HEAD OF SCHOOL BLOG
October 2019 Blog Post
Earlier this month, I had the privilege of gathering with friends of Norfolk Christian who have supported the mission through prayer, time, talent and treasure for over sixty years. We call this the “Legacy Luncheon”, because they have left guideposts for us to follow, a legacy for us to uphold. We are the product of their steadfast commitment to the mission John Dunlap and Gene Garrick laid out in 1952.
At this luncheon, our Middle School Principal explained how our classroom methodology has changed to prepare students for a new kind of world, yet our mission remains fixed on equipping Ambassadors for Christ. Her story is a perfect description of how NCS is helping students adapt to a world with different expectations, while also igniting their desire to be ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:20).
I hope you enjoy this guest blog from Melissa Inserra. I am proud of the work our teachers put in each day to ensure that your students are exceptionally prepared for their futures.
Melissa Inserra, Middle School Principal
When I was a kid, I learned a hard lesson about directions and planning ahead. After painstakingly following my mother’s cake recipe for a special surprise, I couldn’t find anything called “Baking Powder” and decided that “Baking Soda” would work just as well. You can imagine how my cake turned out – flat and unattractive. I was heartbroken.
As frustrating as my cake mishap was, it taught me the importance of thinking through steps and preparing before I executed something. Sadly, few of today’s kids have experiences like my cake disaster. If I had been able to Google or ask Siri which ingredient to use, it’s doubtful I would have made the mistake that shaped my future knowledge. The need to think through a problem and devise a solution has all but disappeared for our younger generations; their new reality is finding the answer to absolutely anything within milliseconds with no effort at all. Despite its good intentions, the modern world has robbed our kids of essential problem-solving skills. What’s worse, it has robbed them of their curiosity.
But how can we accomplish our mission to be trailblazers for Christian change if our students do nothing but receive information they didn’t think through independently? The simple answer is, we can’t. Our mission and our students’ futures suffer if they only know how to spit out someone else’s words and ideas. The cruel reality is that when they reach the workforce, this same generation that has grown up with knowledge at their fingertips will be expected to produce groundbreaking new ideas and solve problems more complex than the world has ever seen. Unless we change what happens in our classrooms, they will lack any of the tools necessary to succeed with those tasks.
So Norfolk Christian is departing from traditional 20th century education– where teachers and textbooks were the sole givers of knowledge– and moving to a new model called Christian Deeper Learning. Instead of purely memorizing facts to pass a test, our kids are engaging with information in a new way. They’re discussing, analyzing and collaborating on their knowledge to see how it interacts with their own experiences and how they can use it to improve the world around them.
Most importantly, they are learning to identify the absence of God in our greater world and devise ways to bring Him back.
What does that look like? Our Lower Schools have mastered this over the last several years as they instituted the Deeper Learning framework into all they do. For example, learning about farm animals launched a study in hunger and how we can help those around us without enough to eat; likewise, the priority of our 5th grade oyster tradition shifted from gathering facts to realizing that God created oysters as natural filtration devices and if they aren’t cared for, our waterways are in danger. Fifth graders now take an active role in nurturing these important creatures and cleaning our own Chesapeake Bay.
In our older grades, Deeper Learning becomes more abstract as we look to the messages in literature and history to see what they tell us about an imperfect world, then take the next step to identify what our Christian response should be. A ninth grade study of Orwell’s Animal Farm and Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, has led to some student- directed inquiry projects about overcoming loneliness in the modern world. The annual sixth grade trip to Washington, D.C. is a perfect example of integrating Deeper Learning into Middle School. Instead of just sight-seeing this year, students will explore museums and ponder the question, “What does our modern culture value based on what is present here?” They will then compare those observations with what the Bible says is important and identify what was missing, to devise tangible ways of impacting culture with God’s truth. The beauty of Deeper Learning is that all of these scenarios are fueled by our students’ own ideas, revelations and solutions. They didn’t come from a teacher or Google. In fact, as teachers, we never know exactly where a Deeper Learning exercise will take us. Often, students come up with concepts far beyond what we had planned, and we couldn’t be happier to let their ideas change our course.
As we intentionally recreate the pathways that turn fact-consumers into exceptional thinkers and problem-solvers, we are also helping our students build relationships, work within a team, and invest in problems that are bigger than themselves. The result is a passionate and empowered group of youth who will not only excel when the world asks them to strategize about the next big idea, they will be equipped and ready to change our world for Christ while they do it.