In this series we spotlight six particular approaches, or design models, used to implement Christian Deeper Learning. For each, we will ask four questions to school leaders implementing the featured model:
- What was the reason you adopted this design model?
- How does this model promote Deeper Learning?
- How has this model helped you meet your mission as a Christian school?
- What impacts have you seen on students, teachers, and community?
According to their website, “The Center for Redemptive Education exists to articulate, cultivate, demonstrate and facilitate the quest to align with God’s design for teaching and learning, using an approach that is Biblical, Relational, Integral and Experiential.”
Redemptive Education offers a framework and programs that can serve in any type of educational setting: school, homeschool, hybrid, Sunday School or children’s ministries. It is a philosophy of both content (curriculum) and pedagogy (methods). Amy Imbody, director of the Center for Redemptive Education (CRE), and her colleagues design curriculum, offer professional development, and work directly with whole schools on implementing Redemptive Ed principles. Their network is called the Redemptive Education Association of Christian Schools (REACH). They also offer workshops for parents and teachers in Redemptive Discipline.
I met Amy at our first Christian Deeper Learning conference in Gainesville, FL. I was immediately drawn to her extensive knowledge of a variety of educational approaches – Montessori, Waldorf, Classical, Charlotte Mason, etc.) and her wise discernment to see God working through all of them, in part. She could articulate the specific insight each method brought to honor the Imago Dei in every child, but also the idols they each served outside of the living God. Amy believes that God’s design is meaningful and purposeful, full of wisdom, working throughout history, and that the Lord has used a number of people – people of our faith, people of other faiths, people with presumably no faith to uncover aspects of his beautiful design.
Why did you feel the need to create a new model?
Amy had taught in a Christian school, then led a Christian school, but even there became more and more aware of the inconsistencies between her own practices and the fruit she would have expected to see in her students. She found the culture lacking in joy, in celebration, in fully honoring the image bearing nature of children. “They are [often] sequestered for long hours in confining and oppressive circumstances, given burdens of constant evaluation that adults would not willingly bear, and given no scope for their expansive souls, minds, spirits, and talents.”
She believed raising and educating children should be infused with grace, truth, beauty, and joy. That’s when Amy, with a small team and the Lord’s leading, founded the Center for Redemptive Education in the hope of designing an approach to teaching and learning she calls BRIE:
- Biblical – through and through! Not merely on the surface
- Relational – as opposed to institutional
- Integral, or holistic as opposed to fragmented, compartmentalized
- Experiential – as opposed to merely intellectual or academic
Biblical, Relational, Integral and Experiential: those are the core tenets of Redemptive Ed.
How does Redemptive Ed promote Deeper Learning
The connection between Redemptive Ed and Deeper Learning is obvious from the principles of BRIE. Deeply aligned with God’s design for teaching and learning, and grounded in the sources of God’s Word – in the Bible and in God’s Creation – Redemptive Ed asks four key questions in every study. Amy calls them the “4 M’s”:
- How does this thing “Match Up” with God’s original intent?
- How is it “Messed Up” – or out of alignment with God’s intent?
- What is God’s “Message” to us in our having studied this thing?
- What is His “Mission” for us – His call to response as a result of our having studied this thing?
This series of questions relates directly to the definition of Christian Deeper Learning which is “People of God’s Story engaged in real work that forms self and shapes the world.” The assumptions of the 4 M’s reflect the key ideas of that definition. People are image-bearers of their Creator, immersed in His Story, and not only able but responsible to seek His Truth in all of their learning, to seek His message in that learning, and to respond to that message with love, courage, initiative and action with “mission” as a result.
Amy explained, “Redemptive Education as an expression of Christian Deeper Learning creates space and time:
- for direct observation, especially of the natural world;
- for reflection;
- for original creative contribution;
- for the emergent curriculum that comes from the students themselves;
- for the activity of the Holy Spirit as a living presence in our midst.
Practically speaking, this means we have a high valuation of kids being in nature; of children having much more unstructured or unpressured time to engage in their learning, at every level – not just the little kids! We have a high valuation of kids’ initiative and response to God and His world. And the joyful expectation that God will not only bless our students with knowing Him but also with the opportunity to serve Him and His kingdom purposes in a vast range of expressions, many of which are typically absent or undervalued in traditional educational settings.”
What is the impact on students, teachers, parents, community?
Kids are delighted, eager to tell the stories of their learning adventures. Parents often express a wish they could have learned like this.
Amy, again: “Joy! Liberty! Engagement! And above all, shared delight: in God, in His Word, in His people and in His World! These really are the marks of Redemptive Education, wherever it is truly being lived out in the lives of children, parents, teachers, and all in the learning community.”
Note: This article is part of a series on different paths to Christian Deeper Learning. You can read the introduction to the series here: The Many Roads to Christian Deeper Learning: An Introduction
After 28 years teaching in classrooms K-12, Steven Levy (firstname.lastname@example.org) is now an educational consultant, working independently and with EL Education. He guides teachers in designing service-based curriculum, engaging instructional practices, student owned assessments, and character development. He was recognized as the Massachusetts State Teacher of the Year (1993), and honored by the Disney American Teacher Awards as the national Outstanding General Elementary Teacher (1995). Mr. Levy was the recipient of the Joe Oakey Award for his national impact on project-based learning, and received the John F. Kennedy Prize for the teaching of history. Mr. Levy and his fourth grade students were designated “Conservation Heroes” by the National Park Service for their study of the effects of a local bike path on the environment and the community. Mr. Levy has written various articles for educational journals, and his book, Starting From Scratch (Heinemann, 1996), details some of the projects and students he has worked with in his elementary classrooms.