Jun 262016
 

Early Childhood June Overview

Basic Truth: God made me.

Key Question: Who made the world?

Bottom Line: God made the world.

Toddler Green and Preschool Memory Verse: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

Toddler Blue Memory Verse: “God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)

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Toddler Blue: June 5-26th

Bible Story Focus: Creation Days 1-4 Genesis 1:1-19

Lesson Overview:

In this lesson children will learn about what God made the first four days of creation. Children will understand that only God can make something out of nothing, He is all-powerful. Children will also know that God made good things, in fact the world God created was perfect.

Toddler Green & Preschool Purple: June 19th and 26th

Bible Story Focus: Creation Days 3 and 4 (Day 3: Land, Seas, and plants. Day 4: Sun, Moon, and stars • Genesis 1: 9-19)

Lesson Overview: In this lesson children will learn about God creating the land, seas, and plants as well as the sun, moon, and stars. Children will understand that this is something people cannot do, only God. Throughout the summer children will learn that God made the whole world and everything in it.

Activities:

June 19: Children will do a dirt find and talk about the plants God made.

June 26: Children will play a bouncing suns game

Circle Time Question: (Preschool Purple Only)

June 19: Have you ever been to the Ocean? What was it like?

June 26: What is your favorite thing to look at in the sky?

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Preschool Orange and Red: June 26th

Bible Story Focus: God made land and sea. God made sky and water.

Day 3: Land, Plants, and Sea • Genesis 1:9-13

Lesson Overview: In this lesson children will learn about God creating the land, plants, and sea. Children will understand that this is something people cannot do, only God. Children will act out the third day of the creation story, expanding on their knowledge of what God created.

Activities: Children at 8:00 and 11:00 will have a dirt find sensory activity and make play doh flowers to talk about the flowers God made. At 9:30 children will do a pumpkin seed toss and make a tree craft.

Circle Time Question: Have you ever been to the ocean? What is it like?

I Wonder Questions:

  1. What did God make on the third day? On the third day, God made the Land and Sea.
  2. What are the land and the water used for? God made the land and water to help people and animals to live.
  3. Who made the world? God made the world

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Elementary: Kindergarten-5th Grade

SUMMER OVERVIEW

This summer, Elementary Crossing Kids will take a closer look at The Apostles’ Creed.  The Apostles’ Creed is the oldest, most widely used Christian creed in the world with its earliest versions dating back over 1,600 years ago.  For centuries, parents and pastors have taught the Apostles’ Creed as “Christianity 101” to their children.  The Creed states in simple, scriptural language the essential facts of our faith, from creation of the world to the coming of Christ and the eternal life promised to all who believe.  Historically the creed has been used to correct error by reminding people of what’s true about the God of the Bible.  These words not only shape and affirm what we believe but also connect us to other Christians who have spoken these words throughout the centuries.

Sunday, June 26th Lesson Summary

Children will learn that God is both intimately involved in the details of our life as our Father while also being infinitely in control of all things as the almighty maker and sustainer of our universe.  After watching a video that captures God’s majesty from Psalm 104, children will read and discuss the book Zoom to see how God knows and is in control of all things, both big and small.

Key Scripture

Psalm 104

Classroom Activity:

Creation Snack Mix

Follow Up Questions

  1. Is there anywhere in the creation or is there anything you’ve seen in creation that has made you feel like, “Wow! God you are amazing?
  2. Who created you? (God.)
  3. When bad things happen in the world, is God still in control of those things? (Yes. Nothing is a surprise to God. Nothing is outside of His control.)

Sermon Resources for Volunteers & Parents

June 19th and 26th– God the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth

Jun 012016
 

We are excited to have your incoming Kindergartener join us in the Elementary classrooms beginning Sunday, June 5th! We know it’ll be the start of what might be a busy week and want to help your child transition go well.  Over the next few days we’ll publish four posts to help you guide your child as he or she begins this new phase. We’ll be answering questions your child might have about classrooms, lessons, and teachers. We’ll also include plenty of photos for you to show your child.

