Class VIII Confronts Institutionalized Education

film still from Schooling the World


The heart of our “How do we fit into the web of the world? What and why is culture? What is valuable knowledge?” unit (succinct descriptor still pending) has revolved around a number of questions critically posed in the 2010 documentary “Schooling the World.” This film considers education in Ladakh, a mountainous region of Northwestern India, similar in culture to our context here, and facing many of the same societal crossroads Lumla presently finds itself pinned between.

The movie is an hour long, but all our pauses and conversations stretched it three class periods: thrice its run-time. The students shared awesome reflections and insightful connections.

Awesome, probing, and self-implicative, I’d highly recommend the film if any of you have the chance to see it. In the meantime, check out some of the class’s responses, written at the end of each installment’s screening.

The “provocative” points we conceptualized like a window: a new idea that helps them see something new or through a new perspective. The “evocative” moments were those like a mirror, where they recognized an experience or thought they’ve already spent some time wrestling with.

Phurpa Lhamu

Evocative is the villagers think themselves as uneducated and they think that reading and writing is the education but in my opinion farmers are more wiser than educated people because they know how to survive and stay alive independent.

In my opinion I think that land is everything for our life, same as the one Leh girl said, because we can make money by land selling vegetables and it will also give us about how to keep environment clean. For me land is more important than money. We can pass on to future generation land but not money. Money will be not forever with us while land will help forever in our life.

Tenzin Drolma ‘B’

Provocative: “Land is a bank.”

Tashi Tsomu

Today in this video my evocative is in vacation time we help to their family and go to farm and care for children. Provocative is if they went to city they also forget how to farm.

Dawa Dorjee

Going to school is also good and not, because when we go to school, some children focus in only one thing which is modern education and they forget their culture. It is good because modern education helps children’s future life.

Raju Kumar

I saw that the “if the door of modern education open” then the door of your culture and tradition get closed.

Tenzin Lhamu

Evocative: I already know that education is not mean that when we go to school and we learned. Education mean that in world what people are using in their farmers and etc.

Provocative: New thing that before I don’t know the White Man’s Burden.

Tashi Yangzom ‘A’

The evocative for me is the student they don’t want to go to school and they want to look at the cows and go to the mountains.

The provocative for me in Ladakh at the time of school if they will not talk in English even in outside, if they can’t then they will give punished like 5 rupees.

Dorjee Chozom

Provocative: When the students went to big cities to study they are habited on the cities and they used to speak in mixing languages and ultimately they dissolve their language with others’ language. At last they lost their language.

Evocative: The people are making water pollution. Some people know how to save the water but they used to throw waste things in the water and the polluted the water. Even educated person are polluting the water.

Leki Norbu

Today I know some new things that is about our clean our surrounding and also losing our old culture and students are learning so new things to another country.

Rinchen Drolma

My evocative is that so many students do not get job after their graduated. My provocative is that so many child are killed, and they suicide themselves and take drugs and alcohol in the U.S.A.

My evocative is that most of the people think English language is more important than their own language.

Kangyur Sangpo

Evocative: The villagers they said that “I don’t know anything, ask my son or sister they passed tenth grade.”

Provocative: I don’t know that the U.S. student are naughty they don’t passed their university and they leave the school and they don’t give attention to class.

Langa Tsering

I think this video is showing that we should know modern education and our own culture. If we know modern education then we should know also our culture things like our culture painting, how to work on agriculture.

I think those who live in village are more happy. They don’t have more but they have what they want. When we go to collect money it is more difficult than the stay in village with happy.

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Class VII on Race

drawing by Tenzin Lhadron AA throwback from this summer: following our classes critically examining beauty in the media from a particularly gendered perspective, Class VII dove into tackling representation of race in the mainstream media and dominant narratives of society.

We opened with the question, “What kinds of products do people buy and use on their skin? Why?” Dorjee Wangchu, ever astute, sums up the class response, “Because to be handsome and pretty, to be stylish and be white skin.” We stirred the discussion further with some infographics about disproportionate racial representation in the media, and then watched Lupita Nyong’o talk about her experiences as a young girl, waking up every morning hopeful that God had overnight made her skin more fair. Building off of the activity from a few days prior, the class closed making Carol Rossetti-style images of Lupita’s story. All around, it was a pretty neat societal examination, punctuated with some rather perceptive and insightfully affirming reflection.

drawings by Tenzin Lhadron B and Koncho Norbu

drawings by Tenzin Lhadron B and Koncho Norbu

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Fall Vacation Stories – Part 5

Short stories of Fall Vacation, part five of five.

