By Yvonne Erkelens Have you ever wondered why you or your children should learn a second language? At what age should your child start learning a foreign language? Will doing so confuse them in their process of learning English correctly? When will they ever use it if no one they know speaks that language? Yes, the questions can be limitless when it comes to learning a second language. As a Spanish teacher, I have been approached many times with these questions and more. Reasons to learn a second language are many. Out of the seven billion people on earth, only about 400 million speak English as their primary language. That means that for native English speakers, bilingualism opens potential doors of communication to more than six billion people worldwide! Of course, this means greater opportunity for sharing the gospel! Learning a second language also increases problem-solving skills, expands the opportunity to make new friends, helps promote awareness of how other people think and feel, enhances travel experiences, and helps develop an appreciation for other cultures, music, and art. In addition, education and employment opportunities are multiplied for a person who speaks more than one language. Let me share with you a little about myself and my own experience with learning multiple languages. I was born and raised in Guatemala, Central America. Naturally, Spanish is my native language; however, being born to German parents, and having attended international schools, I have mastered Spanish, German, and English. I have three adult children of my own who learned three languages starting when they were just babies. Were there times when they got the languages mixed up? Absolutely, yes. Sometimes sentences would start in Spanish, followed by a few words in English, and maybe even finish up with a word in German. Was I worried? Not at all. I knew they were just absorbing as many words as they could and that eventually the day would come when they would be able to identify which word belonged to which language. And, in fact, I can testify that my adult children are masters of the English language but also are happy to be able to converse in both Spanish and German. It is my joy and passion to have been able to teach Spanish to my students at Mission Hills Christian School these past six years. Here at MHCS, I guide the students in the same way I did my own. They are often surprised to discover that many of the words are similar to English. Each day I have the privilege of witnessing children learning new words in Spanish and realizing that learning a second language can be fun!
By: Jodi Dale 8th Grade English & History Teacher How do you get students excited about writing? It was a quiet Monday during junior high lunchtime at Mission Hills Christian School. Six students met in the 8th grade English classroom. Why were they forfeiting their lunch? Did they have lunch detention? No. These students were getting together voluntarily for the second session of a new Writing Club. They gathered to share their ideas and the storylines they had begun. During the first meeting of this club, the group had decided to launch the writing club by composing original stories. They had agreed to come prepared for the second meeting having written the creative beginning of their story or, at the very least, some character developments. A request was put forth at the first meeting for the teacher to randomly challenge them with interesting plot twists. This group was eager for the challenge of creative story writing. What blossomed from there was nothing short of astonishing. The students were eager to share their story ideas. They welcomed the myriad plot, character, and setting suggestions that were tossed out. Depth and creativity were added to fledgling novel ideas. There was animated discussion even through mouths full of food. Teenage students were barely able to restrain themselves from sharing new ideas while someone else finished a suggestion. Once all had shared their story ideas and suggestions were made, we were sadly out of time and had to depart until our next meeting. As the teacher in charge of this rag-tag team of authors, I can’t wait to hear what storylines and interesting characters are brought to the table at our next meeting of the Mission Hills Junior High Writing Club. If you’re looking for ways to get your junior higher excited about writing, consider starting a Writing Club. You will be amazed at the creativity that flows when students begin sharing their ideas and stories with one another.
