Humanities in the Enki Approach
This “human-centered” approach pervades even the more technical and abstract topics of grammar and comprehension, math and science. For example, the first grader might meet such concepts as odd and even through the story of two princes who are forming an army to save their kingdom. Evan, the “even” prince, makes sure that all soldiers have partners to guard one another; Todd, the other, sees to it that there is always a leader forging into new territory. In this way, the children are not confused by abstract concepts but come to “know” each character as someone they can identify with. In the process, the underlying principles of odd and even are revealed – and remembered. For seventh graders, the story of Nicolas Copernicus brings life to their study of astronomy and allows them to touch the human brilliance and courage crucial to scientific inquiry. One class, realizing that Copernicus was seeing something different from all around him, began to call out theories of their own. Suddenly, 12 year old Michael said, “If they all believed the sun went around the earth back then, I wonder what we think now that isn’t true?” And all sat for a moment in stunned silence, touching the world of Copernicus, and the world of possibility and discovery.
Approaching all studies in this way the children not only gain a deep understanding and appreciation for their work, they are also continually experiencing the art of the language. The modern trend is to teach language arts as an abstract technical skill, beginning with phonics, grammar, and analytic comprehension. In the Enki approach, however, we believe it is the art of the language which expresses the human experience and is therefore the ground for all else.
From the earliest days of nursery school and kindergarten, children are exposed to high quality stories, poems, songs, and spoken language. Teaching in this way brings potentially dry material to life, inspiring both enthusiasm and comprehension, and a love of reading. A deep feeling for the language is nurtured, and with it comes confidence in expression. So, when out on a walk with the kindergartners after hearing Autumn poetry, we are not surprised to find 5 year old Emma saying to herself, “Walking through the woods, the only sound I hear is the crackling of dry leaves underfoot and the pitter patter of falling rain.”
The heart of language is connecting and communicating with one another. Therefore, language arts and social studies are inseparable; how we say something is how we bring it to life. Throughout the grades reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills are an integral part of the social studies curriculum. Other people, times, and cultures are brought to life through storytelling, research, writing projects, poetry, drama, and other art forms. This integrated approach cultivates an intimate and thorough experience of a larger world, and lays the foundation for a lifelong respect for other people and ways of life. Dana, a sixth grader studying slavery, wrote, “Captured by our brothers, sold to ghost-faced men, bound and chained, we were taken from “Sunu rao,” our homeland. Tears from above hit cold floors. Words, stories, all flow in song. Talk of days past, gone forever.”
Weaving their independent reading and their personal experience together with what they have learned, students keep journals of their own stories. The integration of the humanities with all other academic and artistic studies builds a broad, deep, and lively base from which the students can draw in their High School years and beyond. As one parent put it, “…this approach integrates academics in a way we have never known. Music becomes mathematics. Mathematics becomes art. Spelling becomes literature. Sciences become creative writing. All disciplines become one..”