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The Imagine Academy, South Africa
The Imagine Academy challenges students to think in ways - analytically, imaginatively, and abstractly – in which they don’t usually have the chance. We provide a very different learning environment than the rote memorization dominant in the local schools. Classes involve a variety of exercises that promote original thought, such as logic games, in-depth discussions, problem solving exercises, and writing prompts. Sometimes we introduce a famous thinker and debate his or her ideas. The students read a fun, interesting book each month (i.e. The Giver, Siddhartha, Fahrenheit 451) and analyze it in class together. Weekend classes often incorporate a thought-provoking movie, guest speaker, chess tournament, or formalized debate. We always encourage students to form opinions, listen to others, and examine all sides of a question.
Why the Imagine Academy?
South Africa’s Nkomazi region is in tough shape. HIV prevalence is over 40%, unemployment nears 80%, and the university graduation rate hovers close to 0%. This area desperately needs local, dynamic leaders eager to change the status quo. By expanding the creative, imaginative, critical-thinking, abstract-reasoning, and willingness-to-dream-big faculties of motivated youth, the Imagine Academy aims to cultivate these leaders in the next generation.
Core Areas of Focus
- Imagination/Creativity – Imagination and creativity are the core of the Imagine Academy’s philosophy of personal growth. The challenges of the future require innovative, fresh solutions.
- Critical Thinking – Public schools in the Nkomazi emphasize memorizing facts so much that they often overlook the critical thinking skills crucial in today’s world.
- Academic Achievement – Though focusing on skills not covered in the standard school curriculum, the Imagine Academy works with local schools to ensure that learners are converting their abilities into academic success. The goal is that every Imagine Scholar not only attends university, but also flourishes there.
- Expanded World View – There’s a big exciting world out there that rural students too often miss out on. Broadening children’s world view beyond their village, province, and country opens up possibilities they never knew existed.
- Entrepreneurial Skills – Entrepreneurship is one of Africa’s biggest needs. These abilities allow future leaders to create value and drive innovation.
- Leadership – Lasting change requires inspiring others around a common goal. The Imagine Academy develops this vital trait by building confidence and fostering original thought.
- Social Responsibility – Without a deep sense of social responsibility, all these amazing abilities will only have a limited effect at changing the Nkomazi for the better.
Here are just a few of the things we do at the Imagine Academy:
Monthly Book Club – “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body” ~ Joseph Addison. We couldn’t agree more. Inspiring a passion for reading is central to the Imagine Academy’s mission. Imagine Scholars in 9th grade read The Giver, Mao’s Last Dancer, The Alchemist, and many more.
Celebrity Biography –Imagine Scholars love discussing the scandalous details of the hottest international celebrities, such as Einstein, Socrates, Shakespeare, Galileo, and Beethoven.
Movie Discussions – A good movie can bring us to tears or change the way we look at the world. We try to find movies that fall into the latter category. Imagine Scholars have debated philosophy from The Matrix, environmentalism and colonialism through Avatar, and the allegory of home in The Wizard of Oz, among others.
Music Free Draws – When a song plays, what does it look like to you? Get out your pen and paper, take a couple deep breathes, open your mind and let’s see! Hand drawn musical representations have been inspired by the likes of Mozart, The Doors, Ratatat, and John Coltrane.
Critical Thinking/Logic Games – Nothing gets your mind working outside the box like a good old-fashioned brain-teaser. Here are a few you can try on your own.
Goat, Wolf and Cabbage
A farmer returns from the market, where he bought a goat, a cabbage and a wolf. On the way home he must cross a river. His boat is small and won’t fit more than one of his purchases. He cannot leave the goat alone with the cabbage (because the goat would eat it), nor he can leave the goat alone with the wolf (because the goat would be eaten). How can the farmer get everything to the other side?
Truth in Packaging
Three boxes are labeled incorrectly and you need to correct them. The labels on the boxes read: [box 1] nails, [box 2] screws, [box 3] nails and screws. You may remove a single item from one of the boxes. You may not look into the boxes, pick them up, shake them, or anything like that. Is it possible to correct the labels? If not, why not?
Link all nine dots using no more than four straight lines, without lifting your pen or tracing the same line more than once.
The Imagine Academy has six monthly themes that organize discussion topics and readings.
January/July – Deduction and Problem-Solving
February/August – Big Ideas and World View
March/September – Social Awareness and Leadership
April/October – Academic Success
May/November – Motivation and Goals
June/December – Creativity and Imagination