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Awe and Wonder at CSESA 2019

On November 14–15, 2019, 32 teachers from the US and Canada gathered at the Van Andel Education Institute for the fourth Christian School Educators Academy to learn an inquiry-based instruction model and collaborate with their peers on best practices.

Awe and wonder set the tone for cohort 4 of the Christian School Educators Science Academy (CSESA). How does one approach the awesome task of modeling for students to behold the intricate beauty in the world all around us? At CSESA, teachers are encouraged to take that awe and wonder and carefully unpack how God created things to work in our world (the intent of science) and how we can empower students to use their skills and talents of knowing how things work to solve problems (engineering) to redeem God’s world. The goal and objective of this training is to provide answers to these questions through high-quality science content training, networking, and collaboration with peers.

CSI STEM Education Specialist Susan Koppendrayer and Worldview Facilitator Ken Bergwerff, together with the four lead teachers and the VAEI staff, led an immersive inquiry-based training that addressed just that on November 14–15, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Teachers were divided into small groups based on grade levels and were encouraged to not only participate in the learning process but to share from their own expertise and the carefully crafted science programs that their own schools have developed. The power of community and networking were on display as resources and best practices were shared, as well as new strategies and techniques being learned. Overall, teachers left feeling refreshed and energized in their vocation to serve the next generation by faithfully and carefully teaching science. There is always something new and wonderful to discover in God’s creation, and this professional development event helps teachers to continue cultivating their curiosity and never stop learning and sharing with their students. Great teachers constantly look to improve and make tweaks to fit the ever-changing needs of today’s students, classrooms, and our world for God’s glory, and CSESA is one way the Curriculum and Instruction department at CSI can come alongside and support their efforts.

It takes a lot of work, planning, and finances to bring together 32–40 teachers each year for such a transformational professional development experience. Many Christian schools cannot afford to send their teachers to trainings like CSESA without a significant cost reduction. The CSI staff and teachers would like to express their gratitude to the faithful donors and CSI Foundation Board that made scholarships available for them to attend.

Thirty-two teachers of science from Christian schools in the US and Canada were thinking and acting like scientists by participating in projects with their peers.

Rachel Clark, middle school science teacher from East Martin Christian School, and Holly Garza, middle school teacher from Gilbert Christian, collaborated together on an inquiry-based investigation.

Dawn McCotter, teacher programs manager at the Van Andel Education Institute, introduced CSESA participants to their NexGen Inquiry Model and discussed tips for implementing the model.