My First Steps My Path – ‘Eduprenuers’ Education & Schools Program
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
The My Arms Wide Open team is curently working with partners in multiple countries, and in particular South Africa, to develop the curriculums and rause funds to begin our schools program for the new South African school year in 2013.
At My Arms Wide Open® we believe that Education, which takes place in different forms and forums, is the key in developing, growing and sustaining individuals, families and communities. Growth and development stem from many forms of education focused on the same outcomes. It is not necessarily formal education alone that creates the energy of change; we believe that foundational education systems are critical in creating awareness across the community at multiple levels. This awareness and foundational education is what supports sustainable activity and environments into the future.
The My Arms Wide Open® Foundation provides support for mothers, children, and youth in South Africa to build sustainable communities and responsible businesses. My Arms Wide Open works directly with community members, who identify priorities for community development. We help them improve their skills and knowledge in areas such as entrepreneurship, leadership, mentoring, education and personal development.
By integrating and creating synergy between the five My Arms Wide Open causes, we create a program that supports the overall vision and mission of My Arms Wide Open. Our program includes the development of a business model for Private Low-Cost Schools that will exceed National school requirements. In this way, we lay the foundation and create opportunities for entrepreneurs to create successful and sustainable social enterprises that support community development and infrastructure.
Our Commitment & Guiding Principles
As we work with a community, we promise them that, “We will do nothing FOR your community. However, we will do everything we can to work WITH you as a community to create the changes you want”.
My Arms Wide Open’s commitment is to support and empower South African rural communities, working with mothers and children and other members of the community. Our focus is on the priorities identified from within the community. The actions we take and the programs we initiate help communities develop and grow stronger and sustainably by improving the skills and knowledge of individuals.
My Arms Wide Open focuses on five key causes and each has a place in the 'Eduprenuers' Program:
- My Business, My Community – (e.g. Private Low Cost Schools) more >
- My World, My Garden – (e.g. Food Security Program at each school) more >
- My Family, My Community (e.g. Schools support Infrastructure) more >
- My First Steps, My Path (e.g. Curriculum Development) more >
- My Mentor, My Coach (e.g. Owner, Teacher, Volunteer Support) more >
In each cause and its related programs, we work directly with the community to help develop leaders who become the change agents in the community. They act as mentors for the children, young people and mothers who want to improve their circumstance and future. This is done in a number of ways including:
- Supporting the development and operation of sustainable, community-focused enterprises, including schools;
- Developing training curricula based on needs and priorities identified by community members;
- Funding new businesses through an innovative small business-lending program that offers alternatives for repaying loans through cash or in kind (loan forgiveness), by supporting other new businesses and by coaching new business owners.
The causes each contribute to our Education & Schools Program as reflected in the diagram below:
Economic sustainability is built as community and business leaders emerge and in turn, mentor and coach others in the establishment and management of new businesses and enterprises. The eight guiding principles at My Arms Wide Open all involve engaging the individual and community.
The commitments we make in our Guiding Principles are met through skills transfer and education. Education is the overarching factor that creates change, understanding, acceptance and growth and bridges each of our five Causes.
In creating new initiatives and curricula, My Arms Wide Open is cognizant of the fact that education programs need to be relevant to the community. They must also meet the expectations of the broader population outside of the community in order for the community to survive and thrive in a sustainable environment. It is with this in mind that we engage, consult and design in collaboration with the community and broader government and national initiatives.
The opportunity we see is to create an education program delivered through low cost private schools that not only allows the individual to achieve national and public requirements but also prepares them to see the opportunities around them and to create sustainable small and medium businesses. “Eduprenuers” – Educators with a passion who also have an entrepreneurial spirit, will run these schools.
The success of the program will be measured by how well graduating students see opportunities, and identify and access resources, including further education, to provide for themselves and their families. My Arms Wide Open is providing our prospective students greater opportunities to excel in all areas of the curriculum and to gain the highest level of University entrance in the nation. Our programs will also help these students gain the knowledge and skills necessary to start their own business if they choose.
My First Steps My Path - Program Design Considerations
There are a number of factors we are considering and researching to support a program that prepares and equips participants for the future. It is not only important to engage the children and their teachers but also their caregivers, parents, family and the youth within the communities.
We believe that to affect change that empowers the community as a whole, including future generations, a number of items must be present in the design of our programs. The program should incorporate cultural and indigenous factors as well as an environment that supports individual and group skills development & growth while engaging multiple levels in the community.
A part of the community engagement will be achieved through the school food security program. Each schools food security program will use the My World In A Garden Vertical Food Wall system. The food wall will form part of the curriculum for the children as well as become a sustainable part of the school and community food program. The garden will provide fresh vegetables and fruits that the children will grow, working alongside youth and adults in the community.
The basic curriculum is built directly from the government CAPS program enhanced with cultural and indigenous practices and the methodologies and philosophy of My Arms Wide Open as an umbrella. In addition youth will be supported and challenged to learn through academic learning, learning through physical activity and learning through arts and music. This is described in more detail below.
By drawing on the best aspects from programs like Montessori, Waldorf, Steiner and others, we believe we can create an environment that supports the individual and the group to challenge them to do more.
The initial program will be designed to engage children at a crèche, pre-school and kindergarten (Grade R) level. By extending the program to after school programs and Low Cost Private Entrepreneur owned schools, we will be able to reinforce the foundational learning and concepts and support children as they progress all the way through Grade 12.