Tenzin Lhadron A, Class VII

Tenzin Lhadron AOne afternoon when I was sleeping, I was sleeping from 2pm to 4pm. That time my poor and hard-worker and nice mother called me and said, “Here is someone’s call came in your black and pink colour of phone.” I woke up very quickly and I wore my upper parts clothes and in downwards I didn’t wear. I wore only one brown and yellow towel and I folded my blanket not nicely and I was looking so messy (dirty) but I thought I will fold my red and blue blanket after I will finish calling. I quickly opened my very old and black colour of door and ran inside the room where my mother was. That time the door was very small and I went inside. That time my head hit to the door and I felt a little scared and headache because I thought my mother would scold me and she would say, “You don’t have eyes to see properly,” but I thought inside it is my fault. I should run but I can bend a little bit down and I can go inside and suddenly I bent a little bit down and went inside the room where my mother was sitting. I ran quickly and said “Where?” My mother said, “I told lie to you because you were not waking up in time. You have to wake up.” Actually the moral of this story is we have to follow our rules.

Sonam Chodron, Class VII

Sonam ChodronShort Vacation Story

When I was in vacation, I missed my sister very much. I decided to go to Tawang to meet my sister and I went in a car. The car’s colour was white and it looked like small. I opened the window and wind came and it blew my hair and it was very cold. Suddenly the car stopped in Lula. I got carsick and it was very bad sick and I thought I will never reach in Tawang and I came outside of the car. I saw my friend Pamiling was coming near me and she saw me and I also saw her and she asked me that “Where are you going?” and I said, “Actually, I thought that I will go to Tawang and meet my sister and because of very bad carsick I came outside of the car and I thought I will never reach in Tawang.” And my friend Pamiling said, “Come, we will go to my house,” and we were walking road by road and telling a story about a ghost and suddenly we reached Pamiling’s house and I rested a little bit. After that I watched movie about snake. It was a nice day. THE END.

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Class VIII Interviews His Holiness

(kind of)

Ancient Wisdom, Modern World & The Wayfinders coversThe students of Class VIII have been doing some really impressive, high-level work recently: dissecting the intricacies of pretty advanced texts, and grappling independently with complex ideas that renowned scholars also find themselves caught in the throes of.

The activity you’re about to peruse nests into our current unit on human’s relationship with their environment, the evolution of culture as site-specific, sustainability-fostering adaptations into those webs of interconnections, and the essential question at the heart of any educational project: what, consequently, are the knowledge, skills, and perspectives we privilege and work to develop?

The students spent a few weeks reading an abridged version of anthropologist Wade Davis’ lecture “Season of the Brown Hyena,” the first in his five part series “The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World,” paired with the first chapter of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Ancient Wisdom, Modern World: Ethics for the New Millennium.

The kids have done a remarkable job picking apart these really rather complex texts. To further engage with the authors’ main ideas, and the subtle distinctions in their angles, they spent the last week scripting a joint interview/dialogue between these two thinkers.

Please enjoy some excerpts of their carefully perceptive re-presentations below:

How are we all similar?

Wade Davis (WD): We all are similar because we all came from Africa by the DNA our looks different.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama (HHDL): I agree. We all need happiness.
WD: I agree; without happiness we cannot do anything.
HHDL: When we have suffering, we should share to other people that we could solve the problems.
(Kangyur Sangpo, Tenzin Drolma ‘B’, Tashi Tsomo)

WD: We all are made up of same blood, one flesh, and we can talk and we can think.
HHDL: All people need happiness.
(Dorjee Chozom and Langa Tsering)

HHDL: Even we are poor or rich, educated or uneducated, gender, religion, or another we all desire to be happy and to avoid suffering like if we are rich and technology even we felt of suffering and sorrow in our life.
WD: People in San didn’t get available of water ten months in a year and they have to survive their life in very dangerous condition and they also have suffering of water.
(Leki Norbu and Phurpa Lhamu).

Why is it important to see that different facets of humanity are the same at our core?

HHDL: It is important to see that different facets of humanity are the same at our core because some people are forgetting that we all are same human beings and they treat lower caste very low and they didn’t care about it. If someday they will think they are also a human being like us. They have same blood and two eyes. They can think. So, I don’t have to treat them as a lower caste.
(Dorjee Chozom and Langa Tsering)

How are we different?

WD: We are different in many ways like culture, agriculture, and lifestyle and relationship and developments and environmental. In San people they mostly depend on each other and environment to survive their life and to move forward.
HHDL: But in modern society they mostly depend on machine more than the people. Like His Holiness the Dali Lama said, “Modern industrial society often strikes me as being like a huge self-propelled machine. Instead of human beings in charge, each individual is a tiny, insignificant component with no choice but to move when the machine moves.”
WD: In the essay of Wade Davis, “Their very survival depends on their availability to anticipate every nuance of the seasons, every movement of the animals, the very sound that plants make as they grow. When we compare the two there have a very big difference between San and modern society’s relation and lifestyle.
(Leki Norbu and Phurpa Lhamu)

Why is human diversity important?

HHDL: Human diversity is important because if in human society have some culture lifestyle, religion, etc. it’s like in world there has one colour. It is better to have different cultures in different community, because we can experience other cultures and exchange our culture with other country that can benefits for our lifestyle.
(Leki Norbu and Phurpa Lhamu)

What is “development”?

