Service Learning in the K-12 Curriculum
BY LINDA FUCHS, an associate superintendent of education for the Michigan Conference
n the late 1970s, Washington Conference president Glenn Aufderhar shared his vision of students in Seventh-day Adventist schools reaching out into their communities to experience first-hand the joy of service. His dream was to develop a practical way for Adventist education to be an integral part of the mission of the Church. Washington Conference Education Department superintendent Nathan Merkel, along with North Pacific Union Education associate Vic Fullerton, and Portland Adventist Academy principal Edward Norton, accepted Aufderhar’s challenge and eventually developed materials that would be the backbone of a service-oriented, hands-on facet of the K-12 school curriculum.
|MIO: Students at Mio Adventist Elementary School joined schools across Michigan to help others when New Orleans was hit with a devastating hurricane. More than 400 “Comfort Kits” for women, men, and children were shipped to Katrina victims. [Photo credit: Linda Fuchs]
In 1980 the Washington Conference held a ministers-teachers convention at which Des Cummings, Jr., then a professor at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, presented information on service projects that he called Bible Labs—thus the title was born.
Teachers and administrators who promote community service and witnessing in the community have always existed in Adventist education, and almost all conferences and schools are involved in some type of outreach and service activities. Bible Labs, however, provides these outreach programs with a formal platform in the curriculum.
The mission of Bible Labs is taken from Matthew 20:26-28: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” (NIV).
Bible Labs was developed with a mission to enlist the school as an arm of the Adventist Church’s overall evangelistic program. Program goals include:
- Nurturing the faith of the students
- Promoting service-learning in the K-12 curriculum
- Participating in the global mission of the Adventist Church
Projects that are part of this initiative are intended to meet human need at all levels of existence—from basic survival to that of knowing Jesus Christ as a personal Savior.
To maintain a strong Bible Labs program, commitment is needed by church members, school boards, pastors, principals, and teachers. Every church member can support Bible Labs with time, money, and prayer. The church’s nominating committee can strengthen this program by selecting a Bible Labs coordinator to work with the principal and teachers to plan service activities, collect required materials, and help coordinate needed transportation.
School boards need to be responsible for supporting Bible Labs and for putting into place a budget for this program. Teachers must provide regular time in the school schedule. And having the pastor go regularly into the community with the students will make a positive difference.
|PETOSKEY: Students at Petoskey Adventist Elementary School often spend time helping take care of the animals at the local humane society. [Photo credit:Kim Suckert]
Principals and teachers must have a clear vision and a strong commitment for Bible Labs to be successful.
Keeping Bible Labs Alive in Michigan
When Norton joined the Michigan Conference in 1986 as associate superintendent of Education, he shared his passion for Bible Labs with teachers, pastors, and school boards in the conference. As a result of his commitment, together with the support of Aufderhar, then president of the Michigan Conference, and others, students throughout Michigan became involved in many creative Bible Labs projects.
The list of project ideas is long and varies widely from school to school, but the impact of the program that began in the late 1980s is still evident in each elementary school and academy in Michigan. Students are currently involved with a variety of projects, including:
- raking leaves and doing other yard work for senior citizens and others in need;
- making cards and baking cookies to express appreciation to local firefighters;
- coloring and putting together simple decorations for hospital lunch trays during holiday seasons such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day;
- supporting evangelistic meetings by passing out invitations in the community, assisting with child care, and providing special music;
- helping to sort donated items and box clothing for shipment to areas and people in need;
- holding car washes, selling popcorn, and putting containers in local businesses to raise money for various projects such as Hope for Humanity and ADRA.
When Ronnie, an upper-grade student at Gobles Junior Academy (GJA), was asked what Bible Labs project he enjoyed being a part of, he responded, “Going to work with the ‘Young Fives.’” Every Wednesday students at GJA take a trip to the local public school and read books to the five-year olds, color with them, and play games or do worksheets with them.
The Bible Labs coordinator for the First Flint Elementary School, Sue Gilmore, involved the students in the grades 1-4 classroom in decorating little “love notes” to insert in the hats and mittens given by church members to the homeless. The notes read, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Heb. 13:5), along with the simple message, “Jesus loves you, and we do too!”
The school board at Ionia voted to ask for donations of stuffed animals to which the students could attach memory verses. These animals were given to residents of the local senior citizens’ home and women’s and children’s shelter.
|BERRIEN SPRINGS: Seventh-grade students at the Village Adventist Elementary School in Berrien Springs spend time planning worships for and praying with the younger students in their building. [Photo credit: Wendy Wineland]
Beth Stevenson, first-grade teacher at the Village School in Berrien Springs, decided to work with her students to help hurricane victims from three families who were relocating to Michigan. Students talked about what these families would need and began collecting household items, clothing, and toys. A classroom bulletin board reminded them to pray daily for these families.
Katelyn, an eighth-grade student in a one-room school in Munising, visited a local nursing home monthly with her teacher and classmates. “I noticed how gloomy everyone looked when we arrived,” Katelyn said, “and then how many smiles were on the faces of the senior citizens while we were singing and handing out our cards.”
Students have made hundreds of cards for soldiers, veterans, pastors, and those who are sick, discouraged, or mourning the loss of a loved one. They have picked up litter at parks, helped straighten books at the local library, participated in raising money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and packed lunches for Meals on Wheels. They have also given Bible studies, helped direct traffic at evangelistic meetings, and preached entire evangelistic series.
The Bible Labs program changes lives—not only of those the students are helping but also the lives of the students themselves and the adults who support and work with them. God is using this program to make a difference in Adventist schools and their communities.
To find out more about Bible Labs and starting a similar program in your school, contact the Michigan Conference Education Department at 517-316-1550 .