We have all heard it said that when helping others we should “give a hand up, not a handout.” While Jesus’ feeding of the masses, his water-to-wine miracles and the no strings attached healing provide examples of grace-filled handouts that Christ-followers must pay attention to, we must also pay attention to the lasting, life-giving that comes when we give a hand up. The grade 2’s in Mrs. Otteson’s¹ class ARE paying attention and will be doing so for quite some time. Let’s hear about it in the words the students collectively wrote in Language Arts class and then spoke publically to all the classes in the school:
Grade 2O is collecting money for a group called KIVA². Are you wondering what KIVA is? KIVA is an organization that people can donate to. KIVA takes the money you donate and loans this money to people who can’t afford to get a loan from the bank because they are too poor.We are trying to raise money to give [micro] loans to the farmers in a country called Kenya. KIVA will give the farmers a small loan. [as little as $25]
The farmers will use this money to buy seeds, animals, small tractors, wells, fertilizer, farming equipment and all the things they need to run a farm. As they make some money selling vegetables, eggs, milk, fruits, meat and other things, they slowly pay the loan back. Once the farmers pay the loan back to KIVA, KIVA will contact us and let us choose who to loan the money to next. This is like a big circle because the money can get used over and over and over by different people in poor countries around the world.
We want to do this to cultivate community in Kenya and around the world. We can help so many people! We hope to dig deep and cultivate community in our school because we want you to help us….
….Thanks for helping us to help the farmers in Kenya have a better future. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!
When the classroom donations, the bakesale money and the generous gift from the Edmonton Christian Northeast Parents Council were all sorted, counted and graphed in Math classes, the students knew it was a large gift–$2500! Connecting with other communities, which had been their focus in Social Studies, Bible lessons about serving and Language Arts lessons which included writing a proposal letter to the principal and thank you notes to various people were all real school work, done to meet the real needs of real people. Real farmers in Kenya. As many as one hundred of them will get a hand up in the form of a microloan through Kiva. And as the grade 2 students said, the “big circle” will begin! It’s the kind of learning experience at Edmonton Christian Schools, that we think challenges our students to play their role in God’s story!
¹TKU student teacher Micayla V. also played a key role in this formational learning experience.
When writing about the things that happen at Edmonton Christian Schools, it is sometimes a burden to try capture the full depth of the stories that happen as the school lives towards its mission. But as I set out to write the story of the Grade 12 Passion Projects which culminated in a celebration of learning last week, there is no such burden. Why? Because the story is far to large to BE captured in a blog. It’s a story of 81 students finding ways to explore something they are passionate, or, at very least, curious about. It’s a story about lessons learned from success and from failure. It is a story of enthusiasm and procrastination. It is a story about learning new things about God’s world and about one’s self.
In the end, it is actually a collection of 81 individual stories each with it’s own depth. Stories of making meals for homeless people, creating art, coaching kids and starting a dance club. Stories of travel to the developing world, working with seniors, helping in an immigrant community association, taking artistic photographs, and working from the back of a Salvation Army van to meet the basic needs of people who live on the winter streets of Edmonton. (That leaves 72 more stories to list!)
The best that one short blog can hope to do is give you the breadth of this beautiful story and hope that it will prompt you to mine the depths by taking up a conversation with one (or more) of these Grade 12 students to ask them what they experienced, learned and hope for in the future. If you are able to do that, you will begin to hear how, for many, this project is one of the pieces helping them to find their role in God’s story:
“I hope to be a teacher, and this was my first taste of what teaching and coaching might be like. I really enjoyed this.”Gr 12 student who volunteered as a coach.
“It was powerful getting to know some of their stories.”Gr 12 student who worked making and serving meals at Hope Mission.
“Sometimes I just want to sit down and watch Netflix and not care about the rest of the world. But when you do something, it connects you . . .it makes you think about what it means to be a Christian.” Gr 12 student who volunteered in a Senior’s Care Facility.
“I found out I truly do love working with these kids and being in their lives.”Gr 12 student who worked in a Grade 1 classroom at an east-side public school.
“I learned that I am a good hard worker and that I like helping out people in need.” Gr 12 student whose passion project took him to Belize.
If you know one of our soon-to-be-graduates, see if you can find a chance to go deep with them about their passion project. That’s better than a blog any day!
