On Monday, August 19, 2013, 22 children lined up at the recently renovated modular classroom building on the southeast corner of the G.O.D. Intl. property. They had on school uniforms and backpacks. Seven of them were attending their very first day of kindergarten. This was the official launch of the G.O.D. Elementary School, an alternative, multiple-intelligences school that enables students to learn academically through hands-on activities.
Our educational philosophy is based on the idea that the development of children, as individuals, cannot be accurately “measured” by standardized testing. Such a limited rubric for growth cannot take into account the personality of the child, the various learning styles children possess, or even the social, emotional and spiritual development of the child. While there are many ways in which a child can exhibit his or her intelligence, the traditional approach to education caters to children gifted in two intellectual arenas—linguistic intelligence, and logical/mathematical intelligence. Students who don't fall into those categories are likely to struggle academically, and often end up being labeled as subpar students. They suffer the stigma of failing to thrive in the traditional classroom environment, which largely involves sitting, listening, and writing.
But there are so many other forms of intelligence. There are those who have spatial intelligence, able to see and create something from a picture in their mind. Some are incredibly smart with their hands and physical bodies, and their kinesthetic intelligence requires them to move and do in order to learn. Musical gifting is another form of intelligence, and involves hearing rhythm, pattern, sound, and is largely neglected by the traditional educational setting. Kids with intelligences not acknowledged by the system learn to neglect their innate strengths, and often struggle in their attempt to adapt to the way the classroom works.
Our school acknowledges children as moral and social beings, and all subjects are geared to address the holistic development of each child. This kind of instruction is supported by our student/teacher ratio of seven children to two adults. The students are learning the important basics that are also taught in most other schools, but they are learning them in a different way. The school day often begins in the garden, with students getting their hands dirty and learning how to grow food—along with the host of life lessons that accompany such a task. Some of the other subjects include problem solving, reading and writing, history, ethics and the Bible, Hebrew, physical health, anatomy and physiology, building, the arts, and home economics.
In an effort to reach each student and appeal to the different types of intelligences, classroom instruction is made tangible and tactile. Hands-on learning, which engages the whole person, facilitates the kind of learning that children do not forget, solidifies into permanent knowledge and fosters critical thinking skills.
For example, we teach math through problem solving rather than worksheets, as numbers are intangible concepts that kids understand better when applied to the real world that they can touch, feel and see—things they can literally grasp with their own two hands.
In building class, students learn mastery of tools and then actually get to build practical things. The curriculum is project-based, so that all the subjects are integrated into engaging, hands-on projects that help the kids connect what they are learning in each class. As students collaborate to complete these challenging tasks, they experience the satisfaction of accomplishment through interdependence. While they “play,” they attain mastery of the content matter, without ever having had to cram for a test.
Technology is incorporated into each arena of learning, another distinctive of G.O.D. Elementary School. We acknowledge the technological age not only as the future, but as the present. Through the use of the iPad in the classroom and at home, we teach the children online responsibility and over time they will acquire the ability to filter through information and discern between that which is of value, and that which is not. This skill alone is considered to be one of the most crucial skills the next generation can possess and is even determinative of their success in society as adults.(1) The iPad is also an multifaceted teaching tool, opening up all kinds of resources we otherwise wouldn't be able to access, and increasing teaching efficiency.
As the year progresses, teachers will pay close attention to the emergence of the students’ individual learning preferences, identifying the intelligences they each possess (which most often become apparent around seven or eight years old). Instruction in the classroom can then be tailored to their learning style. By the time students are around 10 years old, teachers will have identified students’ primary intelligences, and the students will have developed practical interests that they want to pursue. These interests will have been guided by the ethical instruction of the Bible, which results in educational pursuits that benefit not only an individual, but society as a whole.
Our hope is to develop each child holistically into a person who knows how to think critically and can interact with the world around them in such a way that society benefits, and to develop students that take responsibility for the world they live in, and who recognize that it’s the kind of people that they are that matters most.
(1) The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project Online Survey of Teachers, March 7 to April 23, 2012. Based on a non-representative sample of 2,067 middle and high school teachers.