Grade 4: A year of many firsts

In many ways, Grade 4 is a milestone year at B.D. Somani. Grade 4 has some of the most anticipated dates on the Primary school calendar. From their first on-campus sleepover to their first off-campus trip and StuCo elections, the excitement across the Grade 4 student body is palpable from the start of the school year.

Grade 4 sees our students expand their abstract thinking abilities. They grow in responsibility and start to develop a broader sense of self. They are increasingly aware of their place in the broader community both within and outside the school.

For some of our Grade 4 students, the sleepover is the first overnight stay away from their parents, but excitement far exceeds any nervousness. On the day of the sleepover, they leave school and then come back in the early evening, ready to have a great time. Our teachers line up a series of activities and games, keeping them busy until dinnertime. Their time after dinner is reserved for free play and reading before they turn in for the night.

The Grade 4 sleepover eases them into the longer ‘Learning Without Walls’ trip to the Magic Bus Learning Centre in Karjat. This 3-day trip is an opportunity for students to learn life skills while enhancing their physical abilities and gaining an awareness of the environment. The trip challenges their minds and their bodies and encourages them to collaborate in problem solving. The trip also helps them to be responsible towards themselves and considerate of others around them – from simple acts such as organizing their belongings and washing their dishes after every meal.

Grade 4 students have the opportunity to be part of school governance. Each year, our Primary School elects a new Student Council, comprised of students from Grades 4 and 5. For our Grade 4 students, this is their first brush with elections and what it means to participate in them. With the help of their teachers, they discuss detailed job profiles in class along with the necessary attributes one would need to succeed in these roles. They evaluate themselves against these profiles before deciding if they should contest elections. They prepare ‘campaign speeches’ to encourage other fourth graders to vote for them. They practice their speeches in class and take feedback from their fellow students on areas for improvement. The whole exercise is an excellent way for students to become self-aware and understand their role in a larger civic community.

The Humanities program takes centre stage in our grade 4 curriculum. In Grade 4, students learn about Mumbai – the history and geography of the seven islands, its people and culture. Armed with the B.D. Somani toolkit of inquiry, investigation and collaboration, they discover a Mumbai they didn’t know existed. Discussions are organic, leading to questions and research followed by field trips that facilitate an immersive learning experience.

Discussions about the origins of Mumbai can lead to questions about the indigenous people of the seven islands culminating in a trip to Macchimaar Nagar, where they interact with the Koli community who are the original settlers of Mumbai. Students often come away from these trips with many of their pre-existing notions dispelled. This leads to exploration of other communities within the city and the varying reasons for migration to Mumbai.

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Rather than just looking at history and geography, they explore many other communities and the reasons for migration to Mumbai. They learn what makes Mumbai tick by learning how the communities function within themselves and with each other. Students are introduced to the concept of community through an exploration of their own context as members of the Grade 4 community and the larger school community. They learn how communities can overlap as a result of shared culture, beliefs, ideologies and experiences.

One of the communities that came up for the first time in discussions this year is the expat community in Mumbai. They interviewed all the expat teachers, including Ms. Zoë, Mr. Geoffrey and Ms. Colleen. Later they even whipped up a street food extravaganza, featuring all the Mumbai favourites for our B.D. Somani expat community to enjoy.

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Our overarching theme of Mumbai is integrated with aspects of literacy, science and even Math.

One of the Grade 4 novels – The Six Spellmakers Of Dorabji Street – is a book based in Mumbai. Our students are fortunate to explore some of the places mentioned in the book with the author herself! Students also wrote a letter to a fictional friend who left Mumbai in the ’60s, describing all the changes in Mumbai since.

The mapping block introduces geographical constructs of topography, distance, elevation and direction. Students learn to read maps and even make their own. Some of the students reconstructed Macchimaar Nagar in a special block-building session.

Students use the globe to understand time zone changes. In gardening, they learnt to record timelines. Each of them made a personal timeline of the first nine years of their life, which will help them in Grade 5 as they dive into history of ancient civilisations.

For our Grade 4 teachers, seeing Mumbai from the perspective of our students often brings many surprises and unlocks mysteries of Mumbai of which even they weren’t aware. Learning in Grade 4 is truly a year of many firsts for students and teachers.

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