When thinking of the future at Ottawa Christian School, the main goal is for students to be engaged in learning for serving others, says Paul Triemstra.
The school is working on a new strategic plan, and the new mission statement in draft form is “educating and equipping students to excel in serving Christ today, tomorrow and forever.”
Triemstra, the elementary school’s principal, says when the community thinks of the school he’d love for them to think of it as a place where students are learning for serving.
“We definitely want students to excel in their learning, but that learning is for serving God and others,” he says, noting that would be something to work on doing better all the time.
“Ultimately what we want is for our students to shine like Christ in this community, that’s our goal.”
One of the ways students are encouraged to look beyond themselves to others is through restorative discipline, which teaches them to think about other people through listening to one another during circle time.
Since moving to a new school building and community in suburban Barrhaven with a seven-acre campus, Triemstra says they were looking for service projects in the community.
They started an expanded recycling program and are looking to launch a composting program that will tie into its school gardens. The school gardens are being planned with hopes to open this spring to include community gardens, food gardens and wildlife areas.
“We’re looking for ways that we can get the broader community beyond the Ottawa Christian School community involved in that in very positive and productive ways,” he says.
The gardens initiative is accelerating project-based learning at the school, says Triemstra.
He says there will still be a lot of classroom learning but that is a launch pad into activities that could happen in the gardens or in the community to solicit data or materials for projects.
For example, when the recycling program was built, students sent out letters and contacted managers at the nearby Home Depot to gather a range of materials.
He says he personally thinks students live in a world that is mediated to them.
“(An) emphasis that we really want to have is let’s get our hands in the dirt, quite literally but also metaphorically, so that the students are really engaged with God’s very good and wondrous creation,” he says.