The objectives for these courses are: to provide the children with an aptitude and love for written word in order to better be able to express themselves and be exposed to others’ expression, to help the children connect and bond with their environment and the natural world, to take ownership over it and grow to love taking care of it, and to have the scientific knowledge to successfully do so. We also sought to help the children become more resilient in the face of adversity, and we exposed them to alternative, more empathetic ways of life.
Biology and the environment:
- I save by recycling: he intention of this program was that the children could save money by collecting and recycling various discarded materials such as plastic, metal, aluminum, cardboard, and paper. They were assigned a sponsor who would commit to bringing in the same quantity of material as their sponsee. At the end of the year, each participating child would receive payment for the material that both they and their sponsor had collected.
- Nature/The Power of my Tree: In this course, we talked about the importance of plants, the many ways in which we use them, and how we can care for them and avoid deforestation. Each child adopted a tree, measured it, observed the forms of life that lived in it, and maintained an ongoing log of information about their tree.
- Ocean, Mollusks, Birds, Mammals, Reptiles, and Fish: hese courses taught the importance of the ocean, mollusks, birds, mammals, fish, and reptiles for the planet and for human beings. They important roles they play in our planet, why it is important to care for them, and what we can do to protect them.
- Dinosaurs: In this course, we tackled the fascinating topic of these surprising, extinct creatures. Students got to know the flora, fauna, and climate that predominated during the Mezosoic Era, during which dinosaurs and other prehistoric reptiles roamed.
- Visual Art: This course instructed the children in various fundamentals of visual art (mediums and techniques in sketching, painting, and sculpture) and assigned open-ended projects in which they could experiment with these new forms. The emphasis was on promoting creativity and self-expression, taking them through the planning process from conception to execution of a design, and above all, on cultivating each child’s desire to explore and experiment with visual mediums. The primary goal was to help children experience joy and pride in the artistic process, overcoming their fear of external judgment.
- Music and Music History: In this course, the children had the opportunity to time travel, getting to know the lives, histories, and music of prominent Western composers and musicians. They played educational games such as memory, storytime, puzzles, word games, and trivia challenges. This course included a focus on music appreciation, reading skills, memory and focus, patience and tolerance, and teamwork.
- Dance: This was an opportunity for the children to develop and integrate coordination, agility, mobility, flexibility, and balance. We focused on discipline: the children learned and rehearsed a choreographed dance of approximately 5 minutes, requiring commitment and at times great effort. The children performed their dance for an audience of family and friends at the end of the semester.
- Theatre: Through various playful theatre exercises, the children developed their three fundamental human “logics”: the bodily, the emotional, and the intellectual. The children exercised practical skills for live performance, and ultimately put these new abilities to work by rehearsing and performing a small dramatic text.
Language and Literacy:
- English language: The children learned vocabulary, grammar, and the fundamentals of reading, writing, and speaking English. The course often involved projects in which the children would creatively use prior learning.
- Audiobooks: The children chose books to listen to in English, reading along with the audio individually, in pairs, or in groups. This helped enrich and reinforce their understanding of English.
- Reading: In this class, the children would enjoy a daily storybook (read aloud to them by the teacher), learn a bit about the author, expand their vocabulary by learning the target words for each book, exercise their imaginations by examining the book cover and postulating what it might be about, become familiar with a multitude of literary characters, and complete imaginative activities related to the story’s contents.
- Attention: This class sought to expand the children’s attention spans, teach them the skill of tuning out distractions on-demand, and exercise their short- and long-term memories. It also included an implicit focus on cultivating the growth mindset, as each child kept track of his or her own “personal record” and was able to observe growth week by week.
- Journalism: This course’s main objective was to reinforce students’ language and communication skills, both verbal and written. It did so by creating a school newspaper and delegating all journalistic roles to the children, putting them in the position to interview subjects, express themselves, draft articles, proofread and revise, and publish their work. This reinforced the importance of teamwork.
Emotional, physical, and social health:
- Organic Garden: In this course, the children learned to work in a team, how and when to plant vegetables, how to maintain and adequately care for them, how to be responsible for their spaces, and some healthy recipes and ideas for cooking their harvest.
- The Human Body: This course sought to teach students about the functions of their body, and to empower them to take ownership of their health and care for themselves using principles of nutrition and exercise.
- Learning About Myself: This course taught students the skills of self-validation by promoting curiosity toward the self and one's environment, teaching the children to recognize their feelings and emotions, and offering concrete skills to healthily process these. The goal was to promote resiliency in the face of adversity, and to expose them to an empathetic way of life.
- Physical Activation: The children channeled their energy into physical activities that allowed them to become familiar with their limitations and abilities, taking on and overcoming challenges through effort and persistence.
- BCSicletos: This collaborative course with the local non-profit organization BCSicletos focused on teaching the children about the importance of traffic laws so that the children could safely commute around the city on bicycle. To this end, the children participated in several field trips around their neighborhood — such as group bike rides and painting pedestrian crosswalks — in which the children practiced what they had learned in a real-world context.