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School was not always the highlight of my day when I was younger. Sure, I loved aspects of it and I certainly respected many of my teachers, but learning took more effort for me. My love for learning probably did not start until my teaching career began and it was obvious that there was much to learn about being an excellent teacher. That desire to learn and better myself has only increased over the years. I am always looking for workshops or books to teach me something new. It is a privilege to work for a school that not only encourages teachers to continue their education but requires professional development every year.
Recently, sixth grade teacher Everett Henderson and I flew to Grand Rapids, Michigan to take part in a Science Teacher Academy held by the Van Andel Education Research Institute and Christian Schools International on the topic of “Teaching Science through Inquiry with a Biblical Worldview.” I would encourage you to look into all of the things Van Andel is doing in the area of science/medicine research because it’s rather amazing! In addition was CSI’s desire to train Christian school teachers to incorporate our Reformed background into all aspects of the school day. The highlight of this particular workshop was that in all of the workshops I’ve attended in 20 years of teaching it was the first that made me emotional; our day began and ended with devotions, prayer and a time of worship! Never had I experienced such goosebumps while surrounded by 50 other Christian science teachers!
So what exactly does a teacher do at a workshop? My favorite workshops are the ones where I either affirmed in what I am already doing in my classroom or I can walk into my class the following week and implement a new idea immediately–it was encouraging that the same way this workshop was led was very much the way I run my classes. The focus of these two days was about helping our students become better thinkers that are curious about God’s world. Even the microscopic Daphnia that I examined taught me that God cares deeply about the most minuscule organisms on His Earth! “All Creatures of our God and King” by musician David Crowder was the perfect way to end our afternoon together as a reminder of Psalm 148.
Science isn’t taught the same today as it probably was when you were in school. Classrooms of student desks in rows, reading from a textbook and possibly looking under a microscope now and then. Today, students are encouraged to connect their learning to the world around them in a non-linear process where they are constantly questioning, exploring, collecting data, interpreting data and defending that data in order to show what they have learned. Today’s science classrooms can be loud, the teacher is facilitating learning, and students feel safe to ask questions, to fail, and to try again and again and again.
While creating a rich learning environment that promotes learning through the process of inquiry, we also develop valuable habits of the mind that allow us to grow as learners. Being encouraged to grow in our profession only allows us to better Engage the Minds of our students while Nurturing their Spirits so that some day they may Transform the World.