WD: Development is when a tribe’s culture and modern education, when they both come together then it brings development.
HHDL: I agree with you. I think that if we have modern education and we don’t have another education, then how it will be developed? Developed is that when people doing good things and helping each other, then it will bring development.
(Raju Kumar and Tenzin Lhamu)

HHDL: Development is not only developing technology and cities and vehicles and machine. We can also develop in suffering and inner pain. His Holiness the Dali Lama said, “I expected that with physical hardship much reduced as it is for the majority living in the industrially developed countries, happiness would be much easier to achieve than for those living under more severe conditions.” But actually we have to develop inside too.
(Leki Norbu and Phurpa Lhamu)

What are the positive and negative effects of “development”?

HHDL: The positive are to have a development our work are becoming easier. In a one time we can do the work two or more than two. Also, our energy will be left, it will be stored and we can use our energy for other work. The negative are all the people are saying that we need to develop, growth and economic, but when their growth and economic developed then their development can’t bring them happiness. It gives them so many problems like tension, and unhappiness.
(Dorjee Chozom and Langa Tsering)

HHDL: When people is happy and doing good things to another peoples and helping to poor peoples, it is positive development. When the people are in suffering, government will not take care of suffering people, it is called negative development.
(Tenzin Lhamu and Raju Kumar)

What causes contentment? What causes suffering?

HHDL: Suffering comes from being more greedy. If we are rich, educated or not, we are one race, but we have different religion decide to be happy.
(Tenzin Lhamu and Raju Kumar)

What is important knowledge? What is a meaningful education?

The main ideas of Wade Davis and HH the 14th Dalai Lama is similar because both of them says that preserving our culture is important. The main ideas of Wade Davis and HH the 14th Dalai Lama is distinct because Dalai Lama says that modern education is sometimes important but Wade Davis says modern education is not important and it can harm us.
(Rinchen Drolma)

WD: I think the knowledge is not having a very talented on study, on technology. I think that knowledge is everything which we do every day. What did you think about this?
HHDL: I am agree with you. I think that scientists don’t have more knowledge than villagers. All, all people have their different types of knowledge. If we know everything of our culture and doing agriculture is called education. All have their own good education.
(Tenzin Lhamu and Raju Kumar)

How should we move forward as a species?

WD: The main idea of Wade Davis is to preserve our culture and to share our own culture to new generation and to know more culture is the best way to have relationship with others.
(Phurpa Lhamu and Leki Norbu)

HHDL: Some people they used to give job for rich people but not for poor. Be equality is the one thing we need to move forward.
WD: We need to forward the culture, language, local food, and agriculture.
(Rinchen Drolma, Tashi Yangzom ‘A’, Dawa Dorjee)

HHDL: We can try to help the suffering and we can learn from each other.
(Tenzin Lhamu and Raju Kumar)

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Happy Thanksgiving, part II!

…And here are some responses to a “What are you thankful for?” opener, by Classes VI and VII.

Sangey Ngodup

I am thankful for staff and teacher and Genla.

Tenzin Norbu

Thank you for our community help me to share the knowledge and care for me.

Yeshi Lhamu

I am thankful for our Genla and all the staff of Jhamtse Gatsal and also our sponsor.

Dargey Phuntsok

In my life I get happy that I get chance to learn.

Gombu Tsering

We will thanks to Genla, staff, teachers, and amalas, volunteers, and all part of Jhamtse Gatsal.

Sonam Chodron

I want to thankful for teachers, amalas, and all the staff because teachers share knowledge for all students and I thankful for amalas that they take care for us and all staff they think for us.

Tenzin Lhadron A

I am thankful for all the members of this community because they let us to come here and get knowledge or learn something new.

Lungta Lhamu

I am thankful for sharing knowledge with us and showing the road for our future.

Shanti Tamang

I will thank for teaching us and sharing us which we don’t know.

Tsering Chodron

I am thankful for our Genla and all the staff of Jhamtse Gatsal that you give such nice opportunity to study.

Tsering Gombu

We thanks to Genla. We give something to Genla.

Maling Yangchen

I think I will say to Genla to Thanksgiving day. And I will say to another people to say Thanksgiving day.

Rinchen Dorjee

Thankful to Genla for peace, love, and kind.

Tenzin Lhadron B

I’m thankful for staff, and all in the world.

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Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving from JG

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Fall Vacation Stories – Part 4

Short stories of Fall Vacation, part four of five.

Tenzin Norbu, Class VII

Tenzin NorbuMy brother came to village and to take clothes and one day brother went in home and in morning brother and me went to Lumla and my brother and I saw a movie about the ghost and that time and movie was good and also scary and in night I felt that ghost was in toilet and I did not go to the toilet for scared of movie we saw.

Konchok Norbu, Class VII

Konchok NorbuIn 27 day we went to Tawang and we met my younger brother and we go for Tawang. We did party. We ate lunch in Tawang. My father and mother went to Tezpur. I lived in Lumla 6 days. My father and mother came back and all my family welcomed to my mother and father and tomorrow morning father and I went for walk, and my mother made momos and I also helped to make momos. My mother say called all our family. They came and we all ate momos and we ate happily. THE END.

