Category Archives: kids/culture

The urge to protect and the faith to fly

Source: Flickr via Mike_tn @

The day had come! As I sat down at my desk I realized the nest was empty. The last robin had left the nest and was sitting down below the nest under the deck rafters. It looked unready for the next step, tufts of feather fluff hanging off all parts of its body. I noticed also that the mother had not abandoned it, but kept bringing food to it on a regular basis. I wondered how long the life of this baby might last given predators and its seeming inability to find its own food. It finally moved into the grass area and began to give a few tentative hops, emulating the movement of its mother. Its wings were not any more ready to fly than the two sets of five gosling babies further away in the yard, but they certainly appeared more robust and capable of defending themselves.

I began to think about the love/care that God built into these bird creatures, and thought about the fact that this is how God has made them – they, not being capable of rational thought, simply act in what we would call blind faith. Certainly deciding to conceive and raise children is an act of faith. We cannot see what the future holds for any of us in the next few minutes or hours of our lives, yet we must, like the robin parent, just move ahead with life, as we cannot wrap our minds around what might happen next. We also know that if we cage our young, they will never develop the wing strength to soar.

We have opportunities to work with “short-winged” and “fluffy-feathered” ones every day. We are teaching them how to not only survive but thrive in a world where they will be a distinct minority in terms of their worldview. As evidence, I submit Kenda Dean’s recent estimate in her book Almost Christian that only 8% of youth have “a creed to believe, a community to belong to, a call to live out, and a hope to hold on to.” Barna’s estimates from his research suggest that only 3% of those ages 18-41 hold a biblical worldview. When we see these numbers it may make us desire to protect and shelter our students even more – but like the parent robin, our best contribution may be modeling a vibrant faith and faithful way of living, so that the remnant of youth that we have opportunity to work with may be seeing the world clearly, being challenged to apply the Gospel, and to be the prophetic and faithful Daniels/Danielles of this coming generation.


Leave a comment

Filed under devotional, early faith, encouraging the heart, kids/culture, student outcomes

Two faith enhancing resources worth noting

I would like to share two resources that merit attention and may be helpful in nurturing faith with students.

The story of Corrie Ten Boom is one that some of us may be familiar with – a Christian woman in the Netherlands who hid Jews from persecution during the Holocaust. I learned about a resource related to this story from former Rehoboth Executive Director, Ron Polinder, who happened to sit down on a flight next to Susan Sandager, an actor who presents a one-woman dramatization called Time with Corrie.  The informational brochure and contact information can be found here:  Corrie Ten Boom -SandagerBrochure-7 copy.  I believe with Ron that “Corrie’s story is one that we and our children and grandchildren and students should never forget–it is an important message . . .” There is much that our students can gain from the stories of heroes of faith such as Corrie that is instructive and inspirational for their own lives. The sharing of narratives and faith stories is one of the best ways that we can encourage faith in our students.

Kiva is a way to help connect people through lending to reduce poverty in the world. Individuals or organizations can lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world. The Kiva website indicates that there has been about $300 million dollars lent by 739,477 lenders since 2005 and that the repayment rate has been 98.94%! This seems amazing! Kiva does this work through 147 field partners and 450 volunteers in 61 countries around the world.

How Kiva Works from Kiva on Vimeo.

What is compelling to me about Kiva is that it is giving a hand up, as opposed to a hand out. If a class or classroom were to collect money, select a project, and connect with an individual, not only that individual could be helped, but the money could be reused next year with another class. Or ideally, if each class were to raise funds, there could be additional people helped each year due to the repaid money and the new funds. There are currently over 1,070 school teams lending money. The leading team is a school from Honolulu that has lent over $118,650! They have made it part of their senior capstone project. I’d love to see one of our Christian schools at the top of the leader board – what a great way to engage our kids globally!

Leave a comment

Filed under classroom, kids/culture, leadership, resources, stewardship

Social networking in education…lol or idk?

Wordle created from words in this post -

(Thanks to my friend Mary Beth Pollema, Spanish teacher at Central Minnesota Christian School, for sharing this blog post.)

Let’s face it—social networking is here to stay! Though some people would argue that it encourages poor spelling and improper capitalization and punctuation habits, recent studies are showing that all the texting, tweeting, blogging, posting, etc. that students are doing is not “dumbing them down”, but is actually contributing to them becoming more literate and fluent in their writing.  The point is– they’re reading and writing. And thanks to social networking it’s quite possible that they’re doing it more now than ever before.  As a language arts teacher, I can get behind that and even be excited about it because I believe there are ways to use social networking tools to enhance education and I have even had some positive experiences in my classroom with blogs, wikis and Twitter.

