Bannockburn Christian Academy - Austin Texas Private School

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Archive for February, 2016

Gardening with God: Growing and Cultivating a life with Christ

Gardening –“ the practice of growing and cultivating plants”.

This academic year ushered in a new opportunity for our BCA students – gardening! As a teacher preparing for this new endeavor, my thoughts were:

  • “What does this look like?”
  • “How will I work this into the schedule?”
  • “How often do we NEED to do this?”
  • “What is the learning objective?”

What I should have considered and known from the beginning was the ultimate experience and outcome of such a privilege for the children. As teachers, we often miss the purpose for the planning.

Fifth grade began our gardening in the fall with watering. We knew the importance, but yet had a moment to really discuss its importance. Later in the fall, we planted mustard seeds. We did our duty. Don’t get me wrong, the students enjoyed every minute of watering and planting. I was the one who had not yet considered or appreciated the value it held.

It wasn’t until I needed an idea for Morning Meeting discussion time that the true reality and benefit of gardening dawned on me. We had approached the time to “maintain” the garden. What a great topic of discussion. Little did I realize the importance it would hold for me and the spiritual opportunity it would be for the students as they grow in their faith.

I asked, “Why do we need to maintain the garden?”

The replies I received from my students were profound upon reflection:

  1. “Because if we don’t take out the weeds, they will take over and smother the plants.”
  2. “Because without water the plants won’t survive.”
  3. “Because plants need fresh soil to continue to grow.”
  4. “Because we have to remove the bugs/snails that might prevent the plants from growing.”
  5. “Because if we don’t, the plants will die.”
Gardening: Cultivating and Growing a Life in Christ

BCA Students learning how to grow and cultivate a life in Christ through the experience of gardening

As I sat there, it finally became clear to me the purpose.

We don’t just garden to provide the experience for children learning HOW, but we also provide the experience, so they can see WHY and relate it to their walk with God.

I hadn’t planned on asking the next question, but as the students responded, the Lord led me to ask,

“How does this relate to our walk with Christ?”

An opportunity had come to provide students with a life lesson that neither I nor they had seen coming. We discussed the many ways gardening is like taking care of our walk with the Lord.

We came to realize how taking out the weeds is like recognizing our sin and asking for forgiveness; how Jesus is our water, and without Him, we won’t survive; how God’s Word is fresh soil to help us grow; how putting on the armor of God is protecting us from the darts of the devil like bugs and snails in a garden; and how simply, if we don’t take care of our daily walk with God, we will die a spiritual death like a garden that is left unattended.

What began as a time slot on a schedule and an opportunity for students to do something outside the classroom, became a life lesson in “growing and cultivating” a life with Christ.

– Vanessa Robbins, Fourth/Fifth Grade Teacher

Choose KIND: Is it more important to be right, or be KIND?

In our society we’ve decided it’s A-Ok to be positively wicked to one another in the name of politics. Christians fight with fellow believers or (worse) with those who look to us to point to Jesus. We belittle and mock and snarl at one another through a screen. Then we go to church on Sundays and sing about Jesus’ love.

It’s appalling.

And, sadly, our kids reflect this desire—our innate, constant, basic desire to be RIGHT. I have it, for sure. I’m right. You’re wrong. Let me prove to you with insults and wit just how wrong you are. Have you ever been swayed by an argument that includes personal attacks? Ever? And, yet, we all use this tactic over and over. I’ve heard students fight over how to properly pronounce Star Wars character names.  I’m willing to fight over health care or immigration or taxes but not think twice about the kind of day a person is having or whether he or she knows Jesus.

Well, last fall I read a book that convicted me of this constant desire to be RIGHT. The book is called “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio. The author encountered a very different-looking little girl outside an ice cream shop and instead of treating that girl and her mother as she would other people; she grabbed her kids and ran away. She ran away from what she didn’t understand. The child’s physical appearance was so startling to the author, she couldn’t handle it and she fled. While she left the situation, the situation did not leave her and her memory of that moment outside the ice cream parlor prompted her to write “Wonder.”

Wonder by R.J. Palacio.

Wonder by R.J Palacio – You Can’t Blend In If You Were Born to Stand Out

The story follows a little boy who has a couple chromosomes out of place and the result is a lifetime of surgeries, near death ailments and the looks of “a monster.” He attends school for the first time as a 5th grader. The story is told mostly through his eyes though others jump in once in a while for a different perspective.

One of his teachers shares this precept, “when given the choice between being right or being kind, choose KIND.”

These words stuck with me in a powerful way though ultimately they are only a small part of the book’s message.

