Holding hands in praise

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Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; 
make known among the nations what He has done. 
Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all His wonderful acts.

Psalm 105:1-2 

At Grand Rapids Christian Elementary School’s Evergreen Campus, a balanced learning approach is at the core of every experience. Focused on “learning with less interruption,” the campus adheres to a balanced calendar that adds days at the end of the school year and redistributes them throughout the year. 

Two of these weeks, one in the fall and one in the spring, are activated in the form of enrichment opportunities that take students outside of the classroom to gain a different perspective.

In the fall, Evergreen students visit Camp Roger in a four-day program focused on outdoor education. “They’re outside almost the whole time that they are at Camp Roger,” says Principal Ann Bakker. Learning valuable skills like canoeing, map reading, orienteering, archery, outdoor survival including making shelters, and more, students are immersed in the West Michigan forest. 

“It is a really wonderful change of pace that seems to be very beneficial for staff and students alike,” says Team 3 Teacher Graham Schultze.

Camp Roger staff also worked diligently to incorporate the school-wide theme of “Communication in God’s Garden” into their curriculum, demonstrating the communication necessary in lessons like outdoor safety. “They did a really nice job of focusing in with our theme,” says Bakker. “Communication is not just about talking, but it’s about everything we do in our daily lives.”

In February, students were afforded a much different experience, heading indoors to the labs at the Van Andel Education Institute. “It was pretty amazing,” says Bakker.  “We were the first school group that did on-site education for a whole week at Van Andel Institute.” 

Bakker and Schultze worked with Student Program Manager Randy Schregardus, M.Ed., who crafted a four-day program for the Evergreen group. Working in two different buildings, the students were immersed in three to four different activities throughout the week, such as creating microhabitats for aquatic animals or building a structure that could withstand a simulated earthquake.

Small groups also ventured uphill to the research center for face time with the scientists. “The instructors at Van Andel were just phenomenal, and the kids were totally engaged,” says Schultze.

Schultze also notes that the benefits of Evergreen’s multi-age structure are even more evident in these unique environments outside of the classroom. “You get to see something that the Evergreen students already love so much go to the next level,” he says.

By allowing students to take a break from traditional classes during their flex weeks at Evergreen, optional enrichment opportunities like these offer a deeper look into a certain field of study, as well as a refreshing pause from the classroom. “Flex weeks offer a little bit of respite from the day-to-day…without totally jarring kids out of rhythm,” says Schultze.

Confident in their tried and true education partner in Camp Roger and hoping the Van Andel Institute experience was only the first of many, Bakker and Schultze are committed to these distinctive weeks available only at Evergreen.

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