At Carmel New Church School, we strive to engage students on all five domains; intellectual, physical, social, emotional and spiritual. Intellectually, students are engaged through academic discussions and independent exploration. Physical engagement is stimulated through kinesthetic learning opportunities and extensive hands-on experiences. An environment is cultivated that lends itself to social-emotional learning and interconnected relationships, resulting in peer instruction and support. We aim to foster an emotional connection with learning and an affection for personal growth. Most importantly, at the very core of everything we do here, are the faith-based New Church teachings that are vastly interwoven in our course material, everyday routines and relationships.
Students are so often engaged in only one capacity, with lessons appealing to just one of the five domains. A lack of engagement leads to a lack of passion for learning.
A few years ago, environmental awareness and the protection of resources became a hot topic in schools, echoing words like stewardship and conservation. While teaching children meanings and definitions, a large focus was placed on “becoming a steward”, encouraging students to become advocates for the environment and nature. Students could converse and debate using the language appropriate for the topics using keywords such as ‘endangered’, ‘extinct’, and ‘threatened’.. These concepts were introduced as early as grade one, when the curriculum states that students learn about habitat, food chains, the basic needs of living things, and the effect of the changing seasons. Students at this level were just beginning to understand what a living thing truly is.
Children at that grade level had no problem learning and memorizing those concepts and terms. The issue was that they could not understand the weight carried by those terms. They didn’t yet know why humans cutting down trees affects the wildlife, how open faced mining eliminates the homes of animals in the surrounding area and why amphibians are losing wetlands due to pollution. They didn’t understand these things because they hadn’t learned about the habitats and homes of these living creatures and they hadn’t had enough real life experiences with these animals to develop an affection for them. Students were being taught words that they could regurgitate, without having any real attachment or understanding of the material
The above situation shows the impact of appealing to a single learning domain. Without embracing all domains, the student is left lacking passion for the subject, and having no drive propelling them forward to explore new concepts. In the absence of that spark of affection for education, there is nothing connecting a student to their education.
At the Carmel New Church School, our small class sizes let us understand students as individuals and know their interests. We can personalize their education, infusing lessons with their passions and connecting class material to their interests. This appeals intimately to the emotional domain. Once a student is emotionally invested they can begin to understand intellectually.
At CNCS, Montessori and Waldorf philosophies are built into our teaching structure ‒ appealing to the interests of the student through learning in an integrated and holistic manner. This means that much of the learning is done through hands-on, involved activities that appeal to the five senses. It is not uncommon to see student’s art displayed in the halls of the school, or up on the walls in the classroom. Dioramas and murals are often cooperatively created by students as visual depictions of class material. Physical re-enactments of scenes from novels is a school favorite, and helps bring to life the content of the story in a very tangible way for students. Off-site field trips are often taken as auxiliary educational opportunities. Controlled science experiments are conducted in the classroom and are often student-led when appropriate ‒ granting the time and navigation necessary for understanding processes and concepts. These hands-on (physical and intellectual) activities are used across the curriculum in all subjects including math, science, reading, writing and more.
Many of these activities are done in groups. A large portion of an education at CNCS is working with peers and learning from them. This promotes social-emotional learning. When students work with peers, they begin to develop necessary skills such as self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, social awareness, and relationship skills. Group or partner work is practiced across all subject areas and often includes extending to different grades as well. Students in the grade 3 and 4 combined classroom will practice their reading by reading to a Kindergartener. Older students in the grade 7 and 8 combined classroom will give presentations to grades 5 and 6. This allows the older students to feel a sense of responsibility as the younger students look up to them as role models. The younger students learn aspects of new material and look forward to when they get to participate in that project in the future grades. The very composition of our classes aids in this social-emotional learning as well. Having two consecutive grades in the same classroom space allows for learning from multilevel peers.
At the heart of our education are the spiritual teachings of the New Church. Biblical lessons and ideals are prominently integrated into the curriculum. Students begin each day with a chapel service or classroom worship. They recite recitations from verses in the bible, attend scripture classes and partake in schoolwide, liturgical chorus singing class. The teachings from the bible emerge in class discussion as questions and considerations in connection to the material. The goal in all of this is to teach students to live a good and moral life while their relationship with God flourishes.
At Carmel New Church School, we understand that without appealing to all five domains, the student will not develop a full affection for learning. Teachers ensure that each domain is intentionally targeted through planned lessons and activities. This kind of education is more aptly referred to as holistic learning ‒ educating the heart, the mind and the soul.