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Active Not Passive Learning

The Christian school of today has to be both strategic and creative in terms of defining, delivering, documenting, and refining the learning program.
Schools, particularly, Christian schools have traditionally put a strong emphasis on the three core areas (Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic). We do this in hopes of instilling a high quality curriculum that honors God. Many Christian schools see themselves as counter to the educational establishment. Thus, they have the perception that they can remain distinctive and even counter-cultural by holding onto a timeless knowledge-based curriculum. However, schools that are pursuing excellence and striving to incorporate contemporary research and understanding of how we learn need to be open to change while guarding the sanctity of being God honoring. In all cases I would say that each Christian school holds the burden of creating programs that will be unique, relevant, and forward-thinking. Active learning is such an approach to teaching and learning. Essentially, we are convinced that the student needs to be a part of the learning and active in the instruction process. Research says that passive learners do not learn or have the same level of understanding that students who are intimately involved in the material and learning.
History of Active Learning at Salem Christian School
Integral to SCS’s design is a discipleship model. We desire that the faculty work closely with each student and serve as mentors to maturing young Christians. Active Learning (AL), has been something we have been working on for a few years. Specifically, we are endeavoring to provide an active learning model that offers students learning experiences that include yet surpass traditional learning models, as it effectively builds both academic and life skills in students. Our model looks at students as apprentices. We desire to come alongside the student and guide them towards mastery of the skills and content.
AL, as defined and developed at Salem Christian School, starts from two premises:
  1. that good teaching is diverse in its delivery, expectations, and format so that it matches the students’ learning and developmental needs and;
  2. Project Based Learning allows for diverse modes of delivery that encourages the learner to be actively engaged in the process. It is an effort to recognize that all students are created by God with unique gifts and talents and that a learning program beyond books and paper is apt to reach a student at least differently or perhaps better.
We look at data, research, and practices that originally arose in the 1980’s. In the beginning educators were generally looking for better alternatives of assessment, learning styles, and overall school reform. To read more about this you can reference prominent voices in education such as Howard Gardner (Multiple Intelligences), Cynthia Tobias (The Way They Learn), Jay McTighe (Understanding by Design), and Grant Wiggins (Authentic Education). Additionally, a great resource would be Essential Questions by Tighe and Wiggins. Collectively these works in addition to the teaching methods of Jesus have informed our teaching and curricular goals.
Our practice is directly informed by the emphasis on Expected Student Outcomes (ESOs), by organizations such as the Association of Christian Schools International, Pennsylvania State Standards, and the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges. Secondly, the newer Wiggins/McTighe material, “Understanding by Design,” offers much in the realm of performance assessment.
What Active Learning Looks Like at SCS:
All forms of alternative learning models have multiple expressions or names. Fundamentally, educational leaders have to decide if the form under consideration is going to be an inner classroom approach, an interdisciplinary approach, or an out-of-classroom approach. In our setting, all effort in this regard is in addition to the core knowledge curriculum. This can best be seen by looking at the daily schedule. We have block scheduling so that the student can deeper engage the content in the high school, minimal core teachers in the middle school, and adequate allotted time to the crucial material in elementary. Additionally, we have Math Lab in the high school. This course is unique to SCS and is project based learning so that the students can deepen their math skills in addition to better preparation for the SAT and PSAT. Some of the most important outcomes of a project include creativity, collaboration, time and deadline management, resource allocation, and a myriad of other skills transferable to larger life.
This year, we are working to organize all of our programatic choices on data we are collecting. We hope to use the data to bring about a better understanding of what our students are retaining. Thus, we can develop a stronger efficacy in the classroom experience for everyone. The goal is that students will learn to see how learning is their responsibility and that the instructor’s responsibility is to ensure that the content and skills are presented in a manner that inspires the students to think bigger and bolder.
Active Learning is not an end in itself, but merely underpins the overall learning program at our school. I mention this because there is a tendency in the realm of alternative assessment to sideline good, solid, and worthwhile content learning in the name of “experiential learning.” Active learning reaches beyond experiential. It does not transform the instructor into an actor on stage. Rather, it pulls everyone into the process. It shares responsibility. Similar to theater production, each act, scene, and line are different depending on the actor and script. This is challenging. Some of us do better than others. And, some subjects better lend to the model. However, everyone is expected to be working towards this end. God calls us for excellence, a constant move towards “better”. SCS develops students to love God with all their mind, body, and soul so that we meet the holistic outcomes of a biblically based, God honoring, robust, and life-shaping Christian education.

 

Head of School Blog

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truth ahead

Developing A Worldview On Truth

Continuing from last week, I am very interested in how truth is instilled in students who are bombarded with fake news, situational ethcs, and other conflicts to the Christian way of viewing the world. Do you agree with me that a central part of our job as parents and Christian educators is to develop worldviews built on truth?

