Digging Deep in Social Studies 7

IMG_2970Last week our schools observed Orange Shirt Day (as shown here in pictures from all three campuses).  It was a day to honour indigenous people who survived Residential Schools and to remember those who didn’t.  Wearing an orange shirt, especially in Oiler country is pretty easy.  But it was another small step in our walk of reconciliation.  It was another small step in cultivating community.

There was one group of students at West school whose observation of Orange Shirt Day seemed to go a bit deeper.  Here are a couple of phrases from their journals that day:

“…they act like we aren’t people and we don’t have souls.”

“Our whole race got wiped away…”

What brought out these strong feelings?  These grade seven students and their teacher, Mr. Hoover, didn’t know it at the time, but their whole month in Social Studies was leading them to more deeply understand what Orange Shirt Day was about.

In that first week of school, students got into groups and began creating a culture with all it’s beliefs, practices, languages, foods, customs and ways of life.   They really got into this.  They dug deep. They gave the cultures names like Arbré or Alrack.  When they were ready, cultures began interacting with other cultures by trying to explain themselves without the use of any English words. The language barrier was frustrating!  Subsequent classes saw the cultures decide on and participate in “events” such as expanding their territory, making alliances with neighbours, going to war,  farming new crops etc.    While the events themselves were student choices, the outcomes of these events were determined by the teacher rolling a dice.  There were peaceful times and times of conflict. Some cultures flourished and others were almost wiped out as their populations dwindled.

One day,  a new culture, the Hooverians arrived in their ships.  They had some different goods to trade for the resources the other cultures had. While some things worked well, overall their interactions with those cultures lead to distrust, conflict and in-fighting.  Hooverians moved into territory previously occupied by others.  They questioned and at times mocked some of the cultural practices.  The changes they brought and the effects these changes had on the other cultures were significant.  This was just a month-long simulation, but these students FELT it. (It’s impossible to adequately summarize a whole month of work in a few words, so if you know one of these 7th graders, ask them for details of their learning!)

With those activities as a background, Orange Shirt Day became more real.  This can be seen in some of the feelings the students journalled along the way.  Their last journal entries on Orange Shirt Day were poignant.  Here is one complete one from Alexa.

A man came. I saw him talk to the Chiefs.  He gave us tools and stuff. I didn’t trust him, and I was right. He took me and some other kids. Mama was crying. I was too. They took me away with the kids of other ages.  I went far, far, far away.  A big lake is now my view. They tell me that what I believe is wrong. I don’t know anymore. But one of my friends said something bad and I didn’t see him anymore. I miss home. I miss the forest. I feel sad and alone. No more Abré girl.  I’m not Hika  anymore. I’m Helen. Helen from the west.

Was this simulation a complete picture of our history with the First Nations, Inuit and Metis people in Canada?  Of course not.  Like the Blanket Exercise some students did last year, it gave only a glimpse.  It only helped us to dig a little deeper so that we can understand what our role in this reconciliation story might be.  After all, as broken people loved by God  this isn’t the first reconciliation story we’ve been part of!

by Brian Doornenbal

 

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Gifts in a Garden

sheldoncooper1More than one televison show  or movie has made us chuckle at a character who often takes things literally.  Someone says to that character, “Hop to it,” and we laugh (or groan) as they leave the room, hopping like a rabbit.  

 

Now, I know that the ECNS students and staff aren’t like those comic characters.  They don’t take this year’s school theme literally:   “dig deep. cultivate community.”   But I have to admit, I did smile as I saw Grade 9’s gather side by side with a few people from The Mustard Seed* to dig potatoes, carrots,  onions and more at Ladyflower Gardens**.  I didn’t laugh; I definitely didn’t groan; but I did smile!  Maybe there was even a joyful chuckle.  They were digging deep.  They were finding the gifts of community with eachother and beyond, cultivating a garden.

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ECS Alumnus, Abbi welcomes student to her workplace, Ladyflower gardens.
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Jared, a Mustard Seed staff member, speaks to the students.

