Neohumanist Education

Neohumanist Education in West Africa

Education Néohumaniste en Afrique de l'Ouest


Curriculum


Integrated Curriculum

Elementary age children are especially inspired by their feelings. Drawn to beauty, with a vivid life of the imagination and a readiness to learn, children of this age respond most powerfully to an integrated curriculum that engages their heart, body and soul and in this way enlivens their thinking and nourishes their imagination. In response to these developmental needs, the school curriculum weaves a strong element of imagination, spirituality and emotional engagement into every academic and specialty subject. By connecting the children’s personal experience with their education, a deeper understanding of the subject matter results and seeds are set for future creative and active thinking.

Student Centered Instruction

All instruction is by its nature student centered. For example, in the scientific and cultural context, learning is accomplished through hands on experiences, individual and team projects, and field trips where children are allowed to become very familiar with what they are learning. Students create tangible evidence of learning that is kept a portfolio, or they demonstrate their new knowledge and skills through dynamic presentations for others to observe. These can take the form of dramatic plays, artistic expressions, presentations, readings of creative writing, and written reports. The freedom and courage to be fully and freely creative and to allow one’s inner and unique voice to come forward is emphasized

Appreciation of Indigenous Culture

Neohumanism understands the importance of framing transcendent values to the indigenous culture and norms of the communities served. In order to fully appreciate and understand the cultural knowledge and offerings of the community, an organized effort of community meetings are required to elicit general cultural norms, family life, in particular how children are raised and learn within their homes, and how people interact within the wider community. These meetings can also be a venue to examine local values, local history, spiritual beliefs, social norms, and gender relations, norms for communication across generations and other beliefs and values. Findings from these meetings can be our lens for future interactions and communication to insure any initiative is culturally sensitive and respectful. Art is another way to appreciate and honor indigenous culture. Art projects are approached with the goal of developing a sense of aesthetics and appreciation of culture through drama, dance, music and visual arts. Whenever possible, art is used as a vehicle for instruction of curricular content.

Relevant and Tangible Service Learning

Service learning projects encourages students to become active and responsible members of the local community and the society at large. The projects apply the learning of fundamental science, biology, agriculture, chemistry, etc. as well as promote an awareness of local ecology and the broader ecological interrelatedness of all things. and encourage respect and care for all living beings.

Classroom Community

The classroom is a place where the belief in the divinity and divine wisdom within every person can be understood and put into regular practice. The basic morals and values that derive from this understanding are taught directly, explicitly and by example, as well as indirectly. Skills and practices of careful listening, understanding multiple perspectives, seeing the world beyond oneself, developing habits of justice, fairness, empathy, and respect for all people are explained and interwoven into classroom etiquette, processes and behavioral expectations. Similarly, values of compassion, teamwork, non-violence, gender equality, social action and civic responsibility are taught, modeled and practiced both specifically and whenever teachable arise throughout the school day.

Circle Time

Circle time during the day provides an opportunity for compassion and human values to be lived, taught and modeled. It is also a time to celebrate the joy of song and music affording rich learning experiences, while developing motor skills through large and small gestures, and rhythmic movement. Finally class circle and meetings practices encourage a universal outlook, free from discrimination based on gender, race, religion or creed.

Story time

Story time and puppetry feed the children’s developing capacity for imagination by encouraging them to develop mental and spiritual images to accompany a narrative. By practicing storytelling, the teacher creates a child centered environment and images of harmony that form the foundation for the child’s understanding of the magic of the world and their responsibility and place and gifts they offer.

Artistic and Handwork Activities

Young children make a connection to the world through art, and thereby offer a myriad of possibilities for the children to explore expression through color, form, texture and different artistic expressions. The craft projects are designed to be practical, beautiful and connected to the materials indigenous to the area and carried out with as much independent activity by the children as possible.

Meditation

Meditation is the practice of turning our attention inward and the key to unlocking that hidden potential within each human being. When we still the mind in meditation we are drawn, like bees to honey, to the presence of universal consciousness within. Touching this truth, on a regular basis, our limited understanding of who we are gradually shifts. We begin to see that the natural state of meditation is accessible even throughout our activities. We feel the divine presence infusing our everyday world in everything we do. Meditation practice is integrated into the daily schedule and taught by instructing children to withdraw the mind from external surroundings and turn the mind within.

Yoga

Yoga postures are practiced to still the mind and make the body more flexible and relaxed. In addition many physical benefits from yoga are received. Our bodies become stronger. As our body gets more supple, we can then sit comfortably and easily for periods of meditation and experience divinity, love, and peace within. Yoga education in school includes yoga postures, guided imagery, concentration, and meditation. Ethics are taught through song and verse. Stories are reenacted using dance, drama, poetry and art.

Mathematics

Students increase their mathematical powers, learn to better reason and communicate mathematically, explore the connections between mathematics and other subjects, appreciate the wonder of mathematical laws and patterns in our universe, and are able to use mathematics in their everyday lives. Specifically the study of mathematics will provide a curriculum in which students:

  • Use mathematical methods and understanding in problem solving situations and activities.
  • Learn and practice critical thinking skills which include data analysis and measurement.
  • Explore mathematical laws and patterns in our universe and appreciate the wonder.
  • Understand and utilize technology in mathematical understanding and application.

Character Education

Students inevitably experience challenges that provide opportunities for the teacher to enhance character building, emotional intelligence, and moral development of the students. Personal conflict among peers during the classroom school day is used as an opportunity to develop discrimination, positive temperament, self-discipline, self-confidence, courage, personal integrity, moral discrimination and sense of responsibility. To assist students in character development, a Neohumanist School has students

  • Read literature and biographies that reflect moral and Neohumanist values
  • Participate in class discussion groups with a focus on individual and group issues
  • Demonstrate self-regulation through work in the classroom and project work
  • Recite moral aphorisms to inculcate practical wisdom
  • Learn about and use co-operative learning and conflict resolution strategies
  • Learn to redirect limiting emotions through self introspection
  • Develop a greater emotional balance through dramatizing and resolving challenges that come up in the classroom.

Life Skills

In a Neohumanist school, there is intentionality to insure that the skills and knowledge the students learn are directly applicable to equipping students with practical life skills, communication and interpersonal skills they may be called on to use in their work in the community. These include

  • Learning practical skills such as gardening, agriculture, woodwork, sewing, cooking, handicrafts, use of a computer, etc.
  • Studying techniques to be an effective communicator and listener one on one and in groups
  • Practicing basic etiquette, social skills, and social norms
  • Learning conflict resolution techniques

Applied Learning

Students apply what has been learned to life situations. Knowledge of spirituality, Neohumanism, moral values, the arts and sciences are practiced for the greater welfare of oneself and the world.

  • Through children teaching other children
  • Through practical care of the school environment
  • Through service learning through projects in the local community
  • Through vocational opportunities for older students for integration into the community

Sá vidyá yá vimuktaye -- Education is that which liberates -- C'est par l’éducation qu’on devient libre