Category Archives: Blog

Math Can Be Understandable And Relatable

In my math classes one of my main goals is to make math understandable and relatable. So often the subject is approached with fear and anxiety because it seems abstract and incomprehensible. I think one of the main contributors to this mindset is the way math is taught. While it is a subject that requires rote memorization at times, I am a firm believer in the importance of understanding the concepts the students learn in addition to the ability to complete the process correctly.

Some of my favorite topics to teach are fractions and pi. I find that students, and adults, learn, and remember, when the events surrounding the lesson are memorable. Learning also becomes more meaningful when it is directly related to life or can be seen in concrete examples. When I teach adding and subtracting fractions I have the kids act out a story as I narrate. They are characters in the skit and act out a series of word problems. The more exciting the story the more they get into their characters whether it be 1/5 or 1/10. When they are later struggling with a problem I can remind them of the time that they were a spy named 1/10 who had to meet up with their friend 1/10 and together there were 2/10.

One of my favorite days this year was definitely Pi day (March 14 – 3/14). Many of my older students in grades 4-6 had worked with pi before when talking about circumference and area of a circle. My third graders had not yet studied pi, but all my students could benefit from a deeper understanding of pi. I placed a series of circular objects around the room. Each student was given a string and a ruler to measure the circumference and then diameter of the objects. As the students divided each circumference by their respective diameter it was awesome to watch realization and interest dawn on their face as each answer seemed eerily similar. In each class we had a great discussion about why all the answers to the each problem were almost identical.

I am consistently impressed with my students’ interest in math, determination, and eagerness to learn more. It is a joy to help build the foundation for each of my students in such a fundamental subject.

Lydia Staats has been teaching 5th and 6th graders on the Beverly campus since September 2015.

Life Cycles and God’s Amazing Creation

Over the past two months, third graders on the Lynn campus have been observing the life cycles of two different insects: the milkweed bug and the darkling beetle.  Our STEM curriculum provides students the opportunity to observe the patterns of growth and development for each of these organisms and to analyze these organisms and their different life cycles.  Students observed and made weekly log entries of the milkweed bug by drawing a picture of the bug and noting the life cycle stage.  The milkweed bug has 3 stages of development:  egg, nymph and adult.  Students observed the bug grow from nymph to adult and saw these colorful black and orange bugs change more in size than any other property we could observe.

At the same time, students observed mealworms and logged their observations each week by drawing a picture, and then noting the stage of development and any growth from the previous week.  Similar to butterflies, mealworms have 4 stages of development including egg, larva, pupa and adult.  They undergo complete metamorphosis during the pupa stage before transforming into an adult darkling beetle.  Just this week, students have finally observed the black adult darkling beetle!  It has been interesting to observe how completely this organism changes through each stage of its development.

The students’ intrigue with both of these tiny creatures has been a reminder to us of the diversity and patterns in God’s creation.   We have learned that organisms have unique life cycles, but all life cycles include birth, growth, reproduction and death.  God is an intelligent creator and just as he has designed these creatures to morph and change (sometimes undergoing a complete transformation like the darkling beetle), he also designed each of us to grow physically, intellectually and spiritually.  Our ultimate hope is that each of our students will undergo a complete metamorphosis spiritually and will know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Rebecca Stuart has been teaching on the Lynn Campus for several years in the early elementary grades. This year was her first year teaching 3rd grade. 

Raising Up A Generation!

I knew at the age of nine that I wanted to be a teacher. I also had a hunger to know God. My dream of being a teacher was realized at the age of 21. My desire to know God was fulfilled when I was 22. It is remarkable to me that I have been able to blend these two dreams into one job…that is, being a teacher in a Christian school. Sometimes, I encounter people who are puzzled by my choice not to teach in a public school. Their argument is that the public schools need good teachers and that I could make so much more money. While this may be true, what really matters to me is to make a difference for the Kingdom of God and to heed Jesus’ admonition “Do not hinder the children from coming to me.” Also, a very important part of the great commission is to go and preach the gospel and to make disciples, teaching them to obey all that Christ has commanded us.