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Large Group is often the highlight of a preschooler’s Sunday, but in Elementary Large Group will look a little different.  This summer as incoming Kindergarteners transition, Large Group will have a similar format, yet be pretty different.

Will t_DSH5007here be puppets?

No. Elementary Large Group doesn’t have puppets, but there will still be live music many Sundays, and plenty of singing!

Will my child still have a lesson in Large Group?

Yes! This summer Kindergarten-5th graders will be learning about the Apostle’s Creed, and for the summer the lesson will happen in Large Group, just like in preschool.  After worship there will be a teacher teaching about a different piece of the creed each week.  We’ll even start the summer simply learning what a creed is.  Students will be engaged through through sign language, videos, and images to help them learn the Apostle’s Creed, and end their Large Group time by turning and answering a few questions with other kids and volunteers.  The coolest part about summer Large Group is that kids get to sit on huge blankets!

_DSH4994Will older kids be with Kindergarten in the Large Group room?

Yes. This summer we’ll combine grades for Large Group, but kids always sit on the same blankets as their volunteers and classmates.  At 8:00 Kindergarten-5th grade will be combined, and at 9:30 and 11:00 we’ll have a for Kindergarten-2nd graders, and room for 3rd-5th graders.

Will the Large Group teachers be the same people from preschool?

Yes and no.  Kindergarteners will certainly recognize faces from preschool (Candace, Courtney, and Kristin will be faces that are familiar to them,) but kids will meet new teachers throughout the summer.

Scroll for more photos of Elementary Large Group!

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Oct 292014
 

Chances are that if you’ve volunteered for any length of time in one of our classroom, you’ve encountered some less than desirable behavior.  Our immediate response can sometimes be shock.  We’re at church after all.  Why are all these sinful children here?  Where are the perfect ones?  This response is often followed with panic.  What do I do?  Even seasoned parents and veteran teachers often find themselves unsure of how to handle situations with someone else’s child.  When should I ignore?  When should I intervene?  How do I have a conversations with a child that targets the heart rather than the behavior when there are 29 other kids here as well?  Trust me, I’ve been there too.

While there is no list I can give you that will magically prepare you for each situation with each child, there are a list of guiding principles we’d like to remind you of when faced  with some of these challenging situations.  Let’s take a closer look not just at the “what” and the “how,” but also the “why.”

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What Our Goal is Not
In his book Christless Christianity, Michael Horton writes,

“What would things look like if Satan really took control of a city?  Over half a century ago, Presbyterian minister Donald Grey Barnhouse offered his own scenario in his weekly sermon that was also broadcast nationwide on CBS radio.  Barnhouse speculated that if Satan took over Philadelphia (the city where Barnhouse pastured), all of the bars would be closed, pornography banished, and pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other.  There would be no swearing.  The children would say, “Yes, sir” and “No ma’am,” and the churches would be full every Sunday…where Christ was not preached.”

Our goal on Sunday morning is not a group of perfectly behaved children.  Our goal on Sunday morning is for children to hear, believe, and understand the Gospel.  Part of this is seeing our sin, recognizing our need for a Savior, and realizing that no amount of righteousness on the outside can make us right before a holy God.  We intentionally try to make our lessons Christ-centered rather than man or behavior centered on purpose each week.  As Donald Grey Barnhouse shared so many years ago, there is a real danger to  making our end goal behavior in and of itself.

Tedd Trip reminds us of this as well in his book Shepherding a Child’s Heart:

“God is concerned about the heart—the well-spring of life (Proverbs 4:23).  Parents (*teachers) tend to focus on the externals of behavior rather than the internal overflow of the heart.  We tend to worry more about the “what” of behavior than the “why”.  Accordingly, most of us spend an enormous amount of energy in controlling and constraining behavior.  To the degree and extent to which our focus is on behavior, we miss the heart.” 