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Fall Vacation Stories – Part 3

Short stories of Fall Vacation, part three of five.

Dorjee Wangchu, Class VII

Dorjee WangchuGoing to Picnic

Early in the morning, at the 4am before the children are awake, it was very cold during the autumn season. Amala Yangzom (who takes care of us and she is also housemother of Ganglha) come by step by step. I was scared by hearing step. Slowly she knocks. At last I went, saying “Om mani padme hung” and I open the door; it was Amala Yangzom and she said, “Wake up, all the children.” I asked, “Why we are waking so early?” and she said, “Because today we are going to picnic.” I said, “Really?” Amala said, “Yes.” I brush my teeth and I dressed very nicely. I wore one jeans, t-shirt, one orange coat, and leather shoes. I was the first person who was ready; at last Vasudha came and said, “Nobody will go near the river.” All the children said, “Ok.” Then she said, “Now you can go.” All of the children take their own seat. I choose the seat near the driver. Then I said, “Vasudha, come and sit with me.” Vasudha said, “Just a moment.” I was waiting for her but nobody came in car where I choose. At last Vasudha was coming. I said to Vasudha, “Why all children are not coming in this car?” Vasudha said, “Because this car is not going.” I thought lucky turned into unlucky but finally I got again seat near the driver.

Shanti Tamang, Class VII

Shanti TamangAt Vacation Time

One morning when I was in my home, at that time the sun was bright and wind was cold and the day was nice. From Bomdir my sister did phone to my home. She said to us, “Who wants to go to gonpa with me?” I said, “I want to go to gonpa” and I woke up and went to wash my face and to wash my hair and to brush my teeth. When I finished washing my face, brushing my teeth, and washing my hair, then I came back to home and asked my older sister to “bring me clothes to wear,” but sister said, “I don’t have clothes to give you,” but at last she gave me her clothes and I wore the clothes. At that time my sister came from Bomdir and she was waiting for me. I was searching for my shoe. I saw my shoe but the shoe was not in proper. My lace was lost but at last I saw my lace and I said to my mom, “Put lace to my shoe,” and she put lace and I wore the shoe and went with my sister to Gonpa.

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Fall Vacation Stories – Part 2

Short Stories of Fall Vacation, part two of five.

Dargey Phuntsok, Class VI

Dargey PhuntsokMe and my sister went to find wood. We took rope then we went to the jungle. Then me and my sister climbed in the tree. Then the rope fell down from the tree. Suddenly, I saw fruit. The color was green and rough and small and inside black seed and white. My mouth was watering. Its taste was sweet. It tasted like berry.

I asked my sister, “What is this?”

Then my sister said, “Fruit. Its name is ujungmrep.”

Then I climbed in the tree. I took one piece. Then I tasted it with a small, testing bite. It was sweet.

Then I climbed the tree. Then I took many ujungmrep. I put them in this Monpa bag.

When I climbed up, it was easy. When I came down, it was very hard, because I took so many ujungmrep. They were falling down from my bag, one after another.

Then I reached the ground and I picked up all the ujungmrep. They were all far away. They were under leaves and they fell in bushes and one of them was stuck in the tree; the stem was caught on a branch.

Then I went home. I showed to my father and my whole family.

They asked, “Where did you get them?”

“I got them from the top of the tree.”

We ate them together. Then my whole family said, “They are very sweet!”


Mani Wangmu, Class VII

Mani WangmuShort Vacation’s Story

I went to vacation and it had been 8 or 9 days since I went to vacation. At that time, we were making a cupboard and a bed. To make this bed and cupboard, we brought wood from far away jungle and we cut the wood and we attached the wood to each other and we made a cupboard and a bed. We ate food. The rice colour was red and it was Monpa rice. There was egg and chutney. Egg’s colours were yellow and white colours. It smelled like hen. The chutney was made by Monpa chili. Its colours were red and green. It was very tasty and I ate two plates of food. The bed was so big that two or three people can sleep together. Its colours were like our skin colours and black and brown colours. I learned how to make a bed and cupboard.

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Fall Vacation Stories – Part 1

Here are some short stories that the kids wrote about their two-week fall vacation, and visiting their families. This is part one of five. Enjoy!

Tenzin Lhadron B, Class VII

Tenzin Lhadron BStory about Cucumber and Chutney

The wind was silent: woo… woo… The sun shone brightly. I woke up and the smell was tasty and smelly. I washed my face with hot, hot water and with new soap. It was pink in colour and it smelled like fresh rose and fresh lotus. I ran quickly inside and I asked to my mom, “What is it? It smells like yummy,” and my mom said to me, “First rub your face and put some cream. Then you will know what it is.” I put my cream very fast, then I went near to my mom. My mom said to me, “Surprise!” Then I opened my eyes brightly and it was cucumber and chutney which were mixed up together. We all began to eat it and it was so tasty. Then I said “yummy.”

