If you've been living in Dubai for over a decade like me, you'll have noticed the enormous growth in the education sector, especially when it comes to private K-12 or primary/secondary schools.
While this is great news for parents, it does create the 'paradox of choice,' and knowing how to choose one school over another can be very tricky! One thing parents can do is to look for schools that offer unique programmes, approaches or initiatives; or in other words, 'more value.'
Since children have such diverse needs and interests when it comes to education, any initiative that aims to boost student engagement, motivation or talent is a wonderful idea. Also, when schools demonstrate a committment to adding innovative programmes or more value, this can be a big win for both students and families.
We've done a bit of investigating and have noticed a number of schools (both new and long-standing), offering interesting initiatives and activities. Here's just a few we've included on our round-up:
1. Arcadia Preparatory School – Enrichment Learning Program (ELP)
Newly opened in the fall of 2016, the Arcadia Preparatory School in JVT, offers a unique ‘Enrichment Learning Programme (ELP),’ which is designed to provide all students with access to a range of engaging and supportive activities. These enrichment activities complement and enhance the school's English National curriculum.
Activities like: photography, robotics, music and sports are offered as well as homework help and additional English support.
ELP activities are provided as part of Arcadia’s regular school day for students in Years 1-6. Since students attend school from 8 am – 4 pm, this extended day allows them the opportunity to participate in activities and/or get extra help from their teachers. There are no additional fees associated with the ELP and both the school's teachers and external coaches provide the instruction.
Homework help and additional support will appeal to many parents and families who often struggle with homework in the evenings. This allows them more time to dedicate to family-time and relaxation.
For more information about Arcadia's Enrichment Learning Programme (ELP), visit their school website: http://bit.ly/1Rxd1N8
2. Greenfield Community School – The Mindfulness Room
Understanding the value of mindfulness and meditation, Taaleem’s Greenfield Community School in DIP has recently launched a ‘Mindfulness Room’ for their elementary students. Rola Ghadban is the IB school's ‘Mindfulness and Well-being Coordinator’ and is the driving force behind the initiative.
This specially-designed, tranquil space encourages children to re-center themselves through relaxing activities. For example, a gratitude-tree encourages them to write a note about something they are thankful for, guided meditations with iPads help them to clear their minds, writing positive affirmations allows them to focus on positive outcomes and reading quietly builds a sense of calm. GCS students are able to access this room throughout the school day.
While some might roll their eyes at this kind of initiative, there is growing international research on the benefits of mindfulness practises, not only for adults but for children too. In fact, the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), even has a ‘Mindful Awareness and Research Center’ dedicated to learning more about the benefits and impact of mindfulness and meditation.
Current research has already shown that mindfulness, meditation and yoga practises can increase students' attention, improve mental clarity and self-regulation (translation: happy and focused children). This can also lead to improved relationships, academic focus and health. In some cases, there have even been improvements in students with more severe learning and behavioural challenges.
With so much encouraging research about the benefits of mindfulness, it makes sense for schools to see this as a valuable extension to the learning and development of their students.
Find out more about Greenfield Community School's Mindfulness Room here: http://bit.ly/2jN0DeU
3. The American School of Dubai – Enrichment Programmes & AP Capstone Diploma
This 50-year-old American school located in Al Barsha, provides a number of enrichment programs designed to support the school’s mission to ‘challenge and inspire’ their students.
From Grade 6 and up, students study their core courses with additional elective classes in creative arts and technology. ‘Pursuits’ is a programme provided to all middle school students. It is designed to give them the opportunity to pursue personal interests with an additional 45 minute period in the middle of their school day. Some Pursuits activities include: Historical Film, Airplane Design Challenge, Gardening and Climbing etc. Students select a new activity every 6 weeks in order to explore a variety of activities throughout the school year.
‘Week without Walls’ is an annual service-learning programme that connects students’ learning to the real world, outside of the traditional classroom. For instance, ASD students have participated in community outreach programmes in South Africa as well as planting trees in Greece. Different grade levels travel to different countries to participate in a variety of social and academic initiatives.
The high school at ASD offers ‘AP’ or Advanced Placement courses designed by the College Board. These are more challenging, college-level courses available students in Grades 10, 11 and 12. ASD is the only school in the UAE to offer the unique ‘AP Capstone,’ which is a programme specifically designed to extend students and provide them with advanced skills valued by colleges. The Capstone encourages collaboration with others, independent research and advanced communication skills. This is an ideal option for students who demonstrate a very high level of academic achievement, interest and committment.
Learn more about the American School of Dubai by visiting their website: http://bit.ly/2k8jdz3
4. Nord Anglia International School Dubai – 'The Juilliard-Nord Anglia Performing Arts Programme'
This Al Barsha-based, British school recognises the value of the Arts and how it connects to culture and learning. As a result, NAS has established a collaboration with the famous Juilliard School from New York. The Juilliard School is ranked as one of the world's top performing arts schools.
This partnership is designed to enable “deep engagement with the performing arts promoting cultural literacy, creativity, critical thinking and collaboration.” The Juilliard School has worked with NAS to create a customised curriculum for their students. Currently, this applies to the school's music programme but will also extend to other areas of the performing arts in September 2017.
This collaboration also means that students have access to Juilliard’s extensive performing arts professionals and network, allowing them to benefit from specific workshops and events as well as a summer programme for Nord Anglia students.
To learn more about the Juilliard-Nord Anglia Performing Arts Curriculum and Partnership, visit the school website: http://bit.ly/2kKHmea
5. Dubai American Academy: Makerspace
What is a ‘Makerspace?’ If you like to tinker or watch TED videos, then you might already know a little about the Makerspace Movement.
According to the Makerspace website, Makerspaces “combine manufacturing equipment, community and education for the purposes of enabling members to design, prototype and create manufactured works.” Makerspaces are popping up all around the world and are encouraging others to interact and enjoy the creative act of tinkering or creating. In some cases, people using makerspaces have gone on to produce different projects that cause impact in communities or regions. More advanced makerspaces can provide 3D printers or other design technologies, but the beauty of makerspaces is that simpler tools and materials are also valued for designing or creating.
The GEMS Dubai American Academy in Al Barsha, has a Makerspace for their school community situated within their elementary school library. Their ‘Maker Table’ serves as an after-school gathering spot for students and parents. It allows them to try their hand at creating something using different materials and tools. This can be a welcome space for students who have unique interests or talents in creating, crafting or designing. This initiative also provides a nice opportunity to build parent engagement and community within the school.
The school's makerspace activities are on a drop-by basis and supplies are provided by the school. Previous themes have included: calligraphy (and other lettering styles), origami, knot-tying, weaving (both individual and on a communal loom), sewing, card-making and other holiday-themed crafts. DAA has now formed a committee to expand their 'Maker Philosophy' further within the technology lab. Planned activities include: circuitry, robotics, engineering and even coding. The school’s art department is also planning to get on-board with an after-school art studio space.
One thing we know for sure is that the Maker Movement is growing around the world and this is enabling people to value ‘working with their hands’ once again, by using a range of different tools and technologies available to them.
Find out more about Dubai American Academy by visiting their school website: http://bit.ly/2kJQGD8