“The church borrowed the old “you listen to me, kid, or I’ll cuff you” method of raising children.  It seemed to work.  children seemed to obey.  They were externally submissive.  This method fails us now because our culture no longer responds to authority as it did a generation ago.  We lament the passing of this way of rearing children because we miss its simplicity.  I fear, however, we have overlooked its unbiblical methods and goals…Let me overview a biblical vision…it involves being a kind of authority, shepherding your children to understand themselves in God’s world, and keeping the Gospel in clear view so children can internalize the good news and someday live in mutuality with you as people under God.”

When we miss the heart, we miss subtle idols, the Gospel, and the Glory of God.  Yet, we also know that a completely chaotic and unsafe environment  will often cause us to miss these things as well.  How do we address the heart and do our part to create classrooms where children feel safe and are able to hear, participate, and engage with the lesson?

Again, Tedd Tripp reminds us that we have the ultimate example of what our roles should be as someone in authority:

“Jesus is an example of this.  The One who commands you, the One who possesses all authority, came as a servant.  He is a ruler who serves; he is also a servant who rules…You must exercise authority, not as a cruel taskmaster, but as one who truly loves.”

One of the best things we can do is to exercise our authority as a ruler who serves and a servant who rules.  That means not making a child’s behavior about us (something I struggle with consistently.)  That means that we don’t handle it through manipulation or other practices that seem easier or as a “quick fix” on the surface.  That means we don’t handle things cruelly, but we also don’t roll over either.  We set healthy boundaries.  We say no.  We pull kids aside to have conversations when necessary.  We communicate with parents and get their input (partnering with parents is one of our core values, after all.)  We target the heart rather than the external behavior as much as possible.  Here are just a few practical tips that may help you in the trenches on Sunday mornings.

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The “What” and “How”

  • One way to “love” and to “serve” the children we shepherd is to be proactive, thoughtful, and intentional about the environment we create.
  • Sometimes we can anticipate hindrances for them, but also hindrances for us.
  • We are all sinners serving sinners and out of an overflow of our hearts, our mouths speak.  Take time to prepare yourself to serve on Sunday morning.  Pray for individual children who may have trouble on Sundays.  Ask God to soften your heart toward them and give you wisdom as you interact with them.

Practical Proactive Tips

Getting their Attention

  • Clapping
  • Turning off Lights
  • Show me your listening eyes, ears etc…
  • “If you can hear my voice say ________,” etc…

Transitions

  • Not Everybody All At Once—“If your birthday is in ___________,” “If you’re      wearing _________________,” etc… 
  • Agenda/ Sequence of Events—Let children know what you’re planning to do,     if/when you’re having snack, order of events, etc…  This is especially helpful for students with Autism or other special needs.
  • Time Frame—“In a minute, but not yet.,” Counting Backward, Song, Giving a Time Constraint with Reminders (In 3 minutes, in 1 minute, etc…)

Developmental Appropriateness

  • Kindergartners and 5th Graders are both alike and different.  Consider adapting your strategy based on your audience.

Proximity

  • Sit near child, move closer, etc…

Movement

  • Recognize and honor need for movement
  • Change things up
  • Limit Pocket Time

Transitioning/Distributing Materials

  • Centralized Location?
  • Pass Out Ahead of Time?
  • “Leading into temptation…”  (If I sit this in front of them, are they going to play with it instead of listening to directions, and will that drive me nuts?)

Multi-step Directions

  • Break into smaller chunks
  • Have children repeat
  • Model/Show Example

Take the Time to Listen, Laugh, and Have Fun

  • Individual conversations/relationships
  • Morning Meeting

What happens when “proactive” doesn’t work?

  • Check our hearts first.
  • Go back to the why: Go back to the heart.
  • Remember that when we miss the heart, we miss subtle idols, the Gospel, and God’s glory.
  • Have an individual conversation.
  • Ask Questions (See Wise Words chart in the Elementary Cabinets.)
  • Pray for/with child.
  • Communicate with families.