 

Dr. Moreland, in his books Kingdom Triangle and Love Your Guide With All Your Mind, asserts that a “three-way worldview struggle rages in our culture
between:
  • ethical monotheism,
  • postmodernism,
  • and scientific naturalism” (22).

 

Ethical monotheism states that all truth is based upon God and what He has to say about how the universe is and how we shall live. As a follower of Christ, we model ourselves around the truth as found in the Bible. This truth guides our ethical and moral decisions. Without this biblical view, we would not have solid ground upon which to anchor our lives, philosophies, and ideas. Moreland carefully explores the challenges and limitations of these worldviews, and concludes that “scientific naturalism is exposed as the shallow destructive fraud that it really is” (59) and that “postmodernism is a form of intellectual pacifism” (88). I encourage you to read more about this in his Kingdom Triangle book and YouTube lectures.

 

Scientific naturalism leaves the believer with a humanistic view of truth. If you don’t believe in anything supernatural – God, gods, ghosts, immaterial souls and spirits – then you subscribe to naturalism, the idea that nature is all there is. The reason you’re a naturalist is likely that, wanting not to be deceived, you put stock in empirical, evidence-based ways of justifying beliefs about what’s real, as for instance exemplified by science. Usually, these folks start with premise that there is no God (uninterested in evidence to the contrary) and go about proving their view correct through faith in their ability to apply scientific method and their finite understanding to all things.
It is important to fight these false narratives. Therefore, to combat these or any other worldviews, Moreland offers five crucial questions that can be used as a tool for analyzing them:
  1. What is real?
  2. What are the nature and limits of knowledge?
  3. Who is well off? What is the good life?
  4. Who is a really good person?
  5. How does one become a really good person? (59).

 

In summary, Moreland says “Culture has been hindered by a loss of belief among cultural elites in particular, and the broader public in general, in the existence of non-empirical, nonscientific knowledge, especially of moral and religious knowledge” (97). The education that this Christian school here in this part of the Lehigh Valley can impact the world by instilling truth and inoculating the future from the nonsense that looks to tear them down.

 

We believe this so much that we have decided to assess the worldview and spiritual life of our students. This assessment has provided us great data that we plan on strategically using in order to ensure our students grasp the truth and demonstrate a love for their God that is unparalleled in every aspect of their lives.

Head of School Blog

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collegefund

Act 529 Savings Plan

The recent tax reform law created a great opportunity for Christian schools and families. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was signed into law December 22, 2017. A law in which has been widely supported across the Christian school and non-public school movement.
The new law expanded 529 savings plans so that they now allow savings for K–12 tuition expenses. The maximum distribution for K–12 tuition is $10,000 per year per child for expenses incurred beginning January 1, 2018. This means current account owners may begin using these funds immediately for K–12 tuition! (Be aware that Pennsylvania is still updating the laws so Pennsylvania’s state tax treatment may not yet be finalized.)
The practical effect of the change is that, beginning January 1, 2018, parents can begin to save for both college expenses and for K–12 tuition expenses and the earnings will grow free of federal tax. Special federal tax provisions exist for treatment of gifts to 529 savings plans so that even grandparents or extended family may contribute. This is a huge benefit you may want to talk to a tax accountant about in order to better plan for your continued enrollment at Salem Christian School.
Sources:
CAPE-PA, ACSI, Legislative Update, and NY Times.
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enrollment

Re-Enrollment

Re-enrollment Begins February 1, 2018. We anticipate some of our grades to reach capacity, please be sure to get your re-enrollment completed quickly.
All of the information you have for each of your children and family is already present in RenWeb. You will simply need to update anything that is incorrect, download the non-public school state forms, and submit the family enrollment fee.
  • You will find the Enrollment/Re-enrollment tab that directs you to the enrollment packet within the Family Information section of ParentsWeb.
  • A new page will open with the names of your children and an option to Start Enrollment Packet or Will Not Enroll.
Once you begin a packet you will be walked through the process page by page. Most of the information will already be there. Please be sure it is up to date.
Feedback will be provided throughout the process to help you complete the enrollment packet.
During the process you will need to choose your tuition payment plan and download the documents. Each child is enrolled separately; therefore, you could potentially pick a different plan for each child. If need be, the school will assign you one plan for the family.
After you have completed the enrollment packet, a Submit Enrollment Packet and Make Payment form will appear. Upon submission of the $150 family enrollment fee, you will receive an email confirmation.
In order to complete the enrollment process, please complete the checklist items listed below, including submission of all supplemental enrollment forms.
Submit completed supplemental forms:
If you have any questions about the process or would prefer paper processing, please feel free to contact the school at schoolinfo@salemchristian.org and/or 610-966-5823.
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