All the group sessions when they poured their hearts out - Tara Cortez Greig telling me that I did not know the boys in her class (Jayendra, Arvind and Santhosh) - that one day they would kill me as they were so bad!! Jayanth - all of six - inviting me to see the stars with him at the Sholinganallur overnight camp!
- Mrs Uma Shankar

history

Abacus belongs most of all to the children.

Abacus belongs to the teachers - to the part timers, resource teachers, coaches, maintenance staff, office staff;
To the parents;
To the trustees, the managing committee, the director and the principal.

Abacus belongs to everyone who has been a part of the school - those in the past ever since its inception... those in the present who make its aliveness today... and those who will enter its future in the years to come.

Everyone is part of its story.

This account of its history is limited to certain events and people and to the viewpoint of the writer.

Early Years

Early yearsEncouraged by Manjoo Menon and supported by Mr. & Mrs. Gopinath, Abacus Montessori School was started by Kamini Sundaram in June 1987. The school's Founding Principal, Amukta Mahapatra formulated the first template that guided the structure and processes followed at the school. The vision for the school was articulated at this time.

Early yearsIn the beginning "Pre-Primary" Montessori environments were created for the 2 1/2 to 6 year age group. The children worked in mixed age group environments with trained adults who guided their work with Montessori materials in the areas of Exercises of Practical Life, Sensorial, Mathematics and Language. Children worked individually, choosing their work according to their plans, following the ground rules, talking softly to each other, being in charge of themselves, experiencing and arriving at their own learning.

As the children grew older, the "Primary" class (6-9 year olds) was designed to allow a few older children to go to a space of their own in small groups of 3 to 10 to work with the teacher at a more advanced level. Such learning was not confined to the requirements of their age or class, but guided by the children's own needs and interests.

Early yearsThe experience of working at the Pre-primary level reinforced the understanding of Montessori philosophy, principles and methodologies. It was now felt necessary to extend the Montessori Methodology to older age groups.

In 1994 and 1995 Natasia De Lange, a Montessori teacher from Holland visited Abacus to look at the work being done. As a result of her visits, the school introduced mixed age groups at the Primary level with Montessori materials.

Early yearsFrom this point onwards Abacus began individual activity time in mixed age groups for Primary (6-9) and Elementary (9-12) classes while also continuing lecture-based classes within the prescribed syllabus.

Amukta Mahapatra who led the first Abacus team of teachers as Principal, resigned in 1995 and moved to Bhubaneswar.

Growing Up

Growing upIn January 1996, Nandita Krishnan became the principal. By June 1996 the school had reached Class 7 and under her watch became affiliated to the Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations in November 1996.

Abacus was also working on setting up a permanent home. Land was acquired in Perungudi and building plans were made by Laurie Baker who showed tremendous sensitivity to preparing an environment for the child, creating a unique experience for those in the school who interacted with him.

With the support of parents several public events were organized to raise funds for the school buildings. Between April 1995 and December 1997 two beautiful buildings came up as though they grew out of Perungudi soil.

March 2000 was a very special time as the very first batch of children wrote the ICSE examinations at the end of Class 10.

Nandita Krishnan resigned as Principal in October 2001.

The school completes fifteen

Zai Whitaker came on board as Principal on February 15, 2002.

During her tenure, Abacus collaborated with Indian Institute for Montessori Studies, Bangalore to conduct a training course for teachers in the Montessori Method for 6-12 year olds. It was attended by all the Primary (6-9) and Elementary (9-12) teachers at Abacus as well as 18 outside participants. The method was applied in the Primary and partly in the Elementary.

Zai introduced a special education centre at Abacus in 2003. A school counsellor and an ESL section were also introduced. Zai relocated to Bangalore in April 2004 and Kamini Sundaram took the role of Principal in addition to being Director of the school.

Moving into adulthood

In September 2005 and January 2006 an all-school workshop to align the vision and goals of the school was conducted by Naresh Purushotham and M. Hariharan. The workshop was aimed at jointly articulating the beliefs and values of the school so that responsibility for the quality of the school was sustained by each and everyone, co-creating in a non-hierarchical way. From this workshop many processes were put in place and M.Hariharan joined the School Managing Committee continuing to work with the people at the school.

In Sep 2006 Brian Caszo joined as Principal, working to make the school an ICSE examination centre. In July 2007 Vyjayanthi Bhaskar, one of the senior teachers of the school took over the post of Principal till April 2010.

With the introduction of an AMI Elementary course in Chennai, some of our teachers went to retrain and others were recruited from the courses. In 2008 mixed age group environments were extended to 6-12 year olds. The section was renamed "Elementary" with the environments of the 2 1/2 - 6 years olds being called "Primary".

Abacus introduced the Higher Secondary program in June 2009.

Following this Joan Elango was Principal from June 2010 to Aug 2011, sending the first batch of Class 12's to the ISC Public Examination in April 2011.

June 2011 began with another all staff workshop "Reaffirming what we stand for" again anchored by Naresh Purushothaman and M.Hariharan that saw the school well aligned in its vision, with its systems running on well-oiled wheels.

A new way of administering the school

When Joan Elango resigned as Principal the tasks of the Principal were distributed among all the teachers. After a year of functioning in this manner the school experienced that this was well suited to the ethos of the school and if everyone held hands, they were the Principal. It was decided that the person who holds the title of Principal should represent this understanding and model the continuation of this new way of being. Vyjayanthi Bhaskar was offered the post which she accepted for the second time effective October 2012.

In this process the school completed its 25th year on 17th June 2012.

Keeping in mind the long-time dream of the school to take the High School program further into Dr.Montessori's recommendations for adolescence, Abacus acquired 30 acres of farmland in March 2014 with the aim of creating an environment for the adolescent suitable to their needs and the times in which they live.

Agricultural activities were begun at the school farm in 2016-17 and the farm program was introduced to children from 12 years of age.

The children presented their work at the farm at the 4th National Montessori Conference held at Music Academy in January 2018.

Farm School

We began agricultural activities at our school farm in 2016 - 17 and introduced a farm programme to the children of Class 7 upwards. The children make trips to the farm periodically and work in the fields with rice, grains, vegetables and fruit trees. They take part in the cycle of sowing, maintaining and harvesting crops, and are exposed to related processes such as threshing and winnowing, using tools, making organic manure and pesticides and knowledge about pests. Theory lessons are taken alongside and they are taught the science behind each process.

They are experiencing agricultural cycles, village life, respecting natural surroundings and forming a wider understanding of others. We are combining the work at the farm with that in school so that the children have an integrated experience. The school calendar too is modified to include the seasonal cycles of the farm.

For all of us who have the privilege of accompanying the children, this program has been a wondrous thing and we are looking forward to being able to offer the opportunity to more of our children in the years to come.

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