Lungta Lhamu, Class VII

Lungta LhamuStory About When I Was In Tak-Tsang Gompa

I woke up at 6 o’clock and it was very cold and the morning was a little bit dark at Tawang. I woke up from my bed and when I put my leg on the floor it was very cold like ice. I ran fast to the kitchen and made a fire. While I was making the fire, first I put kerosene and I put wood which was very dry and again I put kerosene on top of the dry wood. The kerosene was smelling very good. I put a matchstick. When I put the matchstick, the fire came out very fast.

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How Life Changes


There was a time when my life was so easy due to my mom. My father died when I was six months old. I don’t even remember his face. When mom was with me, I used to enjoy being with her. I never thought that my life will get tough. When I was in 10th standard, my mom died in a car accident and my life became full of challenges. I didn’t know how I would survive and how my studies would continue. I had lots of dreams, but after this incident my dreams broke into pieces.

After 17 days, I met my Jhamtse family. They saw me and decided to take me into Jhamtse. They gave me an opportunity to move forward. I went to Jhamtse, where I had such a good experience. I learned how to talk to people, how to respect others, how our life is interconnected with each other and other things. There were lots of children like me. Everyone was so happy.

When I lost my parents, I thought I was the most unluckiest person on this earth but when I came to Jhamtse, I found many other children in the same condition. Then, slowly and gradually I realized that life doesn’t stop, it keeps on moving. We have to accept reality and move on. And this is best way to live. This feeling gave me my Jhamtse family. Amalas who take care of children. They love them just like mother. They never make us feel that we are alone.

After my 12th standard, I got an opportunity to go to study in Delhi University. In my life, this was such a golden opportunity to prove my life. I never thought that I would get a chance to study in DU. In this way, my Genla, Ma’am Vasudha, my sponsors and Jhamtse family played a really great role in my life. Ma’am Vasudha suggested that I get admission in DU. She helped me a lot in many ways. When I came here, I was bit scared because for the first time I was far from my family in a new place. Delhi has such a huge population. It is a totally different place from Jhamtse. Here I learn many new things such as their culture, how they are different from our society. I met with new people, new friends.

Now I feel lucky that I got an opportunity to learn new things from new people. I am happy because I got admission in a girls college because I think a city like Delhi is not very safe for women. When I first came to college, I was so nervous because I didn’t know any one at that time. But now I am so happy in Delhi. Now I can manage with new people, new environment etc. Sir Ghanshyam gave me a great support and is my best guide in Delhi. Since being in Delhi, I have gone to many new places such as Jantar Mantar (an open observatory), National Museum, Boali (an open water reservoir with many steps), Jama Masjid, India Gate, Lodi garden,etc. I went with Sir Ghanshyam. I had great experiences there.


I loved the National Museum, which has three floors. The museum has lots of amazing historical stuff in the galleries and exhibitions. On the ground floor, there are artifacts about Harappan civilization, sculptures made of stone, terracotta, bronze and wood, Buddhist Art, Indian miniature paintings, evolution of Indian scripts and coins, Decorative art and jewellery. The first floor is about Central Asian Art, Manuscripts, Paintings from Tanjore and Mysore, Ajanta paintings, and Maritime Heritage. On the top floor, there are galleries about Indian Textiles, Pre-columbian and Western Art, Indian coins & copper plates, Arms and armour, Wood carving, Musical instruments and Tribal lifestyle of North East India.

In the end, I would like to say thank you so much to all of you for making this great opportunity possible for me. I will write again soon!


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Class VI on Pesticides

After an evening showing of an episode of Aamir Khan’s socially critical talk show series, Satyamev Jayate, investigating the usage of pesticides in India, Class VI did some creative responses to the fairly unsettling information with which they had just been presented.

learning about pesticides

A creative interpretation by Rinchen Dorjee.

learning about pesticides

Commentary on Sikkim’s positive organic farm legislation by Maling Yangchin.

learning about pesticides

Depiction of farmer spraying pesticides by Krack Chung.

learning about pesticides

Narrative reflection by Yeshi Lhamu.

Sparked by their interest in and reaction to the topic, we proceeded to initiate a two-week long unit of study learning about pesticides and fertilizers and the draws and detriments of chemical and organic alternatives. After researching background information, the class originated interview questions and took field trips to the nearby villages to investigate the local, present-day situation.

learning about pesticides

Gombu Tsering, Maling Yangchin, and Tsering Chodron discuss their direction.

learning about pesticides

Dargey Phuntsok approaches a woman processing her millet crop.

learning about pesticides

Yeshi Lhamu taking notes as Tsering Gombu’s mother serves us tea.

learning about pesticides

Rinchen Dorjee and Tsering Gombu picking fruit on our way home.

