Emily Schwarz, a second-year teacher at Sioux Falls Christian in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, leads the high school Photography class. Her Deep Hope for herself and her students is that as we learn more about our great Creator and His unfathomable love for us, we will put Him above all else and glorify Him through our own creations.
This deep hope is important to Emily because “in the act of creating, we are getting to reflect God and his image as a creator. My goal for students is that they get to know God and who he is so they can emulate and reflect him. Our ultimate goal as Christians is to glorify God through what we do, say, and create.”
To ensure that her students actively engage in this mission, Emily has chosen Created to Create as her Storyline.
The high school art curriculum has several learning outcomes that Emily connects to her Deep Hope. Students are to reflect on and explain important information about personal artwork and curate a collection of artwork to impact the viewer’s understanding of social or cultural experiences. Students also need to demonstrate responsible choices in the use of images and the creation and circulation of creative work.
Emily desired to deepen her photography students’ understanding by inviting them to share their photography expertise at a local Sioux Falls community event hosted by LifeScape. LifeScape serves Sioux Falls and its surrounding community by providing exceptional services and creating solutions for people with varied needs and complex care. Their mission is to empower people to live their best life.
After getting connected with LifeScape, Emily saw an opportunity for her students to support LifeScape’s “Mall Walk,” their major fundraising event of the year. Students were invited to use the skills they were learning about photography composition to take photos at the walk event. LifeScape was then free to use the photos taken by students for their own needs, like in marketing brochures or on social media.
Emily sees a clear connection between her Deep Hope and the photography work of her students:
I want my students to see God’s creation the way He sees it. I want them to see the value each person has in God’s eyes even if they seem different than us. We often see differences in others as negative, yet we fail to see how God uses those differences to display his beauty, creativity, and sovereignty. I want my students to learn how valuable God sees our differences. By acknowledging the beauty God has created and capturing it with our cameras, we are able to give glory to God by sharing the beauty we see in others with others.
Students were invited into long-term learning targets that included—
I can . . . recognize and capture the beauty of God’s creativity and delight in every person.
I can . . . use my knowledge of composition rules to aid in taking honoring photos of the people involved with the mall walk.
After participating, Emily invited the students to share their thoughts and connections on their experiences using the prompt, “What is one way of thinking about others and who God says they are that you will take away from this project?”
Below are examples of how students responded:
These people are really no different from us besides the fact that they struggle with different things like disabilities. This reminded me to see everyone through God’s eyes, and look for the amazing gifts and talents that God gave each person.
I saw God through this event by the people [who] were there–everyone was so happy and I could see the Lord shining his light through them.
One way of thinking about others [I’m taking from this project] is that everyone is God’s child and they were made in his image . . . everyone wants to be treated the same way.
I took away from this project that God made us all in His image and we are all perfect to Him. We should never be mean to someone who is different from us.
Emily’s final reflection on the experience circles back to her Deep Hope for the students:
How my deep hope was realized through this project was that students captured the essence of who people are through not only their camera lenses but also through the lens of Christ. They got the opportunity to capture memories that people will get to hold onto for years to come as well as helping LifeScape have photos that they can use however needed.
Emily’s work as part of our school’s journey with the Teaching for Transformation framework is a beautiful example of how students can be invited, nurtured, and empowered to do God’s kingdom work. No matter the age or subject area, all learning can be seen through the lens of God’s story, and students can actively participate in His work in the world.