My favorite tool with my freshmen English class is Blogger.  I haven’t always known how to use this application.  In fact, I haven’t always been an English teacher—I’m a Spanish teacher who writes as a hobby.  But in my first year of teaching at my current school, I found that tucked in among the various Spanish classes on my schedule was a lone English 9 class.  My administrator asked me to focus on teaching writing.  Not a problem, I thought, I love to write!  But it was a definite challenge that year because I found that very few of my students shared my passion for writing.  Yes, they did a lot of writing for me and some of it was of good quality, but I could tell they didn’t enjoy it.  And when they handed in their final drafts to be read by me–their audience of one—as far as they were concerned, the assignment was done.

I knew I needed to try to build some enthusiasm for the task of writing so I integrated Blogger the very next school year with my new batch of freshmen.  The shift in my students’ attitudes towards writing has been dramatically positive though the writing assignments have generally remained the same.  With Blogger, my students now have an online platform through which to share their writing with others and to respond to the writing of their peers.  I believe this gives them a whole new impetus for writing since we all have an innate desire to have our voice be heard and our words be read.

Blogging helps to foster critical thinking, evaluation and creativity skills.  Students not only learn to write, but also to design a blogspot in their own customized style and to provide constructive criticism via posts on their classmates’ blogspots.  Even after the final drafts are published the students are reading their classmates’ writings and responding to them and this is happening both during class time AND outside of class time—simply because they like to interact online   I have found that is a wonderful tool to teach writing.  And best yet—it’s completely free and easy to use!  (I hope to write more about wikis and educational uses for Twitter in future posts.)

1 Comment

Filed under classroom, discernment, kids/culture, student outcomes

End of the year learning roundup

from Flickr via Creative Commons -

We have reached the finish line for this year! I hope you have enjoyed reading Nurturing Faith. I keep a number of files of ideas to use when writing this blog and I still have a variety of interesting things that I would like to share with you below. Enjoy!

15 provocative things to read

Grand Rapids Christian High did an “old fashioned social network” and found it had unexpected results! Read about their “sharing wall.”

Want better student engagement in your class? See 7 Solutions for Educators Who Want 21st Century Students to Tune In.

The limits of standardized testing are well articulated by this AP student.

With increasing technology use, what is the role of the teacher – are they a dispensable algorithm or indispensable artist?

Helpful summary of how technology impacts the brain.

Can you get kids to talk about what you want them to discuss using backchanneling?

Why persistence and grit matter so much.

What TV and movies are doing to our girls.

Is your kindergarten teacher worth $320,000?

Take this 10 question quiz to see if you are a tech savvy teacher.

McREL says there are 5 things that make the  biggest difference in schools.

What contributes most to an effective middle school?

A great resource site for new teachers divided by levels.

Best sites to check out how to use iPads in education.

Three reports that you should take a look at:

The-Rise-of-K-12-Blended-Learning – produced by Innosight Institute – it has very helpful explanations of blended learning models and gives 40 profiles of schools implementing new models.

The 2011-Horizon-Report-K12 “examines emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in teaching, learning, and creative expression within the environment of pre-college education.surface significant trends and challenges and to identify a wide array of potential technologies for the report. ”

Draft of Technology in Early Childhood Programs 4-29-2011 – final report to be published this fall – bookmark the NAEYC website.


The Story is a unique chronological version of the Bible written by Max Lucado and produced by Zondervan with a focus on God’s story to his people throughout history. CSI will be making this resource and accompanying materials available to schools – contact Bible specialist Kent Ezell ( at CSI for more info. He has been blogging on this resource here and here.

RADCAB: Your Vehicle for Information Evaluation is a book written by Calvin Christian (Minnesota) teacher Karen Christensson that is designed to help upper elementary and middle school kids think critically about information online. The acronym RADCAB stands for six important concepts for evaluating information.

Book: 21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn – eds. Bellanca and Brandt, Solution Tree, 2010.

Book: 99 Thoughts for Parents of Teenagers: The Truth on Raising Teenagers from Parents Who Have Been There – the latest from Walt Mueller.

Your continued learning

In my speaking lately I have been encouraging schools to consider the power of PLN’s – Personal Learning Networks. If you are not familiar with the term or want to learn more, I suggest that you start here and here.

If you haven’t checked out Twitter, read why I am excited about it here and then get started!

