When children graduate from our preschool, they enter kindergarten ready and eager to embrace more complex academic challenges. Our kindergarten is an important transition year that helps students develop the core skills necessary to thrive in our elementary program.
Children are given more creative control in projects across different areas, with our teachers providing guidance and support as needed. A greater emphasis is placed on reading instruction and written and verbal communication. These lay the foundation for research based learning and Socratic discussions that are at the heart of our elementary curriculum. To promote modeling, risk taking and community building, our kindergartners are encouraged to share their learning and skills with their classmates.
Our social studies program helps our children understand the world around us, often from the lens of socio-emotional learning (SEL). While honoring their need for independence, SEL also supports our children's curiosity and quest for making, maintaining and understanding friendships and relationships.
By the time our students enter elementary, they are ready to fly. All the skills meticulously acquired during the preschool and kindergarten years allow them to meaningfully plan their days and to fully explore their passions under the expert guidance of our master teachers. Since the skills they have acquired thus far have not been taught in isolation, but instead in context and as part of a larger narrative, our students show a greater understanding of the interconnectedness of their activities and want to explore concepts in a deeper way.
Learning environment, core competencies and subject matter proficiency assessments are used to design individualized learning plans (ILPs) for the children, so every child works at a level that is most relevant and appropriate for him/her. In other words, a 3rd grade child may be working on 5th grade math concepts and 2nd grade reading or writing tasks at the same time.
Problem solving through exploration and discovery is our preferred learning strategy. This same approach is also used for projects. Projects span multiple social and academic areas and are often associated with an end customer. In other words, projects can be for oneself, family, peers, immediate community, the planet itself or our future generations. Children are given increasing creative control in their projects and the projects also tend to be longer and more complex.
Purposeful achievement and belonging give our children a strong sense of joy and pride and thus strengthen the cycle of further engagement and learning. We believe, at Sankalpa Academy, that for children to develop agency and find meaning in their work, education has to be holistic and not compartmentalized. The breadth of our programs therefore reflects our intention to reach the whole child.
The following discussion shows how we approach each subject and the role it plays in our elementary classroom.
Sharpening communication skills is a core competency. Persuasive sudience-aware articulation, critical thinking and thinking on one's feet are nuanced skills and key objectives of our language arts program. Our goal is to help students develop and sharpen the critical skills necessary to analyze, evaluate, classify and prioritize the information that they routinely receive. This journey clearly begins as early as in preschool. Towards this end, we rely on activities such as Socratic discussions, creative writing, critical analyses, poetry, precis writing, elocution and debates to help develop critical reading, listening, thinking, writing and speaking skills. This involves focusing on students' ability to recognize and reconcile differing biases, needs, perspectives (i.e. emotional intelligence), arguments and the underlying human conditions and connections.
While most forms of knowledge are cumulative in nature, math is perhaps the most unforgiving since it is often impossible to make sense of a concept if prior building blocks are not well understood. We therefore rely on a more individualized approach that is highly sensitive to a child's learning edges. In order to facilitate deeper conceptual understanding, we design discovery processes that require risk taking and experimentation. Students learn to construct mathematical understanding on their own terms through a hierarchical process of assimilation and accomodation and not rely on any memorization of processes or algorithms. Our math curriculum fosters real world problem-solving skills so our students experience novelty just as a career mathematician would. Our math continuum is extensive and spans from concepts such as number sense, money sense and fractions to probability, pattern recognition and calculus to machine learning and programming.
Thirst for knowledge and understanding is essential for any career that values discovery and innovation. Curiosity, open-ended investigations, passion and tenacity are key elements of our scientific training. Social acceptance and distinguishing between valid and inaccurate scientific conclusions are key challenges that often plague scientists. We therefore delve deep into these aspects as well at Sankalpa.
