RYAN: DeepRoots focuses on student interaction and critical thinking. How is that done?
KIM: Rather than spoon-feed students information bites and ask them to regurgitate them on assessments, DeepRoots emphasizes discussions and other methods of learning which develop critical thinking. Challenging discussion questions are peppered throughout DeepRoots to encourage spontaneous discussions. Specific times of deep Socratic discussions are also included. Questions are differentiated so all levels of students can participate. In addition to discussions, slideshows include open-ended and critical thinking questions for students to answer as they digest the material, transforming learning from a static absorption to a multi-dimensional, contemplative experience. Creative writing assignments in the upper elementary grades, as well as larger unit assignments also give students a unique opportunity to think deeply and be creative.
RYAN: DeepRoots is an integrated curriculum that incorporates cross-disciplinary learning. How does that benefit a student’s spiritual development? What other benefits are provided from an academic standpoint from using cross-disciplinary teaching techniques?
KIM: We live in an integrative world but teaching is often accomplished through isolated subjects. By using subject integration, students have a much richer learning experience. Christianity is being challenged at every turn so it’s imperative that our children’s faith is strong. If we teach Bible in isolation their faith will be weak. But by teaching in an integrated manner, children come to have a robust biblical worldview, or in other words, they view life through God’s Truth as presented in the Bible. By making connections for our kids from our faith to the other areas of life they are bumping into, such as Science, Math, Logic, and Language Arts, we’re equipping them with a well-rounded faith that is not easily shaken. However, if we teach Bible in isolation and don’t provide those connections, then their faith is narrow and shallow and can easily be abandoned.
Let’s use as an example two students: Megan is being taught in an integrative manner and Timothy is being taught Bible in isolation. Both love the Lord and are being raised in strong Christian families. As they get older, both students have their faith attacked by friends who tell them the world wasn’t created by the God of the Bible. Their concept of Creation is being challenged. Megan has been taught in an integrative manner so she has a robust faith. An attack on Creation is also an attack on the other subjects she’s learned that tie into Creation, such as Science, Math, Logic and Language Arts which are all woven into her faith. Timothy, on the other hand has been taught Bible in an isolated fashion so he has a very shallow and fragile faith. That attack on Creation might unravel his faith because his belief system is not really a system at all, but simply a stand-alone idea. Since he hasn’t been shown how the reality he is living intersects with his biblical beliefs, he can throw away his faith without losing anything else. But if Megan questions her faith, she has to throw out everything she believes in because it’s all tied together.
There are other benefits provided from an academic standpoint from using cross-disciplinary teaching techniques:
- Children get excited about learning when connections are made from one subject to another. Cross-disciplinary learning builds enthusiasm and an intelligent curiosity. We want our students to be lifetime learners, to drink in knowledge, and have a broad and deep learning spectrum. A classical approach achieves these goals.
- Students are able to learn more about the Bible in depth because it is being studied from a variety of perspectives–from Geography, Logic, History, Archaeology, etc.
- Critical thinking skills are developed as students cross the boundaries of various subjects as they relate to God’s Word.
RYAN: What are some of the features that make a digital curriculum different from a printed curriculum?
KIM: A digital platform provides interactive features to enhance learning. DeepRoots teaches in a chronological fashion, beginning with Genesis in first grade and ending with Revelation in sixth, and moving back and forth between the Old and New Testaments each year. Therefore, DeepRoots provides a digital timeline that “grows” with the students as they add biblical events to their knowledge base. Students learn and review the chronology of the Bible through the digital timeline. One of our teachers in Georgia told us:
“One of my favorite things is the timeline. Every week we review the past stories and I ask the students to tell me about them. They are remembering so many wonderful details about every lesson all the way back to the beginning of school. In the past when I would review Bible with the kids they could only remember two or three weeks back. I have never seen this level of retention with any other Bible curriculum.”
— Joni T., first grade teacher (six months into the school year)
Another distinctly digital feature are our interactive areas. In fourth and fifth grade, students visit “Treehouse Adventure” to review and memorize their Bible memory verses. Students earn rewards to build their own treehouse by memorizing new and remembering past verses. This encourages students to recall their verses for the entire school year rather than just memorizing them for a single test.
In Grades 1-3 children visit “Discovery Forest” where they learn the analogy that caring for trees so they will become fruitful is similar to caring for their souls so their lives will bear fruit. In this interactive area, students review their Biblical Principles and interact with animals indigenous to the particular forest they are visiting. The information page teaches them interesting facts about the biome and its inhabitants.