Written by Dr. Steve Whitaker, Head of School

This year, we have done some exciting things to bolster innovation and support student success and engagement in the classrooms, and outside of the four walls of the classroom. Our goal is to continue advocating for student engagement and to make learning more about real life! Our teachers are invested in the success of their students and they are going the extra mile every day. Last Friday is a perfect example of how our students are thriving in a variety of disciplines on campus.

Throughout the day, the Upper School hosted Royal-Thon, our first Dance Marathon, a student-led service learning experience. Students in grades K-12 danced and had fun all while raising $25,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network at Orlando Health. Isabel Crist and Brooks DenBesten were the student leaders who made this dream a reality. The event involved a tremendous amount of planning and promotion; Isabel and Brooks were able to work collaboratively with their peers as well as faculty and staff to make the event such a success.

In another area of campus, a team was hard at work on the Aquaponics Farm. The greenhouse is fully erected and the internal farming structures are nearly complete. The team was putting final touches on the fish tanks on Friday and we are really excited about adding this hands-on micro-farming experience to science classes for students. During the first year, students will be exposed to all of the options for growing crops and fish; however, they will mainly focus on tilapia and leafy greens as they deploy this system. All students will benefit from the experience, but the curriculum will be integrated into 4th to 10th-grade science courses over the next few years. In addition to the science curriculum, there are other opportunities to integrate math, Christian Studies, and personal finance courses.

Meanwhile, behind the Aquaponics structure, another group of students spent the morning working on Street Art. It was truly amazing to watch as our artists brought the sidewalk to life using their imaginations and a little bit of chalk. Upper School is planning a sidewalk art house competition next month and I can’t wait to see what they create.

Lastly, our Ceramics Program experienced their 6th annual Raku Firing of creative ceramic design pieces. Raku is a pottery technique originating in 16th century Japan. Rather than using our electric kilns to cure pottery for 24 hours at 2000 degrees, Raku uses a 1-hour flash fire process. Similar to techniques in Biblical times using underground wood-fed pit fires, students employed propane gas to bring the pottery to 2000 degrees quickly. I was told that we are one of about 10 schools in Florida to have this type of outdoor kiln to give students exposure to this experience. Students also enjoyed grilling hamburgers and s’mores, and even brought inflatable pools to relax in between firings!

Research has demonstrated that engaging students in the learning process increases their attention and focus, motivates them to practice higher-level critical thinking skills, and promotes meaningful learning experiences. Much of what we simply tell students they forget. When they are participants, there is a significantly greater chance that the learning will stick. Thank you for the incredible honor of partnering with you in preparing your children for this life and the life to come.