Just today they confidently and articulately presented their findings in a PowerPoint to Class VIII (who are in the midst of a unit about human relationship with the natural world). It’s been a fascinating investigation, and an awesome chance for this younger group of students to take leadership and pioneer new academic territory. (You should have heard them proudly extolling to Liza that they were the “school experts” in the field.*)

(*…literally, about the field.)


<3 sandy

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Class VIII on North Korea

learning North Korea

Timeline by Class VIII.

Intrigued and overflowing with questions after the stories they heard from visitors Mike and Chris about their experiences teaching in South Korea and working to support North Korean refugees, Class VIII recently explored a two-week unit studying North Korean history, culture, and politics.

A novice to the topic, I enjoyed immensely learning alongside and from these budding experts. Privileged to get to work with a class of such curious, collaborative, deep thinkers, I bit my tongue and took a back seat through the majority of the unit, drawing on a Montessori concept of the prepared environment: I provided a select assortment of accessible media, and challenged them to work together to author their own learning about the topic (secret syllabus: to hone their skills of independent investigation).

The group began the unit filling in the first two sections a “KWL” (Know-Want to Know-Learned) chart. The next day, I offered a three minute video about North Korean history, care of the nonprofit Liberty in North Korea (LiNK). We made sure, before engaging with any sources, to practice the Bias Analysis process we had delved into in an earlier unit, always recognizing how our sources were prone to present their favored side of a complex story. I gave them a few other print sources, my laptop, and the full hour to create a timeline from the information they had taken in. Watching them work together so cooperatively and creatively was absolutely a highlight of my week.

In particular, I was thrilled when, instead of asking me for clarification, they replayed one part of the video about 12 times, trying to make out the narration “Japan is defeated,” and energetically debating with each other the grammatical structure of the sentence and whose victory it indicated. At that point, I didn’t even have to deflect, “Don’t ask me; there are 11 other experts in the room”—they turned to each other first.

We read primary source stories about refugees and their escapes, looked at a photographic essay, and worked in small groups to take notes in thematic grids, identify trends with supportive examples, and represent those generalizations in creative form.

The last day of the project, they came back to their original KWL to juxtapose their questions with their newly gleaned, collaboratively constructed knowledge of the topic.

Long story short, totally awesome.

<3 sandy learning North Korea

Generalizations and evidence by Raju Kumar, Kangyur Sangpo, Langa Tsering, and Tenzin Drolma B.

learning North Korea

Illustration by Rinchen Drolma and Tashi Yangzom A.

learning North Korea

Illustration by Tenzin Drolma B.

learning North Korea

Illustration by Tenzin Lhamu.

learning North Korea

KWL chart constructed by Class VIII at the beginning and end of their unit of study.

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Autumn Expedition

The other day, Andrea and I were fortunate to get to take Classes IV and pre-K on a walk to the local village Bagar. Their excitement as we departed was explosive, and it was awesome to hear their stories, watch them exalt in the new point of view, and follow their lead as they showed us how to gather the local fall fruit and fallen walnuts.

autumn expedition pics

Left to right Maling Tashi, Andrea, Tenzin Tashi, Pema Drolma B, Therchung Tsering, Tsangpa Tashi, Tashi Drolma, Lobsang Tsering, Kunsang Drolma, Lobsang Yudron.

autumn expedition pics

Lobsang Tsering, psyched to take to the road.

autumn expedition pics

Pema Drolma B smiles as we set off.

autumn expedition pics

Jhamtse Gatsal, (featuring newly installed wind measurement tower in foreground!).

autumn expedition pics

Tsering Pema, Pema Drolma B, Andrea, Tashi Yangzom B, and Sandy.

autumn expedition pics

Pema Drolma B stretches her arms atop a pathside pile of stones.

autumn expedition pics

Lobsang Yudron, Pema Drolma B, Lobsang Tsering, and Tsering Pema in active pursuit of local ‘nanepa’ fruit.

autumn expedition pics

Lobsang Yudron, checking out some particularly destinctive sedimentary layers.

autumn expedition pics

Students gather walnuts by a mani wall in the village of Bagar.

autumn expedition pics

Therchng Tsering and Tsangpa Tashi show off their tasty treasures.

autumn expedition pics

Maling Tashi sharing an immense cucumber, generous gift of some women working in a field we passed by.

autumn expedition pics

Lobsang Yudron, Lungta Sangmu, and the talkative Tashi Drolma with Tsering Pema’s mother, whom we met on the road home.

Posted in Daily Life | 3 Comments

Happy Diwali!

Photos of our bright and lively Diwali festivities by Tenzin Norbu (Class VII):

Diwali 2014

Ornate decoration made of colored powder by the entrance to the new building.

Diwali 2014

The community performing a pooja.

Diwali 2014

Rajib (Kitchen Manager) serving a delicious dinner.

Diwali 2014

Children sitting down to eat.

Diwali 2014

Children enjoying the sparklers after dinner.

Diwali 2014

Ngodup (Kitchen staff) setting off firecrackers.

