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ASB’s High Ability Program: Meeting the Needs of Exceptional Students
By Mira Kamat 25-Feb-17
“Through my independent project consisting of writing a story about the relationship between two sisters, I hope to inspire potential readers to develop trust in their own familial relationships, and show that perseverance always pays off,” said an eager eighth-grade student, when asked about her work as a beta-tester in the High Ability Program (HAP) at the American School of Bombay (ASB). ASB takes pride in a plethora of things, including the school’s promise to meet the individual learning needs of each student. At the start of this school year, ASB implemented their HAP, which according to a member of ASB’s leadership team was created “out of the goal in the school’s strategic plan ‘to support and challenge all students.’” At a superficial level it might appear as though HAP exists to allow higher-achieving students to succeed in academics alone. However, the program more generally challenges students to step out of their comfort zone, encourages them to pursue their passions, and equips them to advocate for themselves. It is a school-wide program involving children at all grade levels. Students explore “passion projects” on topics they are interested in pursuing. For instance, fifth-grade students are creating formalized learning plans. Specifically, one fifth-grade group has been working on a math project regarding the Fibonacci sequence, and their end result is creating their own “Khan-Like Academy.” Why does ASB start such a program for students who are still relatively young? A fifth-grade teacher explained: “We strive to meet all children’s needs as soon as those needs present themselves.” Though the program is currently running smoothly, one middle school teacher commented on a big concern for the students: time. “Between morning sports practices, after school play rehearsals, and lunchtime meetings, the ASB students wish they had more time,” she said. “Nevertheless, it has not stopped them from chasing after passions and working on their personal projects.” In the Middle School, students have been tackling projects that Einstein himself would be proud of. One student is working on developing a phone charger that is not electrically charged, while another one is creating an environmentally friendly juice-box. Without the structure and guidance of the HAP, these ideas may never have turned into realities. Another benefit of the program is giving students access to both internal and external resources in order to aid them with their projects. Though teacher-supervised, each of these projects has been student-driven, student-led, and collaborative. As a matter of fact, one ASB parent said, “The program has not only helped my child grow intellectually, but socially as well, since the program pushes him to collaborate with his peers.” The HAP is designed to support students in pursuing their dreams outside of “traditional” academia, as with the student who is playing on a professional soccer team, and another who is on track to become a world-class professional golfer. The golfer said, “ASB has supported my golf through letting me participate in tournaments I have had to play in. They have also been understanding towards the days I’ve been absent, as my teachers are willing to meet with me to help me catch up on my work.” Though these students have missed numerous days of school, they are given the flexibility to turn in assignments on a schedule that works for them. Also, their assignments and assessments are often customized to meet their needs and the demands of their individual programs, without compromising academic standards. To many, the beauty of the HAP is that, although it inherently enhances academic rigor for students, that’s not the main objective. It’s about much more. It’s about passion, and dreams, and enhancing lives. All core commitments of ASB’s Mission. HAP is still in its infancy stage, but so far the program has been promising and will continue to develop in order to meet the needs of our students. It not only challenges students, but it also pushes them to chase after their dreams—whether it’s tutoring underprivileged children, playing a national-level sport, practicing their public speaking, or even discovering their true selves—or in my case, writing this short article for an international publication. And that is what ASB stands for. Mira is currently a Grade 10 student at the American School of Bombay.
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