And sometimes we’ll then need to recognize that even after doing all those things, we still won’t have perfectly behaved children or classrooms and that as we talked about earlier, that’s o.k. because that’s not the end goal.  Moments like this are opportunities for us to remember our limitations.  Moments like this are opportunities for us to remember who is really in charge, who really changes hearts.  They’re moments for us to pray and preach the Gospel to ourselves.  They’re moments to remind us of what Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson say in their book, Give them Grace:

“We are always to do our best, striving to be obedient and to love, nurture, and discipline them.  But we are to do it with faith in the Lord’s ability to transform hearts, not in our ability to be consistent or faithful.  Seeking to be faithfully obedient parents (*teachers) is our responsibility; granting faith to our children is his.  Freedom to love and enjoy our children flows out of the knowledge that God saves them in spite of our best efforts, not because of them.  Salvation is of the Lord.”

Know that we pray for you and your time with children each week.  Also know that we’re here to support you when these situations arise, and pray for us as well.  We are all still in process with all of these things.  More than anyone else I know, I need God’s grace and wisdom in this arena of life on Sunday mornings.

Oct 042014
 

Sunday Morning at The Crossing, April 6, 2014

If you were to walk down the elementary hallways of Crossing Kids on a Sunday morning, you would see a flurry of activity and little bodies hard at work. In one room, kids dress up in character to act out a bible story. Next door, kids take photographs to capture the morning’s scripture that will eventually come together as a music video. Across the hall, kids construct models using foam and diagrams from a study bible. Still another group plays a version of the game “Twister” to uncover clues to the bible story. A few kids meet with leaders out in the hallway to share what they have been writing and drawing in their prayer journals. Though diverse, all the activities going on connect and reinforce one biblical topic to draw kids’ hearts out for Christ. All elementary children will rotate through each activity over a period of five weeks, therefore learning about and mentally reinforcing the Biblical topic through a variety of methods.

This is the heart of the workshop model in Crossing Kids.

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Merriam-Webster defines a workshop as “a series of classes in which a small group of people learn the methods and skills used in doing something.” So, why workshops in Crossing Kids?

There are three things about a workshop that are important:

1. A workshop is a series of classes. In Crossing Kids, we run a workshop rotation for 5 weeks, therefore engaging kids in a single idea across a variety of experiences. Kids learn best when they are immersed in a topic and can revisit an idea several times to make connections.

2. A workshop involves a small group of people. Our 4th value in Crossing Kids is relationships. We want kids to work together, to share ideas, to talk about how the Bible applies to their life, to be vulnerable with one another. By participating in small groups in workshops, we give kids the opportunity to consistently go deep in their community.

3. A workshop involves learning methods and skills to do something. We want kids to learn what faith in Christ looks like, how we should pursue knowing Him through the Word, and have their hearts draw out to follow Him their entire lives. Workshops are about much more than just imparting knowledge and facts. Rather, workshops engage kids though experience. The learning theory of constructivism states “people produce knowledge and form meaning based upon their experiences.” Workshops strive to draw kids’ hearts out for God as they apply, meditate on, and experience His truth through diverse learning experiences. Through workshops, we want to equip kids to read the Bible and apply it’s meaning to their lives. We want kids’ minds, hands and hearts to be engaged each week as they learn about God.

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Workshops also strive to meet the unique needs of children and adhere to Gardner’s Theory of Multiples Intelligences (which I previously posted about here and here). In short, we believe that children learn in a variety of ways and are unique in how they process and apply information. Some children love to make up stories where as others would rather work with technology or use their body to dance or play a game. We want to engage all parts of children’s’ minds – that’s why the workshop model works so well.

In Crossing Kids, we always want to teach in light of this question: “How do kids learn best?”

To sum up, we believe kids learn best:

  • when they are immersed in a single concept or topic of a period of time
  • in small community groups where they can discuss, share, and work out ideas together
  • when they are engaged through hands-on experience
  • when they are in process (because learning takes time!)

This is why Crossing Kids places such value in the workshop approach. It is a joy to see kids go deep in their learning and see their hearts and affections drawn out for Christ in the process. May God be glorified as we teach and learn and grow and process together in Crossing Kids.