In addition to the standard requirements under the South African CAPS program, the My Arms Wide Open Curricula will have the following enhancements:
Cultural & Indigenous Traditions, Learning Practices and Techniques
At present, other curricula include language-based teaching but do not necessarily consider cultural traditions, practices and techniques. By incorporating indigenous traditions, learning practices and techniques, we believe we can engage the extended family and caregivers. By using indigenous learning practices we create an environment that families and caregivers can immediately relate to and align with.
By incorporating networking skills at an early stage in the development of children we build in the ability to connect with people and find opportunities for the child to make connections and see a broader value in the people around them.
By creating opportunities within the programs to collaborate, children learn to leverage resources in their communities and environment. Children will learn that teams that work collaboratively can obtain greater resources, recognition and reward when facing competition for limited resources.
Children will be taught creative skills to develop new or different solutions to challenges and problems that add value to the process, outcome or objective.
The programs will present children with problems and challenges to allow them to develop solutions and outcomes on their own introducing conceptual thinking techniques. Ingenuity involves the most complex human thought processes, bringing together our thinking and acting both individually and collectively to take advantage of opportunities or to overcome problems.
Children will be taught to recognize and understand situations or problems by helping them identify patterns and/or connections while addressing the key issues. Conceptual thinking teaches children to be open and to be able to see things differently and explore more. This increases self-esteem and confidence.
Mentoring and Coaching
By creating an environment where children and youth learn to understand and embrace the benefits of collaboration, networking and supportive environments they also learn to coach and mentor within a group.
Setting up the mentoring and coaching program is a process. The coaches come from within the group and participants as they progress and grow. The mentoring aspect of the program keeps the children and youth engaged long after they graduate the initial programs and classes. The benefits of the coaches growing out of the programs and classes is that they already have an understanding, know the ‘language’ and the application of the program through their own experiences and set the example. They will become an integral part of the program as support to the community as a whole. They are the change agents and extend the message and culture of the program into the community and their adult lives. The benefits to the participants include supporting their self-esteem, confidence, self-worth, goals setting & achievements, and life choices & direction.
Learning and Sharing Through Doing
The programs will be designed so students learn through ‘doing’ and applying lessons learned to normal everyday circumstance and routines. This application through action enables children and participants to experience direct benefits of the application of their leaning immediately and the lessons become engrained more deeply as they develop and share these in their families and communities.
Food Security and Sustainability
Food security is a challenge the world over in both developing and developed countries. The challenge is not that we cannot provide food. “We” can provide instant gratification, but this is a short term and band-aid solution. The challenge is being able to provide sustainable food sources. The solution is to transfer skills and to develop sustainable locally based food sources. This is the intent and underlying objective of the My Arms Wide Open, My World My Garden Cause through the establishment and management of My World In A Garden® vertical food walls.
Engaging Community (Sharing from the heart)
Through the programs delivered in the My First Steps My Path curriculum, students will be connected to the community at multiple levels including youth, young adults, adults, and seniors as a result of individual and group projects and initiatives. These will include the vertical walls, mentoring and coaching programs, collaboration & networking, and physical activities.
Arts and Music
The Arts program is an integral part of the program as it allows children to express themselves through image and color, which in many instances is far more powerful than the limited number of words a children may understand or can articulate. More so they may have fear around verbal expression because of circumstance and experiences. The Arts program will provide the opportunity for a reparative experience in a safe and creative space in which the youth can take advantage of the opportunity to make art, express self, and deal with unresolved conflicts and feelings, learn life skills and as they grow to participate in opportunities to create sustainable enterprise.
One of the key challenges in most education systems today is the lack of physical activity. Most relate physical activity to mainly sports related activity. However, our intent is to incorporate different levels of physical activity through a variety of activities. These include music, dance, sports, games, gardening, community work and walking.
Imperative to the successful outcome of what we are proposing in our curriculum, working in conjunction with CAPS requirements, is to ensure that our children in rural South Africa not just achieve the minimum requirements but exceed them.
We believe that by working with children from an early age through their entire school life, using curriculums that embrace and include cultural and indigenous traditions, practices and knowledge systems, we will rebuild the true nature of what it means to be African. To create a safe environment to be a child and a person that lives in and loves their community because they know they are important and valuable and they are receiving an education that embodies all of who they are.
My Arms Wide Open’s goal is to provide an education program that enables the children to grow, contribute to and create opportunities for their communities as a whole. There has been so much lost in the interest of progress and past transgressions where the African people of South Africa have been marginalized. My Arms Wide Open wants to restore that belief in children; to give them the power to be able to choose because they have opportunity; to teach them who they are; to restore the knowledge that their indigenous culture and practices have a real place in building strong, vibrant communities and a country.
Our goal is to create a schools program in rural South Africa that enables our children to achieve at the highest levels, not the minimum levels, to enter university if they choose to and to excel in the fields they choose, knowing that their true culture and indigenous practices are a part of who they are and that they have an important place in their lives, and the lives of their future children.
Benefits to the Community
The benefits to the community include:
- Sustainable education program that supports the indigenous and cultural needs of the community
- Education programs and business opportunity programs designed to educate and encourage individuals to remain in the community
- Food security program that engages the community members across age groups
- Sustainable businesses
- Transfer of skills to support each aspect of the program
- Infrastructure development
- Higher education standard and achievements
- Leaderships and mentoring program
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