Most people have some type of worldview that they live their lives by or on which they make decisions. Research shows that the children form their worldview by the time they complete middle school and head into high school. From that point on, they will live their lives accordingly. Intstilling a Christian or “Kingdom” world view is essential in making disciples. At North Shore Christian School, we intentionally integrate truth and the principles of God’s Word into our school day, in all subjects, in every way. We strive to do this as naturally as breathing. In Deuteronomy 6:7 it says: “And you shall impress My precepts on your children. Talk about them when you sit down, when you walk along the way, when you lie down and when you get up.” This is done in relationship, in everyday living. As Christian teachers, we partner with parents and are ready to teach our students not just during our Bible lessons, but as the occasion arises as we walk through the day. Isn’t that how Jesus made disciples? He lived with them, walked with them and taught them along the way and later on in their lives they were referred to as “those who have turned the world upside down!”

In Psalm 40 it says this: Walk about Zion, go around her. Count her towers, view her citadels, that you may tell it to the next generation…that this God is OUR God, forever and ever. He will be our guide, even to the end. We are commissioned by God to tell the next generation, to teach the next generation, to make disciples of the next generation. At N.S.C.S. we are making sure that these children are vessels that God can pour His excellence into, so that they will be used by Him to declare His excellencies.

I want to raise up a generation that God will use to turn the world up-side-down! I want to raise up a generation that we be able to life up a a banner (standard) of truth when the enemy rushes in like a flood! I want to raise up a generation that will be able to articulately give a reason for the hope that lies within them! Do you? At North Shore Christian School, we do, we are, we will!

Kathy Ely has been teaching for over 30 years, serving as a Kindergarten teacher for more than half of that time. She teaches Kindergarten on the Beverly Campus, where she also serves as chaplain. 

 

Digging Deep in Bible Class

Though there are many things that I love about my job, one of my most favorite things about teaching fourth grade is the developmental level of my students. In my experience, fourth graders are some of the best possible kids to teach.  Generally, nine and ten-year-olds are at the wonderful place in life where they still find their teacher’s humor enjoyable (and not in a “this-lady-is-so-uncool-I-can’t-help-but-laugh” sort of way) and yet also are pretty independent.  This is the year where they really begin to wrestle with information on a deeper level and think for themselves.

Because of the unique developmental stage of my students, I find it very rewarding to teach the boys and girls in my class about the Lord and His word.  Fourth grade Bible lessons at North Shore Christian require deep thinking, historical and cultural discussions, and scripture memorization.  Also, lessons include application to a student’s everyday life.

We have been moving through a series of lessons about David’s life and have again and again seen how the hand of God was on him. He defeated the giant Goliath, he was protected from King Saul (and this guy was persistent in seeking out David to kill him), and was incredibly successful in battle!  Because David continually turned to God and gave Him the glory, God remained near to David.  A difficult time in David’s life was when he got caught up in a cycle of sin and the prophet Nathan was sent by God.  God spoke to David and convicted him of wrongdoing through a parable that Nathan told.  The fourth graders recognized that though David was a good man, he was certainly flawed.  However, because he turned to God to seek forgiveness and restoration when he sinned, David remained close to Him until his dying day.   A hard lesson to learn, though, as the fourth graders understood, was that there were still consequences to David’s sins.  Just as God cleaned David of his sin when he asked, He will also clean us (adults and fourth graders alike) when we ask.  However, we must understand that consequences still exist.

See what I mean about deeper thinking? These are some wonderful and weighty subjects to grasp (and this is just one example!)  We aren’t in the business of leaving out the tough stuff when it comes to teaching our students about God’s word and His truths.  Certainly, we approach each lesson with care and appropriate gentleness but these fourth graders are really thinking… and individuals who think deeply and wrestle with wonderful (and sometimes hard) truths are exactly the people who should be representing Christ!

Kimberlee Thorburn has been teaching 4th grade on the Lynn Campus for the past 6 years.