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And for the students, the community-building did not end there.  The majority of the food harvested will be donated to the Edmonton Foodbank. What isn’t donated will be used by the Food Studies students to make soup for the Mosaic Centre.***  Students will reflect on their experience and perhaps it will help shape their Social Studies discussions of economics and poverty,  or their Science discussions of biodiversity, or it will give them their next idea for writing in Language Arts class. . .

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IMG_2693At Edmonton Christian Schools we know that forming healthy relationships within our schools and in the communities we live in is as important as the books we open. It’s something we dig deep to do.  If there just happens to be a potato, carrot or onion at the bottom of that dig . . . it’s just another gift from God!

by Brian Doornenbal
*The Mustard Seed provides community and support for marginalized people in both Edmonton and Calgary.   Find out more at https://theseed.ca/about-us/
**Lady Flower Gardens, is a special place.  It is a place of experiential learning about growing food and growing community. Find out out more about their amazingwork http://www.ladyflowergardens.com/
***Mosaic Centre is located in Northeast Edmonton where it serves the vulnerable people affected by poverty, hunger and  homelessness.  It has been “ a partner” with Edmonton Christian Schools since it began in 2009.  Find out more at http://www.mosaiccentre.ca/

5 Thoughts on This Year’s Theme

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Photo credit: http://www.liketreesplanted

 Another school year.  Another school theme: “ dig deep. cultivate community.”   It’s pretty easy to read the words and then skip right to the next thing that vies for our attention.  But moving on too quickly could leave some richness undiscovered.   A good theme, after all, will anchor us to a good story.  A good theme will orient our eyes, ears, hearts and hands towards that story.  A good theme will invite us into the story and will nurture within us a desire to be active in that story.  

Five thoughts I’ve had (so far) about dig deep. cultivate community:

  • God’s story is a story of deep love and mysterious, unlimited grace.  As God’s people coming together in a school community, we need to burrow into that love and grace.  We need to go deep!
  • Digging deep is something that requires work.  It is easy for a landscaper to scrape off a bit of topsoil.  But if trees are to be planted, take root and bear fruit, some sweat and muscle will need to go into digging deep.  We cannot shy away from the challenging work  that is required of a Christ-following school.
  • Going deep needs to guide our academic pursuits.  At Edmonton Christian Schools, we dream of our students going well beyond the facts and content that are contained in the curriculum of their grade.  We strive to be a school that goes deeper by inviting and empowering the students to live what we call biblical through lines.*  Going deep means we and our students can practice being Justice-Seekers, Earth-Keepers, God-Worshippers, Beauty-Creators, Idolatry Discerners, Servant-Workers, Image-Reflecters, Community-Builders, Creation-Enjoyers and Order-Discovers.
  • Albert Einstein said, Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”  We want Edmonton Christian School to be a place where going deep leads to wonder.  A place where we can marvel at the complexity, intricacy and sheer beauty of the created universe and be in awe of the Creator.
  • IMG_2006Devotions at the beginning of the day, monthly chapels or a few “God words” thrown into an assignment will never be enough.  Gardeners don’t just throw seeds onto the ground and expect a bountiful harvest.  They till the soil, water the plants and pull weeds.  They cultivate.  Every day, in every activity and subject area, we will need to faithfully cultivate community that is rooted in God’s love for us and that is faithful to God’s call to love our neighbours, both here and around the world.  And, when we fail, we will dig deep to do the challenging work of forgiveness and restoration.

One last thing.  You might have wondered why the theme often appears in lower case letters.  I have too.  Perhaps it is a reminder that these words aren’t platitudes, entitlements or mere bulletin board material; they are our daily vocation, our calling.  At times this vocation will be joyful and at other times it will be a grind, but it will always be worthwhile.

What are your thoughts on this year’s theme? (feel free to leave a comment!)

by Brian Doornenbal
*a brief description of the Biblical Throughlines that help shape learning at Edmonton Christian Schools can be found HERE

Know What You’re Good For!