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Timely Reminder

timely reminder

Words of wisdom from articulate and insightful ninth grader, Pema Drolma ‘A’, posted to our “Words We Love” bulletin board last month, just in time to resonate with Class IX beginning their much-anticipated first round of half-yearly government exams at the local public high school.

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An Opener on Interbeing

interbeing blackboard quote

Class VIII begins a unit on human relationship with the natural world by responding to a provocative quote by Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh.

Phurpa Lhamo

I like this idea because it is very creative writing paragraph and in this idea show that in this world all living organisms are dependent and connected to each other, like food chain. To stay alive we need all the help of living organisms to make better place.

Leki Norbu

I think when the sunshine was shining very brightly and I think this poet’s idea I like it he describes all living things help each other.

Langa Tsering

Thich Nhat Hanh means by “interbeing” how all beings are related. I think of this idea is very wonderful because in these poem, it shows that one thing we need depends on so many things.

Posted in Education, Straight From the Students | 3 Comments

Walnut Shell Clavicles

This week, Classes IV and pre-K collaborated to study the internal workings of our bodies by building models of the skeletal system out of found objects. Check out their diverse resourcefulness below!

building models of the skeletal system

Tenzin Tashi forms a human from the earth.

building models of the skeletal system

Nima Wangchu, hands in the mud.

building models of the skeletal system

Sangey Lhazom and Pema Drolma B sculpt a skull out of soap, clavicles of walnut shells, stone ribs and coniferous phalanges.

building models of the skeletal system

Lungta Sangmu and Tashi Drolma put stray leaves and bottlecaps to creative new use.

building models of the skeletal system

Tashi Yangzom B, Lobsang Yudron, and Kunsang Drolma take the project (and the dust) into their own hands, deciding together to dirt-depict the digestive system.

building models of the skeletal system

Nima Wangchu and Lobsang Tsering put their heads together.

building models of the skeletal system

Tsangpa Tashi, Nima Wangchu, and Therchung Tsering add the finishing touches to their model.

building models of the skeletal system

Pema Drolma B shows off her finished project, under the inspection of Lobsang Tsering.

building models of the skeletal system

Lobsang Yudron and Kunsang Drolma explain the movement of food through the esophagus.

building models of the skeletal system

Lobsang Tsering, Nima Wangchu, and Therchung Tsering, exalting in their finished product.

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Wedding and a Show

We always have plenty to celebrate here at Jhamtse Gatsal, and this weekend was no exception. The kids performed a remarkable program of dances to honor the visit of five special members of our community, whom we are lucky to have joining us for a few weeks from Jhamtse Canada, and to recognize especially the marriage of Adarsh Mehta and Jeff Jenner.

A local astrologer performed the wedding ceremony, and then the students blew us all away with a spectacular set of songs and dances.

The highlight of the musical program was undeniably the long-awaited Lion Dance, premiering the brand new costumes for which the eighth and ninth grade boys raised an astounding $6,000 through Kickstarter, with great thanks to your generosity. After each song the entire morning, all the young children gathered on the steps eagerly predicted, “Next Lion Dance?” and when Rinchen, Langa, Dorjee, Sangey, Dawa and Raju finally took to the stage, the performance was well worth the wait. The kids were thrilled and enthralled and the adults all speechlessly impressed. After the show, Raju came out to dance with the adoring and exuberant kindergarteners, still wearing his baby lion outfit.

The day was filled with much laughter, love, the fruits of remarkable hard work and dedication, and deep recognition of the fortitude and joy of our undeniable interdependence.


With love and gratitude from all of us here for what your support has made possible in these last eight years,

Wedding Celebration and Lion Dance at Jhamtse Gatsal

Gombu Tsering waits for the ceremony to begin.

Wedding Celebration and Lion Dance at Jhamtse Gatsal

Andrea, Genla, and Sandy.

Wedding Celebration and Lion Dance at Jhamtse Gatsal

Big and baby siblings.

Wedding Celebration and Lion Dance at Jhamtse Gatsal

Krack Chung, assuming full stylishness.

Wedding Celebration and Lion Dance at Jhamtse Gatsal

Langa Tsering, in costume.

Wedding Celebration and Lion Dance at Jhamtse Gatsal

Tibetan teachers Gen Sangpo and Geshela.

Wedding Celebration and Lion Dance at Jhamtse Gatsal

Amalas Yangzom and Dorjee Lhamu.

Wedding Celebration and Lion Dance at Jhamtse Gatsal

Bride and groom, Adarsh and Jeff.

Wedding Celebration and Lion Dance at Jhamtse Gatsal

Taking the cake for most adorable guest of honor, Adarsh and Jeff’s attentive and inquisitive daughter Milan.

Wedding Celebration and Lion Dance at Jhamtse Gatsal

Parents of the bride, Aruna and Pankaj.

Wedding Celebration and Lion Dance at Jhamtse Gatsal

Local traditional astrologer, conducting the ceremony.

Wedding Celebration and Lion Dance at Jhamtse Gatsal

Class VIII and IX students performing traditional Tibetan dance.

