Educating “Outside the Box”

By Lanny Williams, Christian Life Academy

Christian Life Academy began at Life Ministries, the former Sibley Estate in Reno, in 1979. Part of the Christian School Movement of the seventies, it was a response to prayer being removed from the public schools and the growing rejection of God in public education overall.

The heart of CLA has always been excellence in academic education, focusing on the whole Bible and God’s direction for any initiative undertaken. It still is, and of late, we’ve been going through a much-needed educational metamorphosis in response to the changing culture.

Seeing the same need which spawned the STEM movement, two of our parent-mentors engaged with the BEST Robotics Program, which has been a catalyst for change here at CLA. Now, we’re invested in BEST Robotics, photography and film media, and the leading Brain Training program in the nation. While we still do Math, Spelling, Speech and Sports competitions, we’ve engaged with the Fluid Power Challenge and “What’s So Cool about Manufacturing” video competition as well.

“Children are curious, students aren’t.” That’s the problem. The old “box” isn’t working.

We know kids are losing critical executive function and becoming too dependent on teachers, parents and technology, very often helpless to move and function on their own.

My generation grew up with much more down time and fewer amusements, so we learned to motivate and build things – and we were allowed to take risks. Hammers, saws, tape measures – just seeing materials and envisioning how to do something was standard thinking. We made our own go carts and club houses with what we could find. Do you know how much fun you can have with a big cardboard box? You can cut it, tape it, make a tunnel or a house, staple it, glue it – anything! That’s the learning loss that STEM projects are making up; kudos to businesses for stepping up.

When W. Edwards Deming went to Japan right after World War II, it was only a matter of time until Japan’s products went from being carnival-prize junk to being among the best quality products in the world. Deming had limited success here in his homeland, because American business practices were too established; in Japan he was out of the box, and he changed the world.

Thinking outside the box is about the only way you end up in Christian Education, but “out here” we can really learn if we’re open.

When Jesus went after the Pharisees for compromising truth for the sake of the “establishment” of their day, yes He was rebuking people, but He was also teaching a principle.

Anything from a church to a school system to a business—anything humans are involved in—as it develops and grows, the focus easily moves from the core vision to the formal structure. Even the hippies could recognize the “establishment”! The real trick to growing is not becoming the “establishment,” in the course of growing.

This article was published in the Venango Chamber’s February 2020 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.

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