“What are you doing when you feel most beautiful/successful?”

“What are your superpowers?”

What did you really enjoy when you were 10 years old?

Looking back at your life, 20 – 30 years from now, what do you want to say you’ve accomplished.”

ThroughlinesThese were just a few of the questions that Grade 12 students at Edmonton Christian High pondered in November to begin planning their senior Passion Project.  At that time they also received feedback from three trusted adults in their life to help them identify which of the ten Biblical throughlines, integral to learning at Edmonton Christian, were expressed in their passions.

Identifying a real need related to their gifts and passions, the Grade 12’s then set out to design and carry out their Passion Project by doing at least 25 hours of real work to meet this real need for real people.  This project was punctuated with the students reflecting on their role in God’s story, and it culminated, May 31,  in an evening of celebrating and sharing the work they did and how it impacted themselves and others.

Each student was interviewed by their staff advisor.  Here is some of what they said: (photos that are included are not necessarily connected to the student quotes):

“I love kids.  I found that out through coaching.  The kids had an impact on me.” Gordon  –coached youth football.

“I have a greater understanding of empathy.  My willingness to help has grown through this experience.” Gabby  –worked with children’s groups in her church.

“I learned that acts of compassion are a powerful way to make positive impacts in our society.”  Brayan  –did a compassionate acts project.

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“I can bless others with the gifts God has given me.”  Kurt  –tutored a fellow student in Social Studies.

“[I learned to] just not worry about yourself; sometime put yourself second instead of first.” Joel  –gave assistance in a variety of tasks and made a real, lasting connection to a neighbour.

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“I learned that I want to have a career with physically disabled children and help them through their day-to-day lives.” Ashley  –worked at Little Bit Therapeutic Riding.

“I got to be around what I liked.”  Kyle  –did “backline” work for the bands at YC this year.

“Food brings everyone together. Zach  –cooked for his family for a month.

“You really need other people to help you get through mental illness.”  Maddie  –advocated for understanding of mental illness with videos and materials under the slogan “Stand Together” 

“I will continue to coach in the future.”  Julia  –coached 4 and 5 year olds in ringette.

“It wasn’t just decorations; it was bringing something to the [church] service.”  Ilse  –created visuals and “decorated” her church for Lent and Easter.

“It doesn’t take a lot to make a difference.  I’ve always had a passion for it, so I want to keep doing that.” Brooke–filled backpacks with basic supplies for people who are homeless or between homes. (raw video interview HERE)

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Everyone at one point in their lives has asked themselves, “What am I good for? Why am I here? What purpose does my life have?”  With joy and dedication we have pursued those questions with our grade 12’s for as long as they have been here at Edmonton Christian Schools. In so many of their passion projects,  we witnessed our students’ confidence, skills and strength of character that will enable them to be the the people God intended them to be in the world beyond the doors of ECHS! They know what they are good for!  It’s an amazing measure of God’s grace and we are deeply grateful!

by Brian Doornenbal
A few pictures and quotes here can’t capture the story of more than 60 passion projects.    If you know someone from the Class of 2017, ask them about their project and about how they see their role in God’s story.

 

 

Grade 5 Students RISE to the Occasion

Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 12.54.57 PMA deep hope we have for Edmonton Christian students, is that when they come face to face with brokenness that they will rise to the occasion.

In term two this year, the grade 5 classes were challenged to  take an “expedition” in which they used their gifts to explore what reconciliation with Canada’s First Peoples means, and more importantly how they could live it.  Some of the work that resulted was published in Issue #2 of RISE ZINE.   This issue was published to commemorate the three years since the close of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission at the national event in Edmonton.  RISE stands for Reconciliation In Solidarity  Edmonton.  Every grade 5 student contributed to a bulletin board which was prominently featured in the magazine.  In addition, at least eighteen of the grade 5 students had pictures of their project work published.   Below is a sample of  how our students did RISE to recognize their role as image-reflectors, justice seekers and community-builders in this world.

