Bannockburn Christian Academy - Austin Texas Private School

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Archive for October, 2015

Our Latest STEM/STEAM Activity

Many studies have found that current graduates are lacking the essential skills they need to problem solve. For this reason, there has been a large push to incorporate more “STEAM” activities in our classrooms. As many of you know, S.T.E.A.M stands for science, technology, engineering, art, and math.

According to the article found in “Education Week” titled: STEM vs. STEAM do the arts really belong? They referenced a 2014 study published by the America Society for Engineering Education identifying several characteristics of quality STEM programs:

  1. The context is motivating, engaging, and real-world.
  2. Students integrate and apply meaningful and important mathematics and science content.
  3. Teaching methods are inquiry-based and student-centered.
  4. Students engage in solving engineering challenges using an engineering design process.
  5. Teamwork and communications are a major focus. Throughout the program, students have the freedom to think critically, creatively, and innovatively, as well as opportunities to fail and try again in safe environments.

However, there has now been a push to incorporate “art” into the acronym. (I am all for this!) In fact, just this past week my class completed our first STEAM activity of the year and it was a HUGE success. We have been studying the “temperate deciduous” forest and as a way to incorporate STEM/STEAM into my classroom, we dedicated the day Friday to creating a 3-D forest. My students planned the whole entire forest. I brought in the top of a very large box and my students collaborated about how they should make our forest and what they wanted to add to it. During our guided reading center rotations, instead of reading on Friday my groups looked closely at our forest books and created each area of our forest.

The first group created the “forest floor.” They mixed their perfect shades of green and decided that they needed to add a stream so that the forest animals had water to drink.

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After they finished the forest floor, we regrouped on the carpet. The forest floor “team” explained their thought process to the class and the class applauded their efforts. Then the second group was up. Their job was to paint and design the sky. They decided that it was a beautiful day and that their blue had to be lighter than the stream.

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Again, we regrouped and the “sky team” explained the work that they added to our forest. The next group’s job was to paint and create the trees. We used recycled toilet paper and paper towel rolls for this. The group looked through a few of our forest books and wanted to add “Oak, Maple, and Birch” trees to the forest.

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As we waited for the paint to dry, we read another forest book and the class decided that the forest was an autumn forest and that the leaves on the trees should be red, green, yellow, and orange. Each child created their own foliage by drawing, cutting, and painting it.

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Then each child came up to our forest box and showed me where to place their tree trunk. (I glued the trees in place using a hot glue gun.) The though process of each added tree was remarkable. My students said things like, “I think all the Birch trees should be together.”


“This tree needs to go right here because a forest is a place where trees grow close together.”


“The tree with the owl hole needs to go here so the owl can listen for her prey!”


“This oak tree will drop acorns for the squirrels to eat!”


My students worked SO nicely together during this process and were so very proud of their hard work. In fact, at the end of the day our principal came in and my class proudly explained our forest to her. She was more than impressed when they told her they made a “deciduous forest in the fall.” She asked them great questions and each child was able to answer and explain our collaborative thought process. In fact, at the end of the day, many students brought their parents back into the classroom to show their parents our forest.

By doing this STEAM activity, my class was able to use what they had been learning about forests in a tangible, authentic way. It was 100% made and planned by my students with very little help from me. They communicated beautifully throughout the whole process and took great pride in what they created as a class. One parent after school told me, “My daughter was so proud to point out each piece of the project telling me who made each item!” I love that it became more than just an “I made this” and rather a “WE” created this together!

Next week we will use modeling clay to create our own animals to live in our habitat!

Kristen Smith, Kindergarten

Instructions for Life

Remember the test your teacher gave in which you had a long list of activities to complete in only three minutes? And then when the time was up, the teacher announced that the whole class failed? My fourth grade scholars took it, and every single one learned a valuable lesson about following directions. At the beginning of the test, they were told to read everything before answering anything, and then at the bottom of the test it said to only complete numbers one and two (read everything first and put name on paper). None of them got that far because they were too busy completing the activities they didn’t have to do!

Well, in case you cannot relate to that, everyone has a story of trying to put something together without the instructions, yes? Or perhaps you had the directions and refused to use them? No, I’ve never done that! My thoughts immediately jump to furniture from IKEA… it doesn’t come assembled as seen in the catalog or viewed in the black hole, I mean, store (ha ha). Navigating the instructions can make you want to jump ship, literally.

Thankfully, our God doesn’t make following directions that difficult. He neither leaves us without, nor does He make them confusing. My fourth graders learned this lesson in Bible class with a bunch of Legos. (Wait, what? Legos in Bible class?? Teaching a class of all fourth-grade students might seem daunting to some, but it’s also really rewarding and fun!) I gave the scholars matching sets of Legos and asked them to build a shipping tanker. Both groups had a picture, but only one group had instructions. I asked them to match the pictures as closely as possible.

Photo of “mission”:


Seems simple enough, right?

The group without instructions came up with this:

Granted, these students are self-professed Lego “Master Builders” and stated they made “modifications.”


The group with step-by-step instructions may not have built it exactly to specifications, but they were a LOT closer…


The point of the lesson in class that day was that having the instructions and the correct tools makes every task easier, and not having directions makes everything harder. (The no-instructions team still disputed this heavily, which then turned into a lesson of following God’s Way or our own way.)