I’m reading this special book with our 4th and 5th graders right now. We’re discussing hard topics like friendship, prejudice, fear, birth defects, death and betrayal. It’s not always pretty. We disagree from time to time but books, really good books, do that to people. They make us think and feel as we haven’t before. They make us contemplate our actions and check ourselves:

“Is it more important to be RIGHT or does this situation call for being KIND?”

When we’re done reading it, you’re welcome to borrow BCA’s copy. Or take yourself to the public library and grab one. Our nation seems so divided, so busy being RIGHT but perhaps we can all learn from a children’s book about the importance of being KIND. Imagine the difference that would make!

Pledge to Choose Kind

Pledge to Choose Kind-ness instead of Right-ness

– Lisa Wellman, Librarian

Building a Kindness Tree: Instilling Habits of Kindness

I came across a blog recently by Kristina Sargent, a mental health therapist who works with children and families.  Her topic was “Growing Hearts of Kindness” and with Valentine’s Day coming up I was intrigued.  I had also been reflecting on the little acts and words of kindness that seemed all around me growing up and realized how much I missed them. 

These were things like seeing my dad open the car door for my mom (yes, we did have cars when I was little).  Could she have opened her own door – of course!  But I remember thinking how nice that was and later realizing it was an act of love and caring.  I remember people always offering to help whether it was carrying a bag of groceries or giving up a seat on the bus for someone older.  I remember hearing kind words and always a please and thank you response.

Then I started to think,  are we just so very busy now that we overlook these things in our quest to get on to the next task before us?  And just how do we go about teaching kindness?  

Ms. Sargent went on to say that she uses specific labeled praise during her therapy sessions.  Intriguing… so I continued to read and found some great suggestions.  Now, when I see one of my little friends saying or doing something kind, I quickly try to point it out – “Fred, I saw you help your friend clean up the crayons he dropped and you weren’t even using any of them.  That was so kind of you!  I bet you made Fred feel very happy when you did that.” Not only is the act praised, but also pointing out the feelings of the person receiving the kind act is important to reinforce.   I have also added a “Kindness Tree” on one of our walls.  The students get specific recognition for what they have done.  It has a label – it was kind – and to top it off, they get a heart with their name on it to add to our tree.  At the end of the day, they can take the heart home and Mom and Dad can see and praise them for their choice.

I am specifically using the word “kind” rather than nice because I think is has more meaning.  It also gave us an opportunity to talk about what “kind” would look like.  We have only been doing this for a few days, but already I have seen my little friends look for ways to be kind or say something kind to a classmate.  We are building habits of kindness in K-4.

– Barbara Hammel, K-4

Kindness Trees

Bannockburn Christian Academy instilling kindness in our junior scholars

Hip Hop Dance Club: Self Expression, Confidence and Teamwork

This year we have had so many fun after school clubs.  Today, I am writing about our latest fun and instructive club offering which is on Hip Hop Dance. My background and degree in Dance Performance and in Physical Education and a love for teaching children the joy of physical activity and health made this club a perfect fit for all of us. 

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Hip hop dance classes give students a great opportunity to share experience and grow as a group. In each class, students face both physical and mental challenges simultaneously. Students learn dance combinations that engage various groups of muscles that stimulate mind and body. This comprehensive kinesthetic learning opportunity is a great way to engage even the busiest of learners. 

The emphasis on self-expression in hip hop dance class separates dance from other physical activities. Expressiveness is imperative to a great performance.  Hip hop dance class gives students the freedom to be themselves and to be proud of who they are and how they express movement, thought, and emotion.  Dance is a great way for them to release their emotions physically. 

Students grow as a group of dancers and learn to persevere in overcoming obstacles by working together to create and master movements and perform together.  

And I’m sure you thought it was just Hip Hop. It turns out, we are growing healthy, confident kids, who can persevere, express themselves and work together via another method – Hip Hop dance.

– Coach Rothlisberger


About Shanshan Rothlisberger: Shanshan earned her Bachelor in English and Dance Performance from Inner Mongolia University in China and a Masters in Physical Education (emphasis in curriculum and instruction) from the University of New Mexico. It was not until coming to the United States that I discovered most Chinese children are not given an opportunity to enjoy daily physical activity and learn the importance of physical health. I feel greatly honored to have been uniquely blessed with an opportunity to share my passion for physical health with others.

Over the last 8 years I have been gaining teaching experience working with youth and adults in China, South Korea, and the United States. I believe that the diversity of this experience has helped me develop the ability to quickly recognize and honor each individual’s learning style. In addition, my challenging dance performance degree in China taught me to approach physical education with a cheerful and encouraging attitude. In Season 10 of “So You Think You Can Dance”, I was selected to go to Las Vegas to participate in the final round of television auditions. In addition to teaching Physical Education, I also have experience teaching Chinese, ballet, ballroom dancing and Pilates.

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