 

It’s All a Matter of Perspective

“ ‘For instance, from here that looks like a bucket of water,’ he said, pointing to a bucket of water; ‘but from an ant’s point of view it’s a vast ocean, from an elephant’s just a cool drink, and to a fish, of course, it’s home. So, you see, the way you see things depends a great deal on where you look at them from.’ ” – The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

The fifth grade class has spent the last couple weeks enjoying and studying Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth. We’ve dug deep into the allegory, working to understand what is beyond the surface. The main character, Milo, learns many important life lessons along the way, but perspective is one of my favorites. As the fifth graders are learning, not everyone sees the world the same way, and as one fifth grader pointed out, our perspective as Christians will be quite different from that of the world. When the world sees an ocean of chaos, we see a God who calms waters and parts seas; when the world simply sees a cool drink, we see a God who provides for our every need; and when the world sees Earth as our only home, we see a God who has made an eternal home for us.

This discussion of perspective does not stop however, with our examination of literature, but spills over into our studies of the first European explorers in America, ocean currents and Earth’s weather conditions, and of course, into our everyday lives. As a class, we strive to see the world through a Biblical perspective, as well as endeavor to understand each other’s points of view. My prayer is that as a class we would grow to see the world less and less from our own perspective, but that Christ would give us his eyes to see the world more and more as he sees it.

Stephanie Gourley joined the Lynn Campus faculty this past fall as the 5th grade teacher.

CCT: Why Does It Matter?

Teaching at NSCS is one of the greatest joys of my life. I can’t begin to explain to you the joy I’ve experienced over the last few years as I’ve seen so many students discover something new about themselves or the world around them. These “aha moments”, if you will, are always precious to me as a teacher because I know they can have lasting effects on a child. So many of these “aha moments” have occurred in my classroom during our Collaborative Critical Thinking times, and that is why I value teaching thinking skills so much.

One of the most exciting things I get to teach everyday at NSCS is Collaborative Critical Thinking, or CCT. These are frameworks that were developed by Dr. Donna Robinson and Julie Lenocker of Gordon College and first put into practice in NSCS classrooms. It’s been a great pleasure and a privilege to work so closely with Dr. Robinson and Mrs. Lenocker over the past several years flushing out the hows and whys of these CCT frameworks. I’ve learned so much from them as an educator and in turn I’ve been able to share that newfound knowledge with my students!

CCT frameworks are tools that help students develop their thinking skills. They practice decision-making, make moral judgments, and learn how to have a healthy, academic, and cooperative discussion amongst their peers. During CCT lessons, students have made greater discoveries about themselves, about God, and about the relationship between their faith and the world around them. I’ve seen students gain an abundance of self-confidence and self-awareness through the use of these tools and it seems that every time we do a CCT activity, my students can hardly wait to do another one. The benefits of teaching students thinking skills go beyond just what is seen in the classroom, and allow students to develop and grow an essential life skill.

A favorite CCT activity of my students and me is a Paideia Seminar. A Paideia Seminar is an active learning activity, which focuses on collaborative and intellectual dialogue. A Paideia Seminar consists of open-ended questions about a topic or text, core questions that dig      deeper into themes or ideas about topic or text, and closing questions that connect a topic or text directly to the student’s life. I’ve mostly used Paideia Seminars as a way to wrap up a novel study, and I’ve found it to be beneficial every time. Students are excited to engage in a text in such a way that allows them to speak their mind, share personal experiences, and hear from their peers, while providing solid textual evidence for their answers. Students receive the “entry ticket” with questions in advance and are required to complete the questions prior to the Seminar. Students must provide textual evidence for their answers, including page numbers, direct quotes, or summarized points right from the book. During the Paideia Seminar, students sit at their desks in a circle so that they can hear and see everyone, and everyone is encouraged to participate. Participation is easy because students have prepared their entry tickets! The teacher’s role is to facilitate the Seminar and keep it moving along and on track, but mainly serve as an observer who takes notes on who says what and what kind of language is used. This activity serves as an opportunity for students to discuss together a topic or text they’ve just studied. It’s been fun for me to hear what students have learned and how they respond to each other during the Seminar.