Even though we have examples to follow, sometimes we might feel like we are still fourth graders when it comes to following God’s Instruction Manual, the Bible. Having the assembly instructions is vital, regardless of one’s ability to visualize and put things together! In 2 Timothy 3:16, God tells us His Word is useful for “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” We are weekly revisiting the importance of slowing down, re-reading the instructions, using the correct tools and completing our tasks. We are not perfect, but we are in training to live God’s Way. By looking to God’s Word, the Bible, every day, we can know we are living out the will of God and one day, the reward in heaven will be hearing, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

By Shannon Johnson, 4th Grade


Worshiping the God who Gives and Takes Away

I don’t know what obstacles you face in life but one of mine is trust. As I have prayed for God to use BCA in wise and wonderful ways, I have also prayed that He fill each classroom and allow us to “expand our boundaries”. Though I would love to have that full, robust enrollment now so that my plan could be made, I have learned to trust Him and His faithfulness to unveil His plan in His timing. I have absolute confidence that God will make His perfect will clear for BCA and provide for our every need. I am thankful to serve a God who uses every experience to evidence His extravagant love for us…following is one way in which He evidenced His love and deepened my trust in Him and His perfect plan.

For over twenty years, my husband, Mike and I loved our life on a small Caribbean island. We invested ourselves in our community, became a part of a vibrant church family and raised our three children there. Grand Cayman was home and we could never imagine living anywhere else.

On Sunday, September 12, 2004, a Category 5 hurricane made its closest approach to Grand Cayman, when the eye passed within 20 miles of our island home with wind gusts of 220 mph. For thirty six hours, Hurricane Ivan unleashed its fury on our island community resulting in catastrophic devastation. Islanders were totally unprepared for its aftermath.

Within a week of its passage over Cayman, between ten and fourteen thousand people left the island, many of whom never returned. For those families such as ours, who remained, many chose to send their children abroad in the wake of the disaster. We experienced displacement and separation from one another as we attempted to rebuild our lives on island.

One of our first phone calls after the storm was to friends, Steve and Carla Dillard, who put “feet to their faith” and provided a home for our eldest daughter for the three months immediately following the storm. During that time of separation, as my husband and I attempted to rebuild our home and businesses, we would often sing in church “Blessed Be The Name” and I would ponder the truth of the lyrics written by Matt Redman about a God who gives and takes away.

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

(from “Blessed Be The Name” by Matt Redman)

This storm had affected our lives in ways seen and unseen.  In thirty six hours, friends lost.  Possessions lost.  Innocence lost.  Faith?  Shaken.  Though God revealed Himself to me during that time in ways that could never be denied, I’m sorry to confess that when I sang the words of the song, I sensed an internal shift in the way I viewed my Saviour.  He had given me things to treasure…a place I loved, people I loved, a life I loved, and overnight, He had taken those things away.  Not focusing on the ways in which He revealed Himself to me during that time, I focused on the losses I experienced.  I had a trust issue.

Five years after the storm, the Dillards again opened their home to us, this time sheltering us for a year as we relocated to the U.S.   Beautiful are the feet!   During that time, as I worshipped one Sunday at Bannockburn, we sang the familiar words of “Blessed Be The Name”.    In an instant, what I had previously been unwilling and unable to see, the Lord revealed to me with sudden clarity and understanding…What He gives is the best…His Son to be our Saviour.  What He takes away is the worst…our sin which separates us from Him.

This revelation brought to mind words from a report written to expose the impact of Hurricane Ivan on Grand Cayman . ..”Even the already dead were affected as many cemeteries which are on the sea side, were impacted by the sea surge resulting in the destruction of tombs and the loss of entombed family members. This was a source of grief to islanders.”  In remembering my shaken faith, I remember this storm in my life as well as the words in the report…I was living like the “already dead”.  Praise be to God, He opened my eyes and allowed me to see Him clearly.  Resurrected faith.   Trust issue resolved.

Praying faithfully with you for God’s perfect provision for BCA and trusting in His faithfulness!

Bobbi Flowers, Principal

Character Awareness

In Second Grade, we are creating a classroom community with character awareness.  During our Morning Meeting, we began talking about how it feels when someone compliments you. We talked about how to give a good compliment.


When giving a compliment, you should be positive. You should be truthful; make sure you believe what you say. Try to be as specific as possible. Think about what you like or admire about the person. Consider the person’s strengths and talents. The discussion centered around paying attention to what the person says or does. The boys and girls came up with many adjectives that describe a person on the inside.

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Throughout the year, we will highlight a different character trait to develop. We will have slips of paper available for students to write down the good character traits they witness in each other.


Character traits that will be highlighted include:

  • Compassion – caring for others with kindness.
  • Integrity – Always doing the right thing even when no one else is watching.
  • Patience – Ability to remain calm and to wait for what you want.
  • Confidence – Freedom from doubt and believing in yourself.
  • Responsibility – Taking ownership of what you say and do.
  • Respect – Treating others with courtesy.  Having control over one’s actions.
  • Citizenship – Being loyal to your school, community, and country.
  • Self-Control – Having control over one’s actions, words and emotions.
  • Tolerance – Accepting differences and the uniqueness of others and celebrating the common ground we share.
  • Honesty – Being truthful in what you say and do.
  • Cooperation – Working together toward a common goal.
  • Perseverance – Demonstrating determination and commitment to complete a task.


Mary Ellen Erwin, 2nd Grade


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