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Now . . . it’s on to the next expedition . . .

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(In addition to the above work, you will find work by Shamea, Kaylan, Sophie, Lily, Nina, Vivian, Nolan, Reuben, Kiana and Ceasli in the magazine.  If you get a chance, ask a fifth grader to show you their copy of RISE ZINE  and ask them what else they learned on this expedition).

Talking, Learning and Doing

Gen1;28Talking about watersheds and wetlands is an excellent part of the curriculum in Grade 5.  Talking about basic chemistry and chemicals is too!  But talking doesn’t always equal learning. Facts and data apart from the story we are in have limited use.

A big part of our story as God’s people was given in the first days after Creation when God made humans the stewards (caretakers) of the Garden (Creation itself)
This past week, ECWS Gr. 5 classes culminated their learning about water, wetlands and chemistry by doing a small act of stewardship.  Partnering with Trout Unlimited’s Yellow Fish Road Program and the City of Edmonton, they reminded the neighbourhoods surrounding the school that we all have a role to play in the story of stewarding God’s good creation.  IMG_9754They did this by using non-toxic paint by each of the storm sewers in the neighbourhood to remind everyone that dumping any chemical into a storm sewer has a negative effect on watersheds and wetlands.  After painting the “yellow fish” reminders by the storm sewer grates, information explaining the initiative was hung on each front door in the neighbouhood.  Attached to these door hangers was a student-written statement expressing the student’s desire to be stewards and earth-keepers in God’s world.  Here are a few pictures of one of the groups in the McQueen neighbourhood.

 

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Talking. Learning. Doing.  Finding our role in God’s grand story!

by Brian Doornenbal

Learning That Adds Up!

Edmonton Christian Northeast School is exactly that — it is a school.  Schools are places to learn STUFF.  But at Edmonton Christian, we believe that we have an amazing opportunity for the students not only to learn the STUFF of the prescribed curriculum, but also, in doing so, to  explore and learn their place in God’s STORY.

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ECHS Alumnus and teacher Mrs. Rachul with Gr. 4 students from her Gr 4/5R class.

The curriculum STUFF that the grade 4 students at ECNS needed to learn recently was the use of decimals in addition and subtraction.  The STORY they learned was that God loves all of us and can use our gifts and skills to love others.

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Letter to parents explaining the real work.

 

 

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One student’s work.

The grade 4 class, and teacher  (ECHS alumnus) Liz Rachul connected with the Mustard Seed Church downtown and found out that they have a program that provides sandwiches for those community members who for various reasons cannot join the inside meals served at Mustard Seed.  Ms. Rachul provided the students with a grocery list and challenged them to check three different stores to find those ingredients within a $100 budget.   Totalling the cost of multiple loaves of bread  and all the other ingredients needed, created lots of real-work practice in addition and subtraction of decimals.  Students had to stay within budget.  Not $0.05 over!  Once that work was done, the class picked a plan that was on budget and purchased the ingredients.

 

The next day they were toured through the Mustard Seed Community Support Centre by Sara Nicolai-deKoning (also an ECHS alumnus!) before making the sandwiches to be distributed.

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An extra reminder of God’s grace:  tour is given by an ECHS alumnus!

They learned the STUFF while participating in a beautiful STORY.  Deep learning accomplished by doing real work, meeting the real needs of real people!  Deep learning that invited our students to live lives of renewal.  Did they accept the invitation?  Here is what a few of them wrote:

“I learned that lots of people don’t have homes and that one sandwich means a lot.”    Jaeda

“Another thing that can be done is to be kind to the homeless.”  Ashleigh

“I can help the Mustard Seed by donating my birthday money.”  Aleina

“The Mustard Seed community church is a good place to be if you are lonely, sad, homeless or just need to talk!  One meal can make a big difference in someone’s life.  It also makes you happy.” Ryanna

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Now that seems to be a Math lesson that really added up!

by Brian Doornenbal