My class is constantly begging me to do more Paideia Seminars! They love them because they are allowed and encouraged to engage with a topic or text in a different way. They love having the opportunity to speak their mind and about their experiences, and they equally love hearing and learning from each other. As a teacher, this activity serves as a great way to gauge student understanding and reading comprehension upon completion of a book. I’ve found that lessons from books that we’ve done Paideia Seminars on have stuck with students longer than books for which we haven’t done this. That being said, part of my New Year’s Resolution is to be more intentional to engage students in meaningful ways such as Paideia Seminars and other activities in CCT that teach students how to think, but not what to think. I couldn’t be a bigger fan of Paideia Seminars and the benefits in the academic, social, and emotional lives of the students I’ve had the pleasure of teaching are without a doubt long-lasting.

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Ms. MacDavitt’s students preparing for their Paideia Seminar on The Cricket in Times Square.

Liz MacDavitt has been part of the faculty on our Beverly Campus for over 5 years, currently teaching the 3rd & 4th grade class.

 

English Language Arts is on a QUEST!

ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS is on a QUEST!

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What are we thinking and talking about in 6th grade? These QUESTtions…

Did you ever wish you could be someone else?
Why do people pretend to be someone else?
What happens to us when we pretend to be someone or something we aren’t?
Does material advantage determine our destinies?
What are the advantages of reading books that take place at another time in history or with characters unlike ourselves?
What are the benefits of having an active imagination?
Are people defined by their social or economic status?
Why is it easy to stereotype people?
 How can we look deeper to discern true personality?

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Quotes that help us with our QUESTS:

Ann Marie Aguilar asks, “Why do you pretend, when you can make it real? We like pretending to be someone else but the truth is we just want to be ourselves.”

Seventh and Eighth Graders are considering these QUESTtions:

What makes a hero?
What are the qualities of good leadership?
What is the difference between internal strength and external strength?
What effect does beauty have on us?
How can we realize our purpose and destiny?
How do we interpret Christ’s teaching to “take up your cross and follow me?”
Which heroes make good leaders?
What happens when leaders fail?
 What leads to hero worship?
Is it possible for good leaders to make bad choices?
Does the position of leadership foster a “loss of self” or the “finding of self”?
What are the dangers of assuming a position of leadership?
What types of choices must a hero make to be a good leader?
How do we know what our destiny (purpose) is in life?
What happens when we do not fulfill that purpose?
Do our decisions determine our destinies?
What is the effect of our choices on our lives?

Quotes that help us with our QUESTS:

Aristotle said, “He who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander.”

Kierkegaard: “Man’s curse is that he can only understand his life looking backwards but can only live his life going forward.”

SHAKESPEARE WORKSHOP is QUESTING AS WELL!

QUESTtions:

To what extent should other people influence our decision making?

Written by Tess McKinley,  Middle School English and Language Arts teacher at NSCS since 2013.

 

“The more I study science, the more I believe in God.” ~Einstein

Einstein once said, “The more I study science, the more I believe in God.”
Mrs. Stutz once said, “The more I teach science, the more I agree with Einstein.”

Over the past few months, the middle school classes have been delving into the world of physics and chemistry. The sixth grade class began the year with a study of force and motion. They created labs to measure the relationship between the drop heights and bounce heights of balls, they engineered roller coasters capitalizing on their knowledge of potential and gravitational energy, and they experimented with force using inclined planes.

Our 7th and 8th grade classes have been focusing on the smallest building blocks of matter, atoms. They’ve seen that all matter is composed of just 118 elements and that rearranging these elements produces every type of matter that exists. Everything from the toughest steel to the softest cotton is created from combinations of just 118 elements.  Tremendous! Even now the students are turning their eyes from the smallest building blocks of life to the vast universe and the countless galaxies that surround them. They’re learning that gravity is able to hold this universe in place and that our universe is carefully ordered so that life on earth can be possible. In the days ahead, students will create models to show the relationship of the sun-moon-earth system and will demonstrate how the forces in our galaxy keep this system in balance.

