The Mindsprings Enrichment Programme is a unique high-quality thinking programme for exceptionally bright children. Children, who do enrichment for a significant length of time, grow up to be independent and confident thinkers.
As they grow older, children often develop a range of imbalanced attitudes in their interactions because of their intellectual precocity. These needs have to be addressed when they are young and impressionable.
The Mindsprings Enrichment Programme is committed to bringing to children between the ages of 6 and 14, the benefits of thinking activities and stimulation. Children will work on a variety of topics. They will have the benefit of modelled pieces of writing and design on display that will enable cross-group fertilization of minds.
It allows children to spend two hours, once a week, after school, working at their own pace involved in a range of stimulating learning experiences. This is meant to challenge their intellect and imagination, deepen understanding and foster development of independent learning and communication skills.
The sessions have three segments: Discussion, Advanced Learning and Doing.
How the Programme Works
The child’s interests, opinions, ideas, joys and concerns, are at the centre of the programme. We use a topic and skills-based approach to integrate a number of subjects like Arts / Science/ Math / Tech / History / Geography / Language etc. in a cross-disciplinary grid. We actively explore contemporary and global issues as part of interest and awareness packages e.g. biogenetics, blue tooth technology, and poverty to mention a few.
A fare of superb international and local learning materials in the form of thought-provoking stories, news clippings, poems, advertisements, pictures, puzzles, maps, recipes and even human resources are liberally used. Psychology, philosophy, anthropology, economics, management, political and space sciences, culture and leisure studies are some of the unusual disciplines that children are exposed to.
Opportunities for advanced learning skills include studies of concepts that changed our world. This could be historic ones like the journeys of explorers, inventions, the destruction by the bomb, or esoteric ones like the Bermuda Triangle or the discovery of the Rosetta Stone. A taste of the great masterpieces of art like Brueghel and Escher or selected excerpts from literary giants like Shakespeare, Hugo, Milton, Orwell, Asimov are woven into the fabric of the lessons. Math patterns as in triangular numbers; the Fibonacci sequence, exponential numbers etc. enthral children.
Children in the junior grades do a lot of culture study and philosophy in education work with stories and discussions that call for independent thinking and judgement. There is a spread of science and social sciences that are woven into the sessions. All materials and methods rely on the children’s innate sense of wonder and curiosity when they encounter the unexpected and the fascinating. We do not merely teach, we celebrate their joy of discovery.
Practice in communication, listening skills, creative art and crafts, design, technology and drama are some of the means children use to present their work and ideas. The irresistible part of the programme for all children is design and construction using dry junk. They get to actualize a concept locked in their minds and fashion it into three-dimensional objects. These efforts also serve as excellent anchors to great lessons in sciences and mathematics.
At Mindsprings, we do not shy away from imperfections. We encourage originality, divergent thinking, imagination and fantasy. Even the weird and wacky are seen as essential mind space for ideation and creative flow.
We want children to question and challenge their inputs. What if? How to? Why so? Why not? Who decides? Is anger always bad? Are friends always likeable? Is truth always desirable? Often discussions call for independent moral and ethical decisions and judgement. The child examines and analyses an issue from several perspectives. He /She learns to be comfortable with grey areas and with errors or with suspension and sometimes postponement of judgement.
We want children to imbibe a social conscience and a social intelligence in dealing with different situations and people. We want them to respect work ethic and to be ambitious for self and for the community.
The Programme Is NOT:
- Elitist – Creating an intellectual caste system
- Competitive – Creating a better than everyone else aspiration
- Perfectionist – Creating flawless products
- Quiz Oriented – Creating fragmented data spewing minds
The Mindsprings Enrichment Programme Guarantee
A child participating in MEP for a significant period will be a better thinker. He/She will show signs of a sharper mind that is tuned to greater observation and capable of multi-layered perspectives. The child will develop the ability to understand and analyse situations better, make quick links and connections between wide areas of learning.
MEP develops in the child the ability to have original ideas and own a wide mosaic of interlinked knowledge in terms of time, space and disciplines. Equally important, he/she will be more socially aware, empathetic and ethically strong.
Enrichment offers your child the information you would have liked to read up and share with your child if you had the time to do so. Our teachers do a lot of homework in bringing pertinent tracts of information that are essential in today’s world. Furthermore, the child has a peer group to bounce his ideas off and to spark off more ideas. Facilitators of sharp intelligence and passion to extend his/her mind. All of this impacts positively on the child’s confidence and performance in all areas.
Q: What is the Mindsprings Enrichment Programme?
