Faith & Learning Blog
Connecting Faith and Learning Blog
My 6th and 7th grade history classes recently completed a project that involved identifying and interpreting Pacific Northwest Coastal Native art forms and symbolism.
I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and in doing so was blessed with being exposed to a rich Native American culture, especially in terms of their powerful art images. Because I have always been intrigued by this unique type of art, I thought I would have my junior high students learn about the Pacific Northwest Native style, the specific symbolism that is a part of their imagery, and how that is a part of their larger worldview as a culture.
We first discussed and contrasted the pantheistic worldviews of the PNW tribes to that of a Christian biblical worldview, and looked to scripture to see where their beliefs were in contrast to biblical truth. Students then researched original PNW designs - identifying and using the appropriate colors used by the tribes. The final product becomes one that has redemptive value. In that, we are not only staying true to the beautiful style of the PNW tribes, but illustrating aspects of the one true God and his creation.
In a sense, there are two ways to approach artwork from a culture and peoples of a very different religious view than our own. We can look at artwork with a seasoning of “common grace”. Theologian Louis Berkhof describes common grace as, “...common because its benefits are experienced by, or intended for, the whole human race without distinction between one person and another. It is grace because it is undeserved and sovereignly bestowed by God.” Or, the artwork could be looked at through a biblical view; one that serves as a filter - showing what is praiseworthy and what might go against God and His creative order.
On its own, there is meaning and message that can be learned from looking at artwork; whether from within our own culture, or from different cultures like that of the native tribes of the Pacific Northwest. But it is my task as an educator to facilitate questions and discussion with my students when looking at art, and encourage them to respond according to a Christian perspective. No matter if I am looking at or talking about any type of art, I try to ask myself or pose to my students the following questions in some manner:
Does it relate to or bring out some aspect of our faith?
Does it give us an opportunity to discern?
Does it help us see the world and God’s people in unique or new ways?
Does it convey feelings of anger, doubt, forgiveness, reconciliation, love, or God’s grace?
Does it encourage and positively affect our hearts and minds?
Does it give opportunity to share the joy of knowing Christ?
As an educator and artist, I am excited to bring my students into a forum where we can view, discuss, create, and appreciate art - looking at its redemptive value as well as how it speaks to us as Christians. At Calvin Christian, we are helping our students look at the world through the “lenses” of scripture. It is truly an exciting venture.
By the way, the student artwork created was great! They were very thoughtful in their research, approach, and overall design. Soli Deo Gloria!
Ron Van Der Pol is Calvin Christian School's Art Instructor for grades 7-12 and teaches History for grades 6-7.
An ever-present worry for teachers through the summer months is that students will relax a little TOO much over the break. While it can be tempting to try to micromanage students’ summer learning with packets and reading lists, there are tons of resources available online that can keep your students’ brains active and their enthusiasm high. Take a step back and let students drive their own learning this summer. Here are five ways you can help students' excitement, motivation, and passion for engaging activities fuel their learning through the summer months.
1. Jump into the sandbox.
Sandbox worlds are open-ended platforms that allow students to build objects, games, and more, and share their creations with other users all over the world. Minecraft, Scratch, and Hopscotch are excellent tools that will have your students thinking hard and playing hard all through the break.
2. Bring out your students’ inner genius.
Genius Hour is based on a revolutionary idea: that students should be given time to pursue whatever knowledge they want, just for its own sake. Whether your students are interested in foreign language, robotics, parkour, or something you’ve never even heard of, facilitating Genius Hour is a highly rewarding experience that is sure to stoke your students’ passion for learning. You can learn more about implementing this exciting model on the Genius Hour Wikispace.
3. Keep problem-solving skills sharp.
Sometimes, it feels like students’ brains get a little mushy over the summer without problems to solve (are they really gettingthat math story problem?). Luckily, there are tons of games available online that take serious cognitive muscle. Your students will love Coaster Crafter and Contraption Maker, which allow them to build, test, and crash their own machines to beat challenges. Find lots more ideas with Graphite’s Top Picks for Great Games That Teach Strategy.
4. Join the maker movement.
We’ve all had that student with an otherworldly ability to take things apart and create something new (and hopefully useful!) from the pieces. Maker Ed is just what it sounds like -- the process of making things, be they toys, clothes, art projects or Rube Goldberg machines. You’ll be surprised at what your students can build from random things they find around their homes or classrooms! The Lesson Flow Making Makers is a great place to start.
5. Dream about the future.
All kids think about what they might like to be when they grow up, and you can help them explore their interests through tech. While programs like Google CSFirst guide students to explore the 21st-century skills needed for specific careers, other sites like Roadtrip Nation can help develop a broader vision of what might lie ahead. The Lesson Flow Exploring STEM Careers also has some fantastic resources for guiding kids through career research.
Summer doesn’t have to be a slump for students. With a little guidance and cheerleading, kids can take their excitement for learning to new heights!
Visit the Graphite blog for more ideas.
Every three years, high school social study teacher Steve Whitener organizes a Spring Break trip to New York City for Calvin students. These optional trips allow students to experience the big city in a safe and exciting way. For less than $2,000, students spend six days and five nights seeing the highlights of NYC. Travelers stay in Times Square and experience the best of the Big Apple.
This year, students were able to climb 338 steps into the crown of the Statue of Liberty, lunch where George Washington said goodbye to his Revolutionary War troops, attend worship services at Redeemer Presbyterian, tour the Lower Eastside Tenement Museum, walk the historic Brooklyn Bridge, explore the world class Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, and American Museum of Natural History, to name of few of the adventures.
The look on students faces when they see Van Gogh's "Starry Night" and "George Washington Crossing the Delaware" is gratifying. Having seen in countless books, they are overwhelmed to see the real thing. We visit the Egyptian Temple of Dendur, see Henry VIII's battle armor, and explore entire Renaissance rooms brought over piece by piece from Europe-- all in one afternoon. Students get plenty of time to explore museums on their own and create their own memories with their friends. Evenings are reserved for authentic Italian, Greek and Chinese meals and to attend Broadway shows. This year, we had orchestra seats for the incomparable Les Misérables. To hear high school boys say how they felt goosebumps during the show is high praise for the quality of the production. Another show was the revival of On the 20th Century with Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth. Students even got to meet her and get her autograph.
New York City for Spring Break at Calvin is a non-stop, world-class adventure. Students come back to California changed. They've experienced the best architecture, art and performances in the world, ate amazing meals, and been a part of one of the most exhilarating cities in the world. Hopefully they are inspired to excellence their entire lives.