Our journey of Agastya Naturals in the NEST room began with a simple inspiration – whatever we do within the campus should be sustainable. This philosophy guided us to advise the children to preserve and reuse everything possible.
As I walk into the NEST room, I'm greeted by the lively atmosphere that reflects our wonderful journey with the children. Once, we stumbled upon some curtains and decided to paint them ourselves, giving the room a creative personal touch. Every piece of furniture here, especially the wooden racks, holds special memories of us upcycling wood and working together to create something beautiful.
Agastya Naturals in the NEST Room
The heart of our school is the NEST curriculum, encompassing Natural farming, Eating mindfully, Sustainable living, and a Tribute to Earth. Agastya Naturals effortlessly integrates into the sustainable living and Tribute to Earth components. NEST classes are for all students from grade 3 to 12.
The NEST room is always open. And children, after completing their classwork or tests, inform their teachers and come to the NEST room to work on something or join ongoing projects. The absence of rigid rules creates an environment where everyone works together, irrespective of grade or age.
The NEST room is not just a place for learning; it's a research centre where traditional teaching methods are replaced by free learning. The children have the freedom to explore, experiment, and learn by doing. It's a space not confined to notebooks. If you ask them to take a test on what they've learned, they'll still excel.
The Creative Chaos
From the dishwashing soap we use for cleaning to bio-enzymes that serve multiple purposes, including floor cleaning, bathroom cleaning, and even washing clothes for our youngest learners in kindergarten – we've created a diverse collection of products.
While teachers embraced it, convincing the cleaning staff posed a unique challenge. Their expectation for foaming and fragrant solutions clashed with the non-traditional nature of our bio-enzymes. For us, true success rested in the hands of the end users – the janitors.
Realizing the importance of direct engagement, I took it upon myself to personally teach and demonstrate the efficacy of bio-enzymes. Through hands-on experience videos, I showcased stain removal techniques and shared how I use these solutions at home. It took persistent effort to make them understand and adopt bio-enzymes into their daily routine.
Overcoming initial resistance, the janitors provided valuable feedback. This feedback loop proved instrumental in refining our products. Each trial-and-error brought us closer to creating products that seamlessly integrated into the daily lives of our users.
The Soap Story
From crafting Diyas, Dhoops, Viboothi, Kunkumum, Kuppaimeni, turmeric soaps, and shampoo bars, we replace everyday items with locally sourced, eco-friendly alternatives. Our products at Agastya Naturals offer unique benefits that extend beyond conventional alternatives. Take, for instance, our Kuppaimeni soap – a game-changer for those troublesome pimples that often plague 9th and 10th-grade students. I vividly recall a girl who regularly purchases this soap, swearing by its effectiveness in calming her skin.
It became apparent that while Kuppaimeni soap worked wonders for some, others experienced dryness. One size doesn't fit all, this realization propelled me to enhance my knowledge, experimenting with different batches and incorporating various herbs to cater to a spectrum of skin needs.
What's heartening is the growing awareness among parents who actively encourage their children to opt for our organic soaps for themselves and extended families.
Vedic way to go!
We crafted our Dhoops, with ingredients inspired by the remarkable survival story of two families during the Bhopal gas tragedy through the practice of Agnihotra. We share these narratives for our children, developing an affection towards Desi cows and cow dung.
Our Biggest Community
The remarkable part? Children take charge. Even in my absence, the entire production process, from making and packing to sales, is solely managed by them. If they have any doubts, they follow our working manual.
During events like parent meetings, our stalls, manned entirely by the children, offer our products for sale. I've never delved into the accounts, as the higher-grade commerce students take on this responsibility. They accompany the younger ones in selling the products, handle the bill book, and independently manage the financial transactions. The meticulous details they provide, including total stock, amount sold, and total revenue, truly make this initiative a success story in its own right.
Imperfection in Creation
Whether it's crafting diyas or working with cow dung, we value their interest in trying things on their own over unrealistic standards of perfection.
We've witnessed a remarkable transformation, from children hesitant to touch cow dung to them now comfortably working with both wet and dry varieties. To encourage participation, we lead by example. If we want a child to handle cow dung for a project, we are the first to do it. This approach ensures a natural progression as children tend to follow suit. Traditional teaching methods simply cannot match.
Even when we sell products, we embrace this imperfection. We acknowledge that the handmade items may not be flawless, tagging them as such. Our goal isn't to establish a brand but to nurture the creativity of our children.
The NEST room is a testament to our trust in the students. We guide them on using the space productively, but we don't control them. Remarkably, even the most spirited children organize and maintain the space impeccably, showcasing a sense of responsibility.
In our sustainable initiatives, we offer options like returning kunkumam bottles for a reduced price or encouraging students to bring their own bottles for refills. Bartering is woven into our culture, with children exchanging homemade dried Desi cow dung for products or selling it to us. We also facilitate seed exchanges from our native plants, allowing students to bring their own seeds for trading or purchase seed packets for a nominal fee.
I can assure you that our journey with Agastya Naturals in the NEST room doesn't dwell on success or failure; instead, we go with the flow. Every day presents a new learning opportunity. The satisfaction of knowing that our campus runs on Agastya Naturals products is our biggest reward.