Mar 072014
 

Last weekend was one of my favorite weekends in Columbia: the True/False Film Fest. Not only are the documentary films thought-provoking, challenging, inspiring, and beautiful to view, the films are surrounded with great interviews and Q and A with the film directors. I saw six films this year – most were marvelous, a few were just okay, and one film I loved and hated all at the same time.

Approaching the Elephant.

Because of my background in education and my love of documentaries that feature kids, schools, and teachers (To Be and To Have; Pressure Cooker), I was really excited to see Approaching the Elephant. The True/False description of the film reads, “The free school model proposes a learning environment where classes are optional and all rules are determined by democratic vote…this radical concept has reached the small town of Little Falls, New Jersey, where an ambitious idealist…opens the world’s 262nd free school.”

I’ve heard of free schools before and the concept is intriguing to me. In seeing the film, I wondered how students would handle their freedom to choose classes and run the school themselves. I wondered what role the teachers would play and how they would teach if children didn’t choose to learn. Approaching the Elephant gave a true and up close view of what happens when kids have complete freedom to do whatever they choose. And it was difficult to watch. The teacher and mother in me were cringing throughout most of the film.

In one scene, the children are haphazardly using handsaws to cut boards with their fingers literally an inch away from the blade while the teacher gives loose instructions. One little girl eventually says, “I don’t think my parents would want me to do this.”

Another scene shows the same little girl being bullied and chased by older boys while they are unsupervised outside, which is where one of the older boy students spends most of his day choosing to ride his bike for hours instead of choosing to take a class.

The teacher helps guide one of the many democratic meetings we see in the film where the students are upset with him because he asked them to stop jumping off some plastic bins so they wouldn’t get hurt. One girl was so upset with the teacher she said she would not come back to school over the issue. Another student and assistant teacher decide if the main teacher was guilty or innocent in this situation and provide the verdict he was innocent.

I could go on. Watching the children choose over and over again to fight with one another, wander around the school, ride bikes, and play video games was so disheartening. These children needed guidance. They needed a teacher who would instruct them, provide boundaries, set high expectations, and discipline them when needed. They needed an adult to lead them; someone with wisdom and experience and compassion for his students.

I am all for giving kids choices, when adults are helping them to learn how to choose. For example, when I taught at Stephens College Children’s School, the children had a 90-minute literacy block. During that time, they would attend reading groups, writing circles, and meet individually with a teacher. But they could also choose how to structure the rest of their time. They could choose to read or write or edit or work on a new poem or publish some writing. But there were parameters for their choices.

Teaching and disciplining children is biblical. It is God’s design for adults to model and instruct children so that they will grow up in faith and knowledge and wisdom. To this point, consider the following verses:

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. –  Proverbs 22:6

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. – Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. – Ephesians 6:4

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away. – Matthew 19: 13-15

Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. – Proverbs 13:24

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. – 2 Timothy 3:14-15

Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him. – Proverbs 22:15

This is why Approaching the Elephant was such a difficult film for me. It showed in explicit ways how children are unable to guide themselves to make good choices when left completely to their own desires. They need some help to see what is wise and good and true. As Christians, this is especially important because, as the verses above proclaim, we are charged by God to teach our children about Him and His holy word. Teaching, instructing, and disciplining is not optional work – we want to impress God’s truths and teaching on our kids’ hearts.

You’ll remember I said at the beginning of this post I both “loved and hated” this film. Though I’ve mostly discussed what I found troubling, there were some things that make this film stand out. First, it is beautiful to watch. In striking black and white, the film feels timeless and set apart highlighting the gray subject matter of the film. Secondly, the film is impeccably edited. The director, Amanda Rose Wilder, condensed hours and hours of footage into a tight and engaging story that allows the viewers to feel like they are a spectator of the inner workings of the school. And, lastly, the film feels true. Though I didn’t agree with the philosophy of the school, the film itself reserved comments and ideas about what the viewers should take from it. Since there were no interviews or voiceovers or soundtrack, we simply got to watch the teacher and his students interact. We are to draw our own conclusions and this is why the film felt real and pure.

