The Learning Communities and Descriptions
Edopia comprises of 4 different learning communities. Each community operates as an autonomous unit within the framework of Edopia while upholding the vision and ethos of the larger community in general.
Designed in response to the innate qualities of curiosity, playfulness and sociability in children, the preschool is an inquiry-based learning space, inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach. Students spend a considerable amount of time outdoors, exploring different environments. Storytelling, role-playing and imaginative play are key activities of a given day. Conflict management, collaboration and listening to each other’s perspectives are important skills that are focused on during these years. Educators engage in active listening and use ‘the life of an idea’ framework to further inquiries as they pursue an emergent curriculum. They have dialogic meetings at the end of each day to reflect on how they’d further build on the explorations of the students.
A strong foundation in literacy skills is developed during these years. This is the time for children to learn to be independent, under the supervision of the educators. The sense of community starts to develop in these years. Key components of the SEL framework (e.g. growth mindset, fairness, kindness, respect, emotional management, appreciating oneself, dealing with disappointments etc) are emphasized in the community. Critical thinking and problem-solving skills begin to grow and result in students questioning and trying to exert their influence on everything. The concept of voting for rules is also introduced during this time. Children exercise choice by partaking in the electives offered at the school. Electives are short term projects that are introduced at the beginning of each semester. A range of electives are offered under different categories; STEM, Arts, Research, Sports etc. Children partake in electives based on their interest and aptitude. All electives are offered in a multi-aged learning environment.
By this time, most children are quite independent. We eliminate the idea of assigned grades and lectures for this age group. Children are given study plans with monthly goals. Children achieve those goals independently, in their own time. If they get stuck, they seek help from their peers or educators. Some of the goals are also set in group settings. The children have to work in teams to collectively achieve these goals. Children continue to partake in electives. Alongside, they also focus on their independent inquiries. A very important aspect of the Middle Years and Senior Years life are the committees. These interest-based task forces play an important role in the day to day running of the school. For example, the Judicial Committee is responsible for the disciplinary action at the school whereas the Business Committee regulates all the businesses that are set up at the school. The Social Work committee is responsible for raising donations for the outreach initiatives, whereas the Farming Committee is responsible for the herb garden and the animals at the school.
Children work towards their O levels. By this time most of our children are quite independent in the way they learn and work at their own pace. We try to offer mentorship for a wide range of subjects.
Making choices in the community
Edopia is a living community in a community, all members have a voice from the youngest to the oldest. Their voice is heard and respected. Their rights and responsibilities are clear and they can speak about them. Children are allowed to experience the full range of feelings free from the judgement and intervention of an adult. Freedom to make decisions always involves risk and requires the possibility of negative outcomes. Apparently negative consequences such as boredom, stress, anger, disappointment and failure are a necessary part of individual development.
The voice us heard in meetings. Some meetings are lead by adults, others by children. These meetings will have a set structure.
Creating a culture of thinking in all learning communities
It is important to build a strong intellectual life around children through enculturation. That happens when we become aware of the cultural forces that are present in our existing learning spaces and leverage them to build a space where thinking is valued. By creating a culture of thinking, we value a group’s collective as well as individual thinking by making it visible and by promoting it. The cultural forces that are used as a tool in the process are time, modelling, language, environment, interactions, routines, opportunities and expectations. Teachers employ the practice of visible listening to model the worth of a student's thoughts while gaining the information necessary to ask them good questions. Documentation involves being curious about the student learning occurring, recording it with multiple media artefacts to act as a form of group memory, reflecting on the documentation, and sharing it publicly in order to build collective knowledge. Making time for thinking, using a language of thinking, and documenting the thinking processes are just some of the ways that teachers create cultures of thinking in their classrooms.