Grades 4 through 8
Our Middle and High School curriculum is one that we have designed over a period of time. Middle School begins at Grade Four and stretches till Grade Eight. During this phase we want children to actually apply their learning from the Montessori journey they have experienced.
After spending time in the Primary Montessori environment, children are ready to move to a single aged group from Grade 4 onwards. Our philosophy and practices remain in place, while learners gradually adapt to a more structured timetable. However the connectivity of information and knowledge continues to be strong. Children's’ perspectives of what the world is and what the world was all about have begun to mature while their curiosity is increasing. Facilitators working with children want them to become as independent as possible so that they are accountable for their own learning and the desire to know more, and learn, stems from within. This leads to a process of inquiry that inspires learners to set their own levels of excellence.
Our Middle School programme is more about a curriculum and not so much about a syllabus. This includes learners’ own unique experiences, and opportunities are given to discover their own potential. We have seen that children who are curious bring a sense of rigour into their lives and strive to get better. This makes test taking easier and less stressful. Our teachers have been able to make the children’s learning journey enjoyable and keep them interested in the subjects being taught; this interest reduces stress because the process overrules the outcome.
As a school we believe that teachers have to factor in the relevance of what they are addressing in the classroom and include their thoughts. Our pedagogy is continuously evolving in the Middle School space and teachers are challenged to reflect on their own ways and practices from time to time. Students guide the learning process at Head Start because it’s their understanding of a concept or a subject that means more than anything else.
We don’t have exams till Grade Eight but do regular assessments through worksheets, presentations, research and follow up activities. The objective is to make sure that every child has acquired sufficient knowledge on the topic of study and that we are aware as educators that all children may not possess the same level of understanding at a given point of time. We refrain from comparing the performance of children but don’t hold a child back if he or she is willing to go ahead. We also need to be mindful of the fact that some children need the gift of time and may require more help than others.
Our belief in connecting the classroom with real life situations and events, and developments around the world, is always in focus. Helping learners make this connect and understand different narratives and perspectives is important for us. We need to have a civic consciousness and an understanding that our lives are part of the community we live in; and this community must extend to embrace an awareness of humanity in general. History is not just the past-it is what is happening in the present and will have repercussions on the future. We are part of this history.
The Humanities programme at Head Start has been designed with the aim of encouraging independent learning, building academic rigour, and imbibing humanistic values. By paying close attention to those aspects of the social sciences which have humanistic content and employ humanistic methods, we hope to inculcate in our students an ability to apply the humanities in their everyday environment and consequently reflect on the nature of the diversity inherent in our society. Our pedagogy seeks to fulfill these aims by working with the skills that children already possess at their respective stage of development while simultaneously helping to build higher order learning skills.
In the lower classes, methods are largely activity-based and designed to invoke the sensorial experiences of the child. We believe that this will enable the understanding that learning the humanities means learning to understand unfamiliar beliefs, cultures, systems, and structures. We encourage independent research with the objective of helping children enhance their ability to gather, organize and synthesize large quantities of information and the ability to formulate appropriate questions and provide answers using valid and relevant evidence and argument.
In the higher classes, students are encouraged to read and analyze secondary texts and primary documents critically by addressing issues of content, context, purpose, and perspective. Our pedagogy is geared towards enabling students to construct reasonable historical arguments in written and oral formats. In written form, the student is expected to demonstrate the ability to present evidence and argument in clear and coherent prose. In oral form, the student is expected to demonstrate the ability to sustain a reasoned argument, to listen and engage in debate, and to amend views when persuaded by new evidence and/or arguments.
While attempting to address issues associated with the partition of the subcontinent in 1947, the Eighth Grade classroom was first subjected to a temporary partition. Making the narrative accessible to children who would otherwise never experience it, is always a challenging task and at Head Start we believe in addressing this critical dilemma through an activity based approach.
Approximately one half of the children in each section were asked to pack their belongings in a very short span of time and subsequently they were moved to another section for the remainder of the day. The educator noted feelings of confusion, anger and even resistance from the children. Through that, children experienced the dislocation associated with an event like partition. In order to fulfill the requirements of the learning objective, the children were then instructed to write down stories of experiencing the partition from different perspectives (age, gender, class, religious affiliation). These stories were gradually strung together resulting in a play that was later staged for parents.
In the Fourth Grade classroom, children were presented with a photo montage of Syrian refugees carrying the possessions that they valued (sourced from TIME magazine). The children were instructed to construct narratives based on what the object might mean to the refugee and a similar screenplay emerged after sustained effort.
In Grade Twelve, the same refugee crisis is understood by integrating it with the larger themes of colonialism and nationalism through the systematic evaluation of various textual sources.
Maths and Science
Keeping in mind our philosophy and belief that all knowledge is interconnected, the sciences and maths are not studied in isolation. Sciences embrace the arts and vice versa. Gaining an in depth understanding of how everything works with balance and harmony is important. It is the interconnectedness of all elements in the physical world, how everything works together, and how it all came into being that fascinates and encourages exploration and discovery. The scientist must value each part of the whole - each part of an engine, or each part of a plant or volcano. Observation is key and our aim is to create situations that foster both excitement and the desire to observe rhythm and order, beauty and wonder in the world around us.
Science is not a subject to study but a philosophy to acquire. It is the only philosophy of obtaining a non-contradictory identification of knowledge. The language of science is mathematics. As such it is of paramount importance for all students to understand the essentials of this philosophy and of course the basics, even if their future area of specialisation does not involve science. Given that the rational part of the human brain has evolved in the stream of cause and effect, and that science is based on cause and effect, the connection and importance is obvious. As such, a scientific outlook is essential for any human being who wants to have a good understanding of the universe to the extent that he or she is capable. Science is best understood and learned by experimentation and repeated practice of related problem solving. Audio visual aids that promote visualization of complex concepts and virtual and real labs for simulation and performing experiments respectively, are key to helping the student understand difficult and abstract principles.
“We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, nor all logic, but is somewhat beauty and poetry.” - Maria Montessori
Our Primary Programme (Grades 1, 2 and 3) is built on the philosophy and pedagogy of Maria Montessori, which takes into consideration the growing and developmental needs of children of this age group. The mixed age group in each environment (ages 6 to 9 approximately) provides opportunities for wider social interaction, the development of essential life skills such as cooperating with others, turn-taking, understanding the dynamics of a group, and accepting responsibility for one's decisions and actions. Groups of children work on different concepts, unlike in a traditional classroom where every child is doing the same thing.
Middle School (Grades 4 to 8)
After spending time in the Primary Montessori environment, children are ready to move to a single aged group from Grade 4 onwards. Our philosophy and practices remain in place, while learners gradually adapt to a more structured timetable. Our Middle School programme is more about a curriculum and not so much about a syllabus. This includes learners’ own unique experiences, and opportunities are given to discover their own potential.
At the end of Grade 8, our educators discuss the road ahead jointly with the children and their parents. We offer both the ICSE and the IGCSE for Grade 10, and the ISC, AS & A Levels for Grade 12. Students may choose one of these boards based on their future plans and requirements. Emphasis is on preparing for future education and the steps to be taken towards entering undergraduate and later, graduate programmes.