A: Mindsprings Enrichment Programme is a thinking skills programme based on the gifted education model, where children need to be challenged to think, reflect, make links and connections and create original pieces of work. The thinking skills programme is an undiluted, enjoyable and stimulating set of child-centred and teacher facilitated ideas and tasks that do the work of a brain gym.
Q: Who is it meant for?
A: The programme is invaluable for a certain group of children. This set of children genuinely needs the extension and the out of the box thinking activities in the programme. It primarily exists to cater to their needs. We do not wish to label or pre-empt their identification. The fact that the programme fulfils the need is good enough for us to do it.
However, all bright children whether they come into the gifted category or not can benefit from thinking. The programme is not diluted in any way to suit the needs of ability variations; rather it is pitched high and open-ended, allowing all children to attempt and gain from the exercises.
IMPORTANT: Children take away benefits from the programme, according to their needs and perform according to their abilities. The presence of variation in ability does not take away from any child the right or time to give his best. Exclusivity does not give the programme any special advantage as it is not watered down or ability adjusted. Class sizes continue to be constant at 15 or less, so teacher to student ratio is not sacrificed.
Q: How does the programme work?
A: The programme allows children to discuss, think, reflect, argue rationally, justify stands, make links, connections and take risks. Children learn a variety of skills, make presentations of original work of varied products, and judge and evaluate critically. We aim at a range and mix of discipline areas, skills and activities at all levels.
The exposure is immense. Literature, science, art, maths, natural history etc. are woven and integrated into lessons or topics. Children look forward to doing fresh topics in each session. Teachers painstakingly forage information relating to non-traditional subjects like anthropology, psychology, philosophy, political analysis, economics, future sciences or logic to bring to the children new dimensions and perspectives.
Since originality is paramount, whether it is ideas or products, children get to look at a huge sample in each session by viewing what their peers have done.
Q: How are your methods different?
A: We do not teach. We facilitate using the dynamics of the group as our flexibility factor. The child is invited to discover all there is to learn by open-ended questions or activities that foster thinking, analysis and problem-solving.
Samples across Grades 2 To 9
- Grade 3: “Why do cars have rubber tyres?” could well get children finding the properties of rubber by simply answering the question.
- Grade 4: The whole class may take part in a Pirate treasure hunt with a map on the board showing the geographic coordinates. This could serve as a lesson in latitudes and longitudes, vocabulary building and cultural history. The groups might then express their grasp of the lesson through drama.
- Grade 5: We have done mathematical exponential numbers while doing the topic “Dreams” and then gone into Freud and the dream theories. “The Dream Journey” a serious creative writing task enabled some fun psychoanalysis.
- Grade 6: Children produce Rorschach ink blot pictures that facilitated amazing horror film posters or illustrated poetry.
- Grade 7: Children have simulated wildlife committees and vested interests to debate and study social interdependence and ecological balance in communities.
- Grade 8: Children reflect on ‘Job Titles of the Future’ requiring services for Nanobots, stem cells, and blue tooth to speculate on changing job opportunities in the future world.
- Grade 9: Students attempt to define God by Socratic questioning
Q: Are teachers of Mindsprings trained to teach?
A: To be a teacher at Mindsprings a person needs to be a gifted thinker, a seeker, a stimulated enquirer, intelligent, flexible, reflective and self-assessing. Wide reading, a love of children, compassion, passion for learning, and excitement at discovering new ideas are some of the traits we seek in our teachers. A mainstream teacher or a degree in teaching may or may not guarantee all these traits. The success of a class depends on the amount of engagement the children exhibit with the materials, and with their continued enjoyment of the teacher’s guidance. A Mindsprings teacher is totally accountable and can be observed in action by parents, as inviting feedback as continuous improvement is a credo we believe in. We expect our teachers to aspire to be ego-free in their transactions with children and model life-long learner status to their wards.
Q: What benefits do the children get?
- An Informed Mind: Exposure to essential information which forms the pegs for an educated mind to think.
- An Active Mind: Skills of scanning perspectives, linking and making associations, independent thinking and evaluation strategies in all that is observed.
- A Balanced Mind: Psychological attitudes of confidence, responsibility and social awareness.
- A Free Mind. Freedom to think and express an opinion without fear of mistakes and the right attitude to learn from them.
Q: How will I know that this is happening with my child?
A: To use an analogy, just as one does not see immediate results when one goes to a health club, the mind too needs exposure and practice and often “detoxification” from earlier blocks, before it begins to readily assimilate the benefits. The difference is that one can see neither the malnutrition nor the health of the mind in perceptible concrete terms.
Secondly, children learn in spurts. Learning is not a stepladder process; rather it is unequal and erratic. Real learning happens when there is interest and excitement and focus. We provide these.
