Transition points in student’s lives – moving from elementary to middle school, from middle school to high school, and from high school to college are often times of great change and upheaval, as well as significant markers in student’s personal development. These are often times when new friendships are formed, old friendships shed, and new personas or identities appear. They are times when students consider where they have been, where they are going, and how they will approach the next phase of the journey. These transition points can be key times for schools to help students do some reflecting on the deeper questions of life via culminating experiences.
Some Christian schools ask students specifically at these transition points to reflect on, and articulate the development of their faith perspective. These culminating experiences allow students to make connections between head, heart, and hands, and students are often asked to communicate these connections to significant persons in their lives. Schools have reported that these times can be very valuable experiences for the students personally, for the continued encouragement of the faith of students in general, for the encouragement of teachers and parents who are participants, and for assessing whether the school is being faithful in meeting its mission.
One school that has been developing and refining the senior presentation concept for several years is Lynden Christian School in Lynden, Washington. Superintendent Don Kok is very enthusiastic about what he has seen:
“The entire staff (preschool – 12th grade and Board members who are available) is involved in listening to the presentations. It is an absolute delight to hear their stories especially when you may have had them as students during the lower or middle grades. It is wonderful to hear about their journey and their goals for the future. Themes that I have heard over the years are the influence of people in their lives who have made a significant impact (parents and teachers are usually named), and critical events (illness or death in family, particular activity such as work experience or trip, etc.)”
Principal Keith Lambert has seen many refinements over the time that he and others began the process of senior presentations with students. He reports that the staff continues to look at incorporating new ideas. One of the new approaches that is being considered for addition is a focus on using Strength Finder materials to help students identify and develop their gifts through the high school years. (For more information on Lynden’s program, see his article in the upcoming Winter 2008 Christian School Teacher magazine.)
Lambert concluded: “We have been very excited about it (senior presentation) – this is one of those things that, long after I am gone, they will be doing this – it’s a fixture of the school.”
I know that there are other schools out there doing similar great things using this kind of approach to nurture reflective thinking around issues of faith and life – would you be willing to share what you are doing by posting a comment? That way others who are interested in putting culminating experiences together can get in touch with you to learn more.
*(For an explanation and definition of Faith Enhancing Practices see my post of February 3, 2007 entitled “What’s the difference between teachers?”) If you are interested in seeing all 12 Faith Enhancing Practices modules at once, you can go to the Member Community Center and access them there.