HOPE ANCHORS THE SOUL
We have this hope
as an anchor for the soul,
firm and secure.
Twenty years ago, Greater Grand Rapids was home to only a handful of environmental programs for local students. Inspired by a model that would anchor itself in the study of the great outdoors, encourage students to learn outside daily, and care for God’s creation, a small group of Grand Rapids Christian community members — including current teacher Phil Warners — was inspired to start their own program at Rockford Christian School.
“We want to care for our world because it is God’s gift to us,” says Warners, who notes that he gets to “plan adventures” for his students every week. These adventures are many and varied, taking place at local spots like Camp Roger and the school’s adjacent roadway, as well as farther-flung destinations like Au Sable Institute near Mancelona and Sleeping Bear Dunes.
Each month, fifth and sixth graders focus on a new, unique issue that is applied outside and in the classroom itself. In 2018-2019, the students studied a wide range of topics, including invasive species, water issues, and dependency on plastics.
Each week, regardless of the monthly topic, the students also spend one day at Camp Roger caring for their particular plot of land. Here, the students build their own shelter, study plant life, explore seasonal changes, and record it all in their environmental journals. “Every time we go outside, they’re writing about it,” says Warners.
Though the study of environmental impact can be a daunting one, Warners argues that fifth and sixth grade is the perfect time to jump in. “I would say this is an optimal time of life,” he says about students in this age group who maintain a certain energy and optimism about their impact on the world. “The truth is, they do have the ability to change things,” says Warners.
Students in the program work on a capstone project that focuses their attention on one particular issue that sparked their interest or passion throughout the year.
Each year, students in the environmental program are afforded the opportunity to view their lessons from a different perspective, all while breathing fresh air and contributing to the care and restoration of their environment. Here, they find hope in each small project and new revelation.
“We become environmentalists not because we love the world but because we love the Creator who gave us this world,” says Warners. “Hope can definitely be found when progress is made in certain areas and when we are seeing restoration.”
WHERE DO YOU SEE GOD?
“I saw God in the engineering that went into the building and machines. God made us smart, and we are caring for His world.”
Kendall VanderPloeg was inspired by the Kent County Recycling Center.
“I saw God through all the swans and geese we saw on the lake because they know when to head south and leave Michigan; only God could do that.”
Charlotte Segard was excited by the animal life at Pickerel Lake.
“I saw God through teamwork because people shared their ideas and helped each other like God would want us to.”
Josh Statema saw the beauty of communication at Camp Roger.