Wedding Celebration and Lion Dance at Jhamtse Gatsal

Class VIII and IX students, traditional Tibetan dance.

Wedding Celebration and Lion Dance at Jhamtse Gatsal

Class VIII and IX girls, performing traditional Assamese dance.

Wedding Celebration and Lion Dance at Jhamtse Gatsal

Class II, III, and IV students take the stage.

Wedding Celebration and Lion Dance at Jhamtse Gatsal

Traditional Monpa dance by Classes VIII and IX.

Wedding Celebration and Lion Dance at Jhamtse Gatsal

Traditional Monpa dance by Classes VIII and IX.

Wedding Celebration and Lion Dance at Jhamtse Gatsal

Dorjee Chozom and Phurpa Lhamu pose in costume in a Tibetan song about diversity and unity.

Wedding Celebration and Lion Dance at Jhamtse Gatsal

Best friends Kangyur Sangpo and Raju Kumar.

Wedding Celebration and Lion Dance at Jhamtse Gatsal

Classes VIII and IX perform a Tibetan song about diversity and unity.

Wedding Celebration and Lion Dance at Jhamtse Gatsal

Lion dancers don their costumes backstage.

Wedding Celebration and Lion Dance at Jhamtse Gatsal

Lion dancers, getting ready to steal the show.

Wedding Celebration and Lion Dance at Jhamtse Gatsal

Traditional dance teacher extraordinaire Lham Dorjee helps Raju Kumar into the baby lion suit.

Wedding Celebration and Lion Dance at Jhamtse Gatsal

The ever-talented Rinchen Tsering kicks off the long-awaited Lion Dance performance.

Wedding Celebration and Lion Dance at Jhamtse Gatsal

The starving old man meets the snow lions.

Wedding Celebration and Lion Dance at Jhamtse Gatsal

Lion Dance.

Wedding Celebration and Lion Dance at Jhamtse Gatsal

Baby lion cuddles his resting parents.

Wedding Celebration and Lion Dance at Jhamtse Gatsal

Rinchen Tsering and Raju Kumar close the show.

Posted in Culture, Events | 6 Comments

85 Hugs and Immeasurable Things Like Love

Amma the Teacher

I arrived at Jhamtse Gatsal a bit nervous and not sure what to expect, but when I left a year and a half later, I felt as if I was leaving my home and my family.

What makes Jhamtse Gatsal so special? Is it the eighty-five hugs that you receive every day? Is it the all-embracing environment where children are taught to love and care for each other in a way that becomes second nature to them? Is it the warmth and friendliness of the staff that accepts you unconditionally? It’s hard to say! What I can say is that the specialness of Jhamtse Gatsal comes from those immeasurable things like love, acceptance, and caring, which we often take for granted, that flow so consciously and naturally here.

After deciding to take a gap year after high school and finding Jhamtse Gatsal on a volunteer website, I arrived in February 2013 and made it my home until July 2014. At first nervous, I was shy and quiet. I was embraced and welcomed first by staff and then by the kids. I had arrived during winter vacation when most of the children were away. The kids taught me to speak Monpa, play their games and make bracelets. They asked me questions and told me stories. In turn, I taught them games, shared my own stories, and told them about my home in Jamaica. For me, life at Jhamtse Gatsal became as much about living in a community and being an active community member as about teaching science and math. I became more and more invested in the children’s education and the community as a whole, and, come August 2013 when I was supposed to leave, I decided to stay for an extra year.

Spending time with the children outside the classroom was just as important to me as spending time within the educational setting. I wanted to get to know them, and I did. They showed me pictures of their sponsors and asked me questions about what life was like in ‘USA’. We went for walks and they showed me all the plants that were used in their villages, and what they were used for. We played volleyball, football, cricket, seven stones, we did cartwheels and handstands, and the boys showed off their breakdancing moves. With each day and shared experience I felt lucky to be a part of their lives and to share these moments with them.

But it isn’t just the children that make Jhamtse so special. It is also the hardworking staff who are always ready to throw a party and laugh at themselves and each other. The Ama-las taught me how to hand wash clothes and accepted me as if I was one of their children. The kitchen staff taught me to speak Hindi, and patiently waited while I struggled with sentences or said the opposite of what I was actually trying to say. They fed me chai, and indulged my growing love of chilies and ‘chamin,’ Monpa chutney.

The teachers took me in, teased me, and enjoyed correcting my growing but broken Hindi while I helped them with their English. Four in the afternoon often found us in the kitchen, drinking chai, sharing teaching tips and talking about classes. It was their support that helped me when I was struggling with a particular class or topic.

I often look back on my time at Jhamtse Gatsal and wonder – who learned more, me or my students? I have come to the conclusion that the privilege of being part of such a loving and caring place is something so special, that no matter how much I taught, I have learned infinitely more.

(This lovely reflection by Amma, also appears on the new Jhamtse International blog, with more photos. Go check it out!)

Posted in Visitor Thoughts | 5 Comments