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Curriculum changes prepare HCCS students for 21st century

Written on September 8th, 2012

Heritage Community Christian School (HCCS) in New Dublin has been blessed with an opportunity to break out of the education mould and offer new programs that prepare students for lives of service in God’s 21st-century world.

New principal Jennifer Feenstra says students and parents are excited about the curriculum change to more project-based learning (PBL) and other developments, shared on Facebook and the school’s revamped website and newsletter.

“Our school just celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2010 so what we’re doing now is looking at the next 50 years and seeing the skills that students will need. And we want to remain relevant and attractive to families,” Feenstra says.

“The goal is that the kids love school and that they’re prepared for whatever jobs they face in the future. And that more people get excited about our school. On one hand it’s about growth but on the other hand it’s about the learning experience that our current students have.”

PBL, studied over the summer with Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools staff, allows students to dig deeper into subjects for longer periods of time and through more disciplines. Teachers will apply the best of PBL practices to the lesson plans at HCCS.

Citing the old adage that schools go a mile wide and an inch deep when it comes to learning, Feenstra says PBL is a systematic teaching method that covers significant content through projects. PBL will provide students with necessary skills to excel in today’s working world.

Multi-age classes go along with PBL, where groups of students in different grades work in teams. In this way, Feenstra says, students grow across age levels and work to their ability

“With multi-age classrooms, you’re really focusing on the students through individual learning plans,” she says, noting each student’s plan lists goals for the semester and year with progress measured through periodic testing.

As part of PBL, students will start a new robotics program next month. Adopted around the world, it’s been show to generate greater interest in science, technology and engineering careers.

Utilizing LEGO robotics technology, the program has Grade 4-8 students build a robot for a friendly competition based on a theme of seniors’ solutions. The students will talk with seniors to learn about the challenges they face and program their robots to complete related tasks, incorporating social studies and science into their learning.

Grade 1 to 3 students will also participate in a version of this program, introducing them to science and technology.

Supported by a $750 grant, the program teaches children about teamwork and presentation and other skills.

“We’re really excited about it, and I think more schools should be doing it,” Feenstra says.

On Sept. 22, HCCS students and teachers will attend a Toronto workshop on the robotics program. Field trips are part of PBL and, Feenstra notes, they align with the school’s theme this school year of “Inside, Outside and Beyond” based on Romans 12.

“Paul is talking about what it means to be living sacrifices and what love means,” Feenstra says. “So our students talked about reminding themselves about Paul’s lessons in love. But it’s also a focus for where learning takes place, not just inside the school walls but outside on the playground and beyond the school property.”