As the middle school students at NSCS encounter this order and perfection in design, our hope is that they grow in both scientific literacy and in awe and wonder of the God who created it. Such creativity, such beauty, and such perfect balance reflect the beauty and order of our powerful Creator. What a privilege it is to get a glimpse of God through teaching this discipline of science! Truly King David said it best, “The Heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” Let us endeavor today to learn all we can about God’s world, that our vision of Him might be enlarged and that we might share this vision with everyone we encounter.

Jill Stutz has been part of the faculty at the Lynn Campus since 2014. She currently teaches Middle School Science, along with 7th & 8th grade Math.

 

The Opportunity to Play

“Do you know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play!” -Mike Singletary, Former Chicago Bears linebacker

The fall soccer season ushered in something new for the NSCS middle school co-ed soccer team! The North Shore Soccer League (NSSL) kicked off its inaugural season with four member schools competing in home and away match-ups, followed by a postseason tournament. The four schools representing the co-ed league are Abundant Life Christian School (Wilmington), Bradford Christian Academy (Haverhill), Greater Boston Academy (Stoneham), and North Shore Christian School (Lynn). These schools have completed with one another for many years, but now there’s an official league name and tournament format to wrap things up! We look forward to adding additional teams to the league in the years ahead! Thank you coach Aaron Racette for leading the team! The students thank you for the opportunity to play!

The day after the soccer season ended in the semi-final round, students were already planning and practicing basketball outdoors in anticipation of the winter basketball season. Our middle school girls and boys basketball teams compete in the North Shore Basketball Association (NSBA), comprised of the schools mentioned above in the soccer league, along with a few more schools. We look forward to coach Brian Gawlak entering his 5th season as the coach of both our teams! The players are looking forward to their opportunity to play!

Written by Todd McMillan, Middle School Social Studies Instructor, and Athletic Director

 

Reinforcing a Christian Worldview

One of the things I love about teaching at North Shore Christian School is the opportunity to teach through the lens of a Christian worldview while challenging students to think critically about the world around them. Establishing a Christian worldview is foundational to teaching children well in the 21st century. But students need to be taught more than just the basics of their faith in relation to academics – they need to be taught how to look at something closely and carefully and to critically analyze and evaluate what they’re learning. My students enjoy employing critical thinking strategies and skills to their academic learning.  We have been honored to have been taught the art of Paideia Seminar, from Dr. Donna Robinson a professor from Gordon College and former teacher at NSCS.  We have been able to appropriate these seminars in class based on novel studies.  Our class was selected to be filmed engaging in a Paideia Seminar and has been featured at Gordon College for use in their undergraduate and graduate teacher training programs.

Continuing this year in my language arts curriculum, I’ve been focusing on close reading strategies. The 3rd and 4th graders are getting up close and personal with each and every novel we read!  This means we’re taking a real close look at the novel as a whole, and much of this work is done before the book is ever even opened. Building background knowledge of the setting, the author, and the pictures and words on the cover and back jacket are essential to understanding the novel better as a whole.  When we have a basic understanding of the whole, we can more easily (and authentically) understand and appreciate each part of the whole. Students feel successful before reading based on their prior knowledge, which is key! Then as we read, we’re answering questions that go further beyond basic comprehension – they’re questions that are conceptual, self-reflective, and analytical. I love hearing the students’ responses to these questions, whether individually or in small groups, as they often lead to further discoveries and challenging debates amongst peers. New ideas are born, new questions are raised, and a greater understanding is gained.

Developing this type of critical thinking deepens our faith and our understanding of who God is and what He has done. If students know how to analyze, evaluate, and interact with a text, they’ll be better equipped to become not just readers of the Word of God, but doers of the Word. This is what the world needs – young people who are eager not just to know about God but to really get at what He’s asking us to do and how He’s enabling us to change the world through his love, peace, justice, and truth. I love being a part of this life changing work and I’ve seen firsthand the value this type of education has in a child’s life. Would you be willing to partner with us at NSCS as we work to raise up a generation of children who will change the world when their critical thinking skills and careful attention to detail take effect? Please prayerfully consider how you can be a part of the great work like this that God is doing at North Shore Christian School.

By Liz MacDavitt