In November, we introduced the “Big Picture Podcast.” This podcast is a series of conversations that our Head of School, Matt Covey, is having about the six spheres of whole-child education. In our most recent podcast episode, “Spiritual Development at Denver Christian School,” Matt Covey talks with three teachers–Laura Cespedes (4th Grade), Amy Delnaro (5th-12th Grade Band), and Cole McClain (High School History). These teachers share what spiritual formation looks like in their classrooms and what is transformative about a Christian education.
What does a flourishing student look like?
At Denver Christian, our hope is for students to flourish in all areas of our life. You may have heard your students or other community members talk about Teaching for Transformation. Teaching for Transformation is a learning framework that enables our school design learning experiences around the roles that students play in God’s story. There are eight different roles (which we call “throughlines”) that define a flourishing student. One of these roles is God worshipper. This is defined as: finding my heart’s deepest satisfaction in all that God promises to be and do for me. The classroom is a place for students to find their heart’s fulfillment in what God is for and through them.
Faith formation in all subjects and grade levels
For students to be transformed, faith-formation has to be a part of the entire day. Usually, when we hear “faith experiences,” you might think of chapels or Bible class. While those are an important part of the week–they are not the beginning and end of spiritual education.
Through the Teaching for Transformation program, each of our teachers have written a “deep hope” statement. This is a phrase which summarizes their desire for their classroom to help students flourish spiritually. Our teachers incorporate faith into all subjects and grade levels. Laura Cespedes, Cole McClain, and Amy Delnaro explain what this looks like in their classrooms.
Being God’s instruments in band
Amy Delaro teaches 5th-12th grade band. Her deep hope is that: “We find the inspiration, through music, to embody the light of Christ by being the instruments that God has created us to be.” Amy explains that music is both an outlet for us to encounter God and an opportunity to share our God given gifts. One way band students experienced this is by studying music therapy. After studying the benefits for Alzheimer’s patients, band students went to assisted living centers to perform. Students were able feel the fulfillment that sharing our gifts with the world brings. Our students learn to rely on one another and share Christ’s love in and outside the band room.
“[My deep hope is that] we find the inspiration, through music, to embody the light of Christ by being the instruments that God has created us to be.” ~Amy Delnaro
Spiritual formation in 4th Grade
One of our 4th grade teachers, Laura Cespedes, shares how the fourth grade team has focused on identity in Christ for their spiritual formation throughout the year.
“Don’t underestimate the way that students can see God’s work in the world.” ~Laura Cespedes
Laura emphasizes how spiritual formation and deep conversations can happen in all subject areas, even with young students. The fourth grade team studied each state and the unique needs those communities have. Next, the fourth graders then focused on Denver and the needs of the homeless community. These are deeply meaningful ways for students to see how their learning can impact the world around them. They are also proven to be effective in promoting academic engagement.
Examining history with humility
Cole McClain teaches history in our high school. His deep hope is that his students “become storytellers to faithfully remember the stories of the past and truthfully retell the stories of all people in order to graciously reclaim the story of God in their lives and the world.” (He even wrote a blog for us last spring about this deep hope and his students’ reflections!)
Throughout his teaching experience, Cole has found the importance of the phrase, “show–don’t tell.” By making his classroom a space to have meaningful and often difficult conversations, Cole not only allows his students to develop important critical thinking skills but to have authentic conversations. He points out that there is a huge difference between tacking on a bible verse to the end of a class and genuinely looking at history through the lens of faith. Last spring, his students created a digital magazine which discussed issues of injustice facing the world.
Partnering in spiritual development at home
Parents play an integral role in this spiritual development. Amy Delnaro points out that simply having meaningful conversations at home about what children are learning is a way that parents help their children grow spiritually. In the small moments of seeing parents seek the Lord or partner with a church community, children are able to grow in their faith over time. We are thankful for the entire Denver Christian community of students, teachers, and parents, all partnering together in spiritual formation!
“As a community, we need each other. The school needs the family, and the family needs the school.” ~Matt Covey