My mom’s mocha cake was special, not just because it was sooo delicious, but also because she only made it on very special occasions, such as my dad’s birthday. When that cake was brought to the table and the candles were blown out, the six kids around that table had already begun strategizing, figuring out a way to get the perfect piece. You see, while Mom’s cake was delicious at the centre, the real treasure was found at the edges, and especially the corners, where ample amounts of that buttery mocha frosting could be found.
Often the stories we live and tell at Edmonton Christian schools are like that. They are, by grace, good at the centre but they get even more special as we move to the edges of the story. A bake sale put on at Edmonton Christian Northeast last week was like that. The goodness at the centre of this event was a group of Grade 3B students studying Communities in the World and deciding with their teacher Janine Bihun and student teacher Danica Ford* that they could be community builders by having a bake sale for Roots and Wings International Mission. This is an organization, doing work alongside families in some of the poorest places in Mexico (www.rootsandwingsim.org). For the bake sale, 3B students provided baked goods to be sold to other students, raising $554 which will be used to help a marginalized family and the community they are part of to attain physical and spiritual wholeness. That’s the centre– Grade three students playing their role in God’s story of love for all. It is beautiful, delicious and satisfying!
But there is a richness to be found near the edges of this story as well. Like a finger full of mocha icing, we can get a taste of this richness by looking at just one other class’s part in this story. Mrs. Hollingsworth’s Gr 3H class could be found that morning excitedly clutching their change purses and ziplock bags of coins as they awaited their turn to go to the bake sale. Some of them talked with great anticipation about which treats they were going to buy. When the news came that the bake sale had sold out, all were disappointed and many tears were shed. Disappointment, however, can be an excellent teacher. Through the tears, Mrs H was able to help the grade three students come to a gladness that the sale had raised lots of money and to the reluctant conclusion that that was even more important than “us getting treats.” As this sunk in, the majority of the students decided to donate the money they had brought, even if they gained nothing from doing so.** As word about this leaked out, another class brought their “extra treats” to be shared. A grade two teacher dropped in to encourage the 3H students and to impress on them how their giving had touched her heart . A mom who had helped out with the bake sale went home to bake a couple dozen more cookies to be delivered to the class as a thankyou . . .
God’s love for and through people is amazing! When a community of people digs deep, celebrates sell-out success, sheds tears of disappointment and sacrifices in love for others … well … that’s the icing on the cake!
by Brian Doornenbal, Story Teller for Edmonton Christian Schools
*Danica and her husband will be travelling to one of the communities served by Roots and Wings Int. She will be taking a book made by the 3B class with her.
**Note that more than just this class experienced the disappointment and still decided to donate their money.
“You have been asked to submit a proposal for the design of the front entrance of the new school. The school design committee would like the centre piece of the front entrance to be made of stained glass and to tell a story about what the school is about . . .”
This was the guantlet Mr. Lobb and Mr. Boschman threw down in front of their grade 6 classes at Edmonton Christian West School in early February. To meet this challenge, the students would have to write a proposal with some specific requirements and later would need to reflect on their design (Language Arts curriculum). Their proposal would also need to demonstrate some specific knowledge of angles and geometric shapes needed to design their stained glass and demonstrate their ability to use a protractor (Mathematics curriculum). Included would have to be a sketch of their stained glass design and a model made of paper that met design specifications (Art curriculum). In all of this, they would need to rely on their learning community and available resources to find solutions to problems they faced or skills they lacked and they would have to meet proposal deadlines. “It’s a project I did almost no ‘instructing’ on,” shared grade 6 teacher Mr. Lobb. “The kids had to figure things out.”
The result? Some deep learning and some intriguing design proposals some of which may need to be considered for the proposed new West school building.
“I was trying to show the dove from Noah’s ark and how it was a symbol for life. God always has a plan. God has a plan for our school.” Gianna
“I made the cross stand out from the rest to show this is a good Christian school.”Nina
“I just wanted mine to show a miracle–water into wine.” Sienna
I included the cross so that people would know we are Christian. I used yellow around the cross because the cross shines out. It was something that was meant for killing, but it saved us!”Lana
There were many more thoughtful and colourful designs from these classes and many student reflections on the learning that happened:
“I liked it because it had Art in it and a mixture of other subjects.”
“I like how part of the learning was helping others with their challenges.”
“I learned all the different quadrilaterals, and before this, I didn’t even know what a protractor was.”
