for the rest of my life.

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Student Devwart (14): This was the most extraordinary school outing ever, of which I will carry the memories with me for the rest of my life.

Inspired by participating in Out of Eden Learn, Loka recently started a new initiative called Walk to Learn, during which students explore their surroundings by walking. The first walk students participated in brought them to a temple with ancient buddhist statues hidden in a remote village, not far from Loka’s school. More recently students spent the day walking in the footsteps of the Buddha, for which they travelled to Pragbodhi and from where they walked to Bodh Gaya. Both walks were guided by local historian and friend Deepak Anand, about whom an interesting article by Paul Salopek was published in The New Yorker in 2019.

While walking in the footsteps of the Buddha, students imagined how the world must have looked in the 5th-6th century BCE. They asked Deepak many questions, to which he sometimes replied with interesting stories and facts. Other times he would encourage students to find out the answers for themselves. The walk started by climbing Pragbodhi mountain, of which the name means: the mountain leading to perfect enlightenment. Once upon a time Prince Siddharth climbed this mountain and, while descending, found a cave. He sat inside the cave and tried to meditate, but it did not seem the right place. From there, the young prince headed west towards Bodhgaya where he was to attain enlightenment meditating under a peepal tree, after which he became known as the Buddha. This scenic 13 km walk through villages and across farming fields was made by Loka’s students.

They crossed the Niranjana river barefoot, just like Prince Siddhartha must have done a long time ago. Deepak Anand mentioned that the government had taken up the initiative to create a concrete road along the whole route and will soon build a bridge across the river to allow tourists to trace the footsteps of the Buddha by car. Deepak Anand: “Now we are walking alongside goats and shepherds. In a few years, pilgrims on foot will be navigating between honking tourist vehicles, motor bikes and rickshaws. Under their soles will be cold concrete, instead of the raw feel of sand and stones, as it was in the time of the Buddha”.

Just over halfway, we settled down at a mango grove and shared a delicious lunch together, under the shady trees. The space was neat and clean and lovingly maintained by a local sadhu (saint) and his gathering, who also provided us with mats to sit on. Every student brought a different food item from home such as litti, chokha, pita, paratha, dahl, chawal, sabji, several pickles, chutneys and sweet dishes. All food was handmade from local produce and prepared using traditional methods such as a clay oven and a stone grinder. The curd was coloured red as Sanatan’s mother had prepared it in a clay pot using milk coming from their own cows. A fresh salad of radish, beetroot and carrot was prepared by students on the spot. We ate the exquisite food items from leaf plates, surrounded by mango trees and in an atmosphere of beautiful peace. It was a sacred feast that felt as if we were transported to another time and dimension. As all food and water was brought along in tiffins and a water container, zero non-biodegradable waste was created during the entire walk.

After lunch we continued walking west towards the Mahabodhi Temple. Upon arrival at the place where the Buddha attained enlightenment, students sat down on a single piece of empty grass, surrounded by busy crowds, prostrating pelgrims and preaching monks amplifying their messages through loudspeakers. In a state of attentive observation, seemingly undisturbed by the many sounds and movements around them, Loka’s students processed the day by making drawings and writing stories before heading back to their village, filled with new experiences and stories. When back at school, students share their observations and thoughts through these drawings and stories and reflect together upon all they saw and experienced. This way Walk to Learn becomes a deep learning experience that students carry with them, all life.

The next Walk to Learn event will be a heritage walk in Sasaram (Bihar) in February 2020, organised by students of Loka. 
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Charlotte Leech

Charlotte Leech founded Loka together with the school’s Director Sanat Kumar. Before Loka, Charlotte worked as a Project Manager and Policy Maker for Art & Culture in the Netherlands. Currently she manages Loka’s communication and educational vision and researches (new) ways of learning through daily interactions and activities with students.

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