If Approaching the Elephant ever makes its way to Ragtag or Netflix, be sure to check it out. Through this film was frustrating in many ways, it was still engaging and caused me to roll out some of my thinking on how important teachers are for our children and their future.

Oct 182013
 

In my last post on preparing to teach a lesson, I addressed the teachers of Crossing Kids – the faithful people who communicate the Bible in God-honoring and creative ways. Equally important to preparing to teach a lesson is the exercise of evaluation after teaching. How easy it is to finish teaching in Crossing Kids and move on without ever taking to time to look back and evaluate your teaching. But without stepping back to evaluate, we miss an incredible opportunity to grow our teaching in the future.

It is often said in the educational world, “If you don’t know where you’ve been, you won’t know where you’re going,” This is so true for teachers. Without reflecting how a lesson was received, what worked well, and what would’ve worked better, a teacher cannot effectively plan lessons for the future.

Evaluating your lesson doesn’t have to be a time consuming or cumbersome project. In fact, it could just be thinking through some of the following questions as you drive home from church. In my years of teaching, I have found the best method of evaluation to be journaling in a notebook or even directly on the lesson plan. Use the following questions as a guide.

* What was the highlight of the lesson? What did kids respond best to? Think of specific examples.

* Which part of lesson was least effective? How did you notice kids responding?

* If you noticed your lesson getting off course, what did you do to correct it? Did this method work? Would you do this again?

* What did the students learn? How do you know they learned what you taught them? Think of some specific examples.

After thinking though your lesson, use this thinking as you prepare the next time. Consider how you might stretch yourself. Perhaps you need to leave more time for wrapping up the lesson or you need to do a better job at communicating expectations to volunteers. Whatever it is for you, use your evaluation to make changes in the future.

Why go through all this effort? Colassians 3:23-24 tells us,

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

We put in an incredible amount of work in to teaching in Crossing Kids to the best of our ability – not for ourselves, or the ministry, or the staff team, or The Crossing. No, we are to work at this with all our hearts for the Lord. He sees the effort you put into the lesson, not just or Sunday morning, but the hours you spend preparing and evaluating your lesson during the week.

Let us strive to serve Christ in all we do.

Mar 012013
 

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A few weeks ago, Keith Simon led a parenting seminar, “How Good Parents Ruin their Kids,” where he discussed the idea that parents are perhaps doing too much for their kids. Parents often strive for the ultimate goal of keeping their kids happy at all costs. While this might seem like a good thing in some ways, kids are struggling to cope with the challenges life throws at them because they have often been to coddled, sheltered, and protected from any difficulty.

Keith reminded us of our ultimate goal as Christian parents: to help guide our children to love and serve Jesus. This means allowing God to bring hardship into our kids’ lives to mature them in their faith. When we allow our children to experience hardship, challenges, and difficulties, we have an opportunity to use those experiences to point them to Jesus.

With these ideas in mind, I have long been intrigued by the concept of the outdoor classroom. Outdoor education is most popular in Europe, but is gaining some popularity in certain parts of the United States. The idea is simple – teachers facilitate meaningful learning in a outdoor environment exposing children to the hardship and beauty of the elements. Kids are allowed to experience the discomfort of being cold and hot and wet as they learn. They are encouraged to explore without the “safety” of the playground – they climb trees, cross streams, and get dirty. Teachers encourage kids to learn using real tools – matches to light fires, hammers, nails, & saws to construct, and pots and pans to cook over an open stove.

Watch this six minute video of an outdoor kindergarten in Norway to get a taste of the outdoor classroom.

While none of these schools are actively teaching Christianity (that I know of), I think this model would be ideal for pointing kids to God through enjoying the world He made – and the challenges and beauty in it. Since we don’t have any outdoor schools in Columbia, perhaps the next best thing would be to take our kids for hikes on the Katy trail or a camping trip in the Ozarks. Playing in the snow, climbing trees, pitching a tent in the backyard, collecting leaves, and planting a garden are all ways to help our kids experience the challenge and joy of God’s world.

What do you think about the idea of the outdoor classroom?