Thirdly, children are unique. Each different in ability, interest and learning style. Each manifests and applies learning differently.
Fourthly, children express real learning very irregularly. They are not machines to have inputs and outputs in a constant ratio. Therefore, their learning may be expressed the next day in the form of direct, mild or severe interest in one topic and not in the other. Or it may happen after a few years when current brain networking applies the learning to a totally different area. The more synapses at work, the more the networking, the better and the connections to solve problems and understand complexities.
Finally, not all changes are perceptible and cognitive in nature. What you will see in some children is an attitudinal change in enjoyment, enthusiasm and responsiveness; or connecting things, seeing both sides of the coin or simply listening better.
These skills and benefits come from training the mind to think and interact by providing these opportunities constantly like in a gym. Use it or lose it applies to intelligence.
Q: Should we test children to find out if they have learnt it all?
A: Testing often kills the magic and enthusiasm of learning for fun, for pleasure, for curiosity without pressures and agendas. We believe in enrichment in the true sense. Our aim is to afford the child a plethora of different experiences and to give him/her the freedom to take what he/she pleases from the spread, at his / her pace, potential, time and interest/ability level. You can, of course, reinforce the ideas with the home sheets that are sent out to you which act as a springboard to launch on your own discussions. True results are seen in confidence, articulation, reflections and links the child makes. Patience, in allowing the child to find these levels, is recommended.
Q: What more can I do for my child?
A: This is a common question with a simple answer. However, implementing it needs time patience and effort. To be part of your child’s world is not easy for adults who live in the speed and multitasking dimensions of our times. The home sheet is meant to provide an anchor for you to talk and do things with your child. You need to ask yourself — am I doing it? Then the value for money and the benefits of this programme would be immeasurable.
If your child is not responsive to your questions on the home sheet it does not mean he has had a bad time in enrichment or that he has not taken away anything. We measure our success by the energy and enthusiasm our classes exude and generate. We know that children are not bored or uninterested. We also get them to give us direct feedback after a few months on what they liked and didn’t like about us. We invite you to come and sit in on the sessions (after appointment) and see this energy for yourself.
The child should also be encouraged to keep a file of the work he does and to take the sessions seriously. The expectations a parent sets for any endeavour the child undertakes is instrumental in the amount of effort he/she will put into it. If this is treated as just another after-school hobby class the benefits too will be marginalized to that extent.
Q: Why can’t this be done in school?
A: It should, to whatever extent possible. However, schools have responsibilities that are basic and fundamental like the three R’s that cannot be sacrificed. Schools have varying abilities that need to be catered to at all levels. Schools are bound by rules and requirements of the larger education system which cannot be compromised.
Q: Why can’t I do this at home?
A: Why don’t you? If you have the time and patience and the energy you can. Even if you have all of these, will your child sit with you and do all that we do? Even if he does, will he have a peer group to expose him to a large number of original ideas?
Q: What are the long-term academic benefits of being a good thinker?
A: Unfortunately, the Indian mainstream is still stuck in a rote and regurgitation system. In the future mere High School, percentages will not be enough. All advanced learning institutions, examinations and interviews like the Ivy Leagues, CAT / GMAT, IIMs / IITs etc. will need to eliminate large numbers of students simply on their inability to think critically, originally and creatively. Thinking skills need to be honed at a young age for children to be habituated into it, as a natural process. It is difficult to train the mind by short-term expensive pre-test crash course tuitions.
Q: How should I evaluate this programme?
A: Like any other educational product, this one should be evaluated on the parameters of:
- Availability— Can my child get this elsewhere or in another form?
- Age Factor — The age of the child and the windows of opportunity, which young ages present as opposed to older minds, is important. The now or never applies to the optimal processing and imaginative capacities of the mind.
- Affordability and Worth – Do the fees commensurate the benefits?
- The interest level for child — Is my child enjoying the sessions?
- Benefit level for child — What are the benefits that the child receives that cannot be found elsewhere.
- Timeframe — How long should the child continue?
The answer is: As long as he/she is engaged actively and you can afford it. A brain gym is like a physical gym. If one stops going to the gym one finds alternate sources of exercise. It is the same with the mind. The mind needs challenges to be healthy. We believe minds that are acclimatized to thinking will eventually find their own fodder. Autonomous learning is an important goal.
Past and Present Enrichment Programmes:
- Cathedral And John Connon School (2002 – Present)
- JBCN Lower Parel (2011 – 2012)
- Hiranandani Foundation School, Powai (2013 – 2014)
- Rustomjee Cambridge School (2013 – 2014)
- Campion School (2014 – 2015)