Innovative Whole Child Opportunities in Indianapolis
Aug 04, 2014 09:41PM
● By Lanette Er
Last March, the ASCD, formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, introduced the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model as the recommended strategy for improving students’ health and learning in schools. In collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and key leaders from education, public health and school health fields, this model unifies the traditional school health and whole child approaches to learning. Although the recommendation was recently announced, many schools throughout the country have already begun implementation.
Probably one of the most wellknown alternatives to a traditional classroom is the Montessori Method. A Montessori curriculum is based upon the work of Dr. Maria Montessori (1870- 1952), an Italian physician and educator who believed children possess an intrinsic desire to learn through exploration and discovery. Children in Montessori classrooms learn through the use of manipulative materials, cooperative projects and an interdisciplinary approach to studying the world around them.
Multi-age grouping, a hallmark of the Montessori Method, provides opportunities for cooperation between older and younger students, eliminating the curricular boundaries of traditional classrooms which can be limiting for many young children. This arrangement also mirrors the real world in which individuals work and socialize with people of all ages and dispositions.
Mary Lyman, administrator for the Montessori School of Westfield, works to ensure that the school mirrors the methods and philosophy of Dr. Maria Montessori. Lyman shares the following quote about Montessori’s powerful observations on the nature of children: “The real preparation for education is the study of one’s self. The training of the teacher is something far more than the learning of ideas. It includes the training of character; it is a preparation of the spirit.” Lyman adds, “We live by this method and the quote says it all when it comes to our school!” There are more than 4,000 schools throughout the U.S. that practice the Montessori Method, with a number of them located in the Greater Indianapolis Area.
For children with behavior, social or academic issues, The Brain Balance Center of Indianapolis also focuses on a hemispheric approach to overcoming the symptoms of ADHD, processing disorders, Asperger syndrome and a host of other related childhood learning and developmental issues.
Based on results of comprehensive assessments, programs at Brain Balance are tailored to each child’s unique needs in three core areas—sensory motor training and stimulation, cognitive and academic activity, and nutrition. Each child’s program is then implemented with the help of sensory motor coaches, neuro-academic coaches and a nutrition coach.
Instead of treating the symptoms, this carefully constructed and implemented program establishes proper brain and body function leading to a reduction or elimination of negative symptoms and behaviors, thus improving the ability to learn academically, socially and emotionally. Center Director Rhonda Zollner has personally experienced the success of Brain Balance with her own son. “The strides he has achieved through this program has opened not only my eyes, but his,” she shares. “The passion behind the people of Brain Balance is to educate parents and teachers on other options besides medication and tutoring.”
Evident in most forms of alternative curriculums is the consistent focus on proper nutrition. According to the CDC, eating a healthy breakfast is associated with improved cognitive function and memory, reduced absenteeism and improved mood. Although the link between proper nutrition and physical activity has been scientifically proven in multiple studies, many Hoosier families are unable to afford the often-times high, unsubsidized cost of fresh produce. Some organizations are helping to remedy this situation. Indy Urban Acres Organic Farm on the Eastside grows chemical-free produce for delivery to food pantries. They also host child and adult volunteer groups to educate people of all incomes on the importance of nutrition and personal farming.
The Patachou Foundation’s food truck provides healthy meals to children suffering from food insecurity while also increasing awareness and connection to the whole foods they eat. The Foundation is partially supported with profits produced by Public Greens, a Patachou restaurant and microfarm on the Monon Trail in Broad Ripple. Kids Against Hunger of Central Indiana packages highly nutritious, lifesaving meals for malnourished and starving children and their families in Indiana and developing countries. The meals provide a stable nutritional base from which the recipient families can move from malnourishment or even potential starvation to selfsufficiency.
Kids Against Hunger hosts numerous meal packing events across the greater Indianapolis and Central Indiana region each month to teach the importance of empathy, giving back to the community and proper nutrition.