Have a wonderful summer!

Yours for continued learning,

Dan Beerens


Filed under curriculum, kids/culture, leadership, parenting, resources, staff development

How do we best develop empathy in our kids?

Empathy in a carton by Geoff Jones - used via Creative Commons license,

Following NPR’s Andy Carvin on Twitter the past month has meant an almost continuous stream of “retweets” of those in the action in Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Yemen, and other hotspots. The tweets have been raw, unedited, emotionally wrenching, and urgent. They impacted my thinking and my prayer life. Yet was that an appropriate response? Should I somehow do more?

I recently read an article that commented on the fact that donations for the crisis in Japan were running behind those of the earlier crisis in Haiti and with Katrina. The experts suggested that we perceived a greater need in Haiti based on a lesser self-sufficiency. They also mentioned that the needs were more clearly articulated in the Haiti and Katrina crises. Is it then perceived neediness, need articulation, or does the location of the crisis make a difference?

In our digitally connected world, on what basis do we decide which crisis to pay attention to and use for teaching purposes? Has our technology outstripped our ability to respond empathetically? How do we avoid a generalized dulling of our ability to feel our neighbor’s pain? Who is our neighbor and how can I possibly respond to all of my neighbors? Which neighbors do I pay attention to? These are questions that I believe are important to discuss with our colleagues and fellow staff members.

Leave a comment

Filed under change, community, kids/culture, stewardship, use of time

Interesting stuff department

For those of you who don’t have the time to read an article (!) – some hopefully interesting stuff!

Wonder Department:

Life is found in deepest layer of Earth’s crust

Inner life of a cell

Marketing your school – great resources/videos

A series of six short videos produced by Covenant Christian in Sydney

Discover Christian Schools – excellent advocacy site

Have you seen Mustard Seed’s new documentary video?

Health Department

Effects of bad bosses

Teen depression likely to recur

I like this:

Holland Christian hallway art - photo by Wesley Fryer on Flickr

Learning is fun department

Here is a very cool country comparison site – compare any two countries in the world.

I am working my way through American Grace – by the author of “Bowling Alone” –  here is a helpful review by our friend Mark Eckel.

For all you futurists out there – 100 Things to Watch in 2011 – thanks to Rex Miller for sharing this via Twitter.

What books are you reading with your faculties or on your own and finding helpful? Please leave a title in the comments section – see link to comments up by the beginning of this post. Thanks!


Filed under book, kids/culture, leadership, resources

Articulation is not an art, but a passion!

I have sung in many choirs with different directors over the years and without fail, and regardless of the skill level of the choir, each director has encouraged the choir members to articulate more clearly. Bottom line, even though the choir members have spent hours learning the notes, phrasing, intonation, timing, and expression, if they don’t articulate the words carefully, they are failing to communicate. Singers may be aware of the importance of clear enunciation and even have the desire to communicate the message, but articulation requires sustained, focused, and passionate energy to succeed.

According to David Kinnaman and Barna Research, teens are not articulating their faith with clarity. Even though kids like the concept of being Christian, the researchers are finding that kids are having less conversations about what they believe. What is more surprising is that among Protestant teens, the Barna study states “they are more likely to pray, go to worship services, read the Bible and attend youth group meetings than were Protestant-affiliated teens a dozen years ago.” It appears that our kids have bought the idea that we are to inclusive and not offend anyone – even when it comes to our deepest convictions of faith. Where would they get this idea?

Christian Smith, in his impressive Soul Searching study of 13-17 year old students, tells us that we get what we are – in other words, our kids are emulating our behavior. In a recent study by the Christian Reformed Church (the church out of which many CSI schools were born), the devotional habits of adults are in serious decline. For example, the percentage of families having daily devotions has declined from 60% in 1992 to 43% in 2007. If we don’t engage in regular spiritual disciplines, how can we expect our kids to? If they don’t see us sharing our faith with others, how can we expect that they will?

In a video clip I use in workshops, the avowed atheist entertainer, Penn Jillette, speaks about an encounter with a businessman who gave him a New Testament after a performance. Penn respected that gesture and believes that everyone who feels strongly about their faith should be proselytizing. He likens the lack of sharing one’s faith to seeing a truck bearing down on someone and not trying to push them out of the way. In other words if you believe that a person is going to hell and you have a way to save them, but don’t tell them, you are acting as if you hate them.

Are we teaching kids how to have conversations about Jesus? Are we modeling that for them in our own lives?


Filed under devotional, kids/culture, parenting, student outcomes, worship