“It was fun, but I did get stressed out a bit with the design. I learned I needed 4 drafts to get it right.”
Of course this project also made the students think about the school they attend. Micah, who came to Edmonton Christian West School in grade 4 designed a stain glass showing someone who had fallen being picked up by someone else:
“I have been at schools where people just bring you down. Here, people will lift you up. Our school is caring and helping. It’s safe here.”
In this assignment, Grade 6 students both discovered and created order and beauty in God’s world. They grew in their writing and art skills and reflected on the role their school has in God’s story.
What are your deep hopes for your children? More specifically, what do you hope for when, each day, you send them off to Edmonton Christian Schools (West, Northeast or Senior High School)? These are great questions because deep hopes are at the centre of what we do at Edmonton Christian School. After all, we are part of God’s story, a story filled with hope. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for God who promised is faithful. (Heb 10:23)
It isn’t news that the frenetic pace of life can often make us forgetful people. In fact it has been said that forgetting is the default position for humans. It could also be the default for Edmonton Christian Schools. That is why staff have been spending some early dismissal time lately deliberately articulating and discussing the deep hopes they have for the students they see each day. Here are just a few of those deep hopes drafted by teachers from all three of our schools.*
My deep hope is . . .
Staff at Edmonton Christian Schools hope deeply that your children will find their place in God’s story. How would you express your hopes for your children? It’s a conversation worth having in our community as we continue living in the grace of a faithful God whose promises give us unswerving hope!
* graphics and visuals have been added by this blog author without teacher input.
Recently our teachers have been thinking about their deep hopes for the students that attend Edmonton Christian Schools. Many of these hopes, in one way or another, speak about our students being people who love God and love their neighbours.
(Watch for an upcoming blog about DEEP HOPES)
But like the people in Jesus time, we sometime need reminders about who those neighbours are. If we don’t live in the downtown core, are the people who live life largely on the streets our neighbours? Does God call us to see and treasure His image reflected in the 1800 plus people in our city who are struggling with homelessness?
Some classes at Edmonton Christian Schools answered those questions with an emphatic “YES” last week as they used opportunities in their studies to actively love some of the people on the margins of the society we live in. Both groups made sandwiches for the Mustard Seed and it’s partner programs in Edmonton. These sandwiches will help someone on the street bridge a gap until their next meal or will become a child’s school lunch or will supply the energy for one of Edmonton’s working poor, heading off to their job. Simple sandwiches providing hope for the day.
Mrs Piers and her grade 8 French class at ECWS made over 200 sandwiches as a learning experience in their FSL unit on Food:
Two days later, at ECHS, Ms. Tsang and her Foods 10/20 class along with Mrs. Krol’s Physics 20 class that had raised some money for the sandwich supplies also made 200 sandwiches:
Growing as servant-workers, community builders and justice-seekers. Recognizing the image of God in all people. Finding their role in God’s story. This is all part of what we hope for the students of Edmonton Christian Schools.
This time, that hope was realized in the simple act of making a sandwich.
Planning a new building for the West school will be exciting work! This past week, a group of teachers, staff, administrators, architects and Edmonton Society for Christian Education employees took two days to tour some new and newly renovated school buildings in and around Edmonton. They saw some impressive school spaces, but this group was looking at much more than banks of windows, CTS labs and functional flooring. They were dreaming and hoping!
They were dreaming and hoping because this school society, which in 1949 started with 25 students in the basement of a church, has not changed in it’s resolve that Edmonton Christian Schools be places in which Jesus Christ is recognized as Lord of ALL things and honoured above all else. Over the years, God has blessed this resolve and now there are almost 1500 students receiving a distinctive Christian education that invites them to live lives of renewal as they find their place in God’s story. A new building for Edmonton Christian West School will be a new “dream chapter” in this old story of God’s faithfulness to ESCE.
So, as this group of people toured buildings, they were seeing and dreaming of much more than bricks and mortar. They were dreaming of the kind of learning that could take place for our twenty first century learners. They saw possibilities and enviroments where students could be invited to discover and develop their gifts so that they could join God in transforming the world, reclaiming and rediscovering the beauty of all that God created. This new building will have those deep hopes, rooted in God’s love, as a firm foundation. Now that’s a building project to get excited about!
(Note–we saw lots of active classrooms but needed to avoid pictures that showed students)
Do you have ideas or thoughts on the design of a new building? You can start giving some feedback HERE.