We want our children to be enchanted by the wonderful explorations - successes as well as failures - that lead to scientific discoveries. Knowledge is not more important than praxes, our curriculum ensures that children are exposed to the excitement that comes with scientific investigations. Preschool children explore the wonders that await them in the natural outdoors while elementary students can revisit the journeys of the past as well as the current, ongoing research pursuits that are aimed at solving some of our most pressing problems. Our learners will experience the evolutionary cycle of design of experiments, empirical observations, hypothesis formulation, testing and analysis.
Social studies are perhaps one of the most fascinating subjects in our preschool and elementary programs. At Sankalpa Academy, our social studies curriculum touches on many aspects - from physical geography, to world cultures, to our shared history and finally to our various forms of civic engagement and government. The discussions will be focused on both where we are today as well as how we got here so our students can better project themselves into the future.
Geography sits at the intersection of social science and natural science. In geography, we explore the different continents, nations, water bodies and landforms of the world and their unique characteristics and environments. The physical environment, the interactions of humans with the environment and historical migrations are key areas of study in geography.
World cultures exposes our children to the large diversity of traditions, customs and religions and the historical meanings associated with some of these customs. Understanding and reflecting on one’s own culture, the cultures of other people and the similarities and differences between them are important growth opportunities and critical elements of our socio-emotional education.
In addition to helping us find our roots and anchoring us within the larger social fabric, history can also help us learn from the past as we forge into a relatively unknown future. Since history is often recorded by those who have prevailed, approaching history with a critical eye is essential. Our curriculum therefore covers all aspects of history - the recorded history, the possible reasons for what transpired and the factors that could have altered the outcomes.
Sharing circles, unstructured play, student governance, meditation, fine arts, visual arts and introduction to psychology are the key vehicles we use to build socio-emotional learning and growth.
Observation and appreciation, reflection and composition and articulation through creation are the 3 key stages in all our art programs. The first step involves guiding children in their enchanting journey of art appreciation. This helps them discover art as a poetic expression of an inner truth or a deeper message. Building emotional awareness and recognition is the next stage in this journey. As French painter Paul Cezanne, said, "A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art." This is the primary reason for inclusion of art in our curriculum in the first place. Children are guided gently in this process of reflection, discovery and authentic articulation. Creating imagery that reflects their emotions, whether they be desires, fears or joys is the final and the most visible step. This involves the technical skills needed to create art that can be understood by others.
We offer Spanish and Mandarin classes for both our preschool and elementary children. Classes are held in an immersive environment and they expose children to a multifaceted experience that includes language, literature and culture. We also offer an introduction to Sanskrit through our yoga and meditation program.
Many parents are interested in foreign languages for one or more of the following four reasons:
* they are not native English speakers and they have a different mother tongue
* they feel that early childhood is the best time to learn a foreign language
* they believe our children will grow up in an increasingly interconnected world
* they know that physiological and other studies have shown that speaking two or more languages can actually change the wiring in the brain and significantly enhance empathy and cognitive processes required for executive functioning
Our children begin each day with a sankalpa on their high level objectives for that day. The last 30 minutes of the day are spent in silence, on reflection and independent journaling. We may also use this time for other activities such as one-on-one check-ins, or whole community gatherings as the need arises. Reflection journals are used by the elementary children as a bridge between home and school and are intended to help families support their child's growth.
At Sankalpa, physical education is more than physical exercise or psychomotor learning through play or movement. It also involves the development of a hunger for understanding how our body works and what it needs. In addition to play and physical exercise, it also includes educatiion on nutrition, sleep and physical and mental health.
Team sports is an important element of the physical education curriculum at Sankalpa Academy. Team sports provide many immediate as well as long term benefits. They help
- improve overall health and immunity through aerobic exercise
- build close friendships through team building and camaraderie
- foster respect for each other through teamwork skills as well as leadership skills
- develop appreciation for the contributions of others with different abilities
- learn humility in success and grace in failure
- help prioritize broader team goals over individual goals
- develop physical skills that are relevant to the particular sport