Peter Philips, AV Bali educator, reflects on teaching Grade 5 Poetry the AV Way. Every Wednesday, he and his teaching team takes Grade 5 out to the rice fields in collaboration with the school’s social enterprise – the . He feels grateful to have its partnership in his learning program; its mission is to bridge the international community of AV with the local community of Sibangkaja village, seeking to nurture a united community spirit and create a space for local engagement in AV’s learning and doing. And so out Grade 5 goes, into the fields, spending each Wednesday morning with the farmers. Then each student finds a spot in the field, inspired by what they have seen, heard, done and felt, to sit and write. Subject learning, with nature-based experiences at the heart, are a pivotal part of the AV way.

As a team, we innovate and create alongside our young people; with head, heart and hands at the ready to collectively serve their innate wisdom and creativity. As adults, we stand in awe of the endless possibilities the young people lead us to as they continuously forge new paths ahead, whilst we stumble at times to keep up with their agility. What do the young people say about all of this as they look back to us? “Well, of course this is the path ahead keep up or just stay there, please!”

Practically speaking, we intentionally design learning experiences that are Relationship-centred, Experiential, Authentic and Local with an absolute commitment to our child-centred, holistic IRESPECT Values and AV Skills. We envision learning experiences taking place for our young people within our awe-inspiring bamboo architecture, amidst the beauty of nature that enfolds our campus and as we intentionally cross the Millenium Bridge over the mighty Ayung River, humbly bowing to local knowledge and wisdom as we engage locally.

As adults, we must reawaken our inner-child and live into these experiences through the eyes of young people. With this said, I warmly invite you into a REAL-time, living and breathing, Grade 5 experience. Imagine yourself as the Grade 5 student you once were at 10 or 11 years of age. Yes, recall that time all those years ago! I will pause as you take a breath to recall.

Embarking on a journey from our AV bamboo classroom, your feet carry you along narrow paths between plots of land as daily village life slows your pace.

You wrap a sarong around your waist before we sit together, in silence on the hard ground within the temple. The priest chants ancient mantras, colourful flowers are held, prayers are whispered within, fragrant holy water is sipped and the incense takes our prayers to the sky above. Exiting the temple, as you lift your gaze from the uneven path below, you are gifted an uninterrupted view of mountains and a majestic volcano that rises like a giant above all else.

Imagine. Imagine arriving in the ricefields and poking the mud with your big toe, before you hesitantly step into the thick, warm mud that embraces your feet and ankles. With sweat dripping down into your eyes, you close them tight just as a flow of cool water surrounds and soothes your tired feet. You keep them closed as you hear the laughter of your friends and the sound of a heron call to its flock as its wings flap overhead. Slowly opening your eyes, you realise. I. Am. Here.

Each Wednesday morning is full of anticipation in Grade 5, as the connections nurtured by our team allow this life-changing experience with local Balinese farmers who have been guardians of this land for generations. Their wisdom lies in their reality. Their reality is the source of our learning and we listen in anticipation of getting back in that mud! With work to be done, we aerate the mud with our feet, we squish in organic fertiliser between our toes, we hunt snails that will eat our crops, then cook them to eat together, we plant that precious little rice seed that sprouts in vivid, almost fluorescent green amidst the dull brown of that magical mud. Our latest experience was what seemed like a culmination of our efforts. We delicately plucked those seedlings of rice that sprouted and systematically planted our seedlings into that soft, cosy mud and we did this together, until it was done. Pak Martana shared with us that it would be 100 days until the rice would be ready to harvest. This is the rice we eat together in AV Bali.

Running parallel to their experiences in the rice fields, our Grade 5 young people are living into a process of documentation and self-reflection. They are continuously refining their experiences toward collating and publishing an anthology of poetry in which they will also film themselves, in the rice fields, reciting their poems as Spoken Word artists. This will be presented to the community. Why? Our young people are the glue that binds ideas to experiences and they have the desire to help raise awareness to Subak Uma Lambing and the community of 250 farmers there who are dedicated to collaborative farming using sustainable practices and ancient knowledge – honoring Balinese tradition, way of life, local health and the earth.

Quite simply, I am not just a teacher and the young people I share time with are not just students.

I.Am. Here.

We. Are. Here.