Sweet 16 is traditionally a milestone birthday for young ladies. But for Faith Fong, alum of Mission Hills Christian School, her 16th birthday was more than a chance to get together with friends and have a party. It was an opportunity to make a difference in the world. Faith’s mother, Sunny Fong, was expecting to throw a typical 16th birthday party for her daughter. But that all changed with one conversation. “Faith told me she had found this sweet little girl on YouTube named Iris who has GM1 Gangliodosis (a neurodegenerative condition) and that she would like to do something to help raise awareness and fund research for GM1.” Faith contacted Iris’ mom to find out how she could help Iris and others living with GM1 and discovered Art for Iris, a private auction using donated art to raise awareness and funding for GM1 research. That’s when Faith knew exactly how she wanted to celebrate her 16th birthday. “Being a really artistic person, I decided to invite a group of my friends who also love art to draw pictures that we could donate to Art for Iris.” So on August 18, 15 friends gathered to celebrate the life of Faith Fong by using their love of art to make a positive difference in the world. For Faith, this was the best gift she could have received. “I’m really happy that I could use this opportunity to not only glorify God, but also to impact a young child’s life.” Giving back is not new to this ever-smiling 16-year-old sophomore at Crean Lutheran High School. When she was 15, she discovered cure.org (CURE International), a wonderful organization that helps children in third world countries with treatable conditions like bow legs or hydrocephalus. So last year for her 15th birthday, instead of receiving gifts, Faith invited all her friends to make donations toward surgery for a child with malformed legs. Faith said, “Being from such a privileged area, I already have everything I need and more. It feels really good to give someone the gift of a brighter future.
By: Karen Smith Music Instructor at Mission Hills Music education is a vital component in developing well-rounded students. In fact, British neurologist Oliver Sacks said, “In terms of brain development, musical performance is every bit as important educationally as reading or writing.” I recently read that music is one of the only activities that activates, stimulates, and uses the entire brain! Current research has shown that when a person has participated in music lessons during childhood, they reap the benefits later in life. Even individuals with Alzheimer’s disease respond to speech more quickly and demonstrate clearer thinking when their brains connect to music and past memories. Music activities develop the whole child. Personal growth happens through the development of language, listening, coordination, concentration, self-confidence, and memory. Learning with movement, pitch and rhythm can be used to reinforce learning in other areas of their education. Musicality improves through listening, moving, singing, and playing. Brain growth (the brain literally grows larger) occurs because multi-sensory stimulation develops multiplied connections across the sections of the brain. More connections means faster thinking. Interpersonal growth happens through music education as children learn about the social skills, respect for others, and sharing that occurs as a part of musical instruction class. Creativity is enhanced through opportunities to explore their ideas through music. Finally, music makes children happy, and if a child is happy, the brain is more open to learning! One of the most effective ways to teach music, and the method we use at Mission Hills Christian School where I teach, is the Orff-Schulwerk method. As a certified Orff-Schulwerk music instructor, I enjoy watching children learn music by doing what they instinctively do naturally—play! I attend four workshops a year to learn new ways of teaching my students music using unpitched percussion instruments like drums and shakers as well as barred instruments such as glockenspiels, metallophones, and xylophones which are specially made in Germany. In an Orff-Schulwerk class session, we combine movement, drama, speech, and playing the recorder so that we can spark every student’s interest through active participation. If movement and dance are not their favorite activities, it’s OK because they will soon get to switch to the xylophone or recorder during the same learning experience. According to the AOSA (American Orff-Schulwerk Association), “Imitation, experimentation and personal expression occur naturally as the students become confident, life-long musicians and creative problem solvers. The Orff approach to teaching is a model for optimal learning in 21st Century classrooms.” The Composer Countdown program is another wonderful way we are helping Mission Hills students develop their minds through music. Composer Countdown introduces classical composers and their works to elementary age children. By introducing the students to the personal lives of these great people, they will catch a glimpse of who wrote these famous works. Through listening, they will learn about style and form characteristic of Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Contemporary music. Ultimately, by having “hands on” experience with the making of their own music, they will become “composers/musicians” themselves! Music education plays a vital role in the development of children. If your child’s school does not provide any type of musical instruction, consider enrolling them in an extra-curricular program such as guitar or piano lessons or a music and movement class. Besides discovering potential musical gifts, your child will learn an appreciation for music and his or her brain will develop important new neuronal pathways. It is worth the effort to make music instruction a part of your child’s life.
By: Mike Margy 6th grade teacher at Mission Hills Christian School It seems like only yesterday, but it was actually 10 years ago when my wife and I made an important discovery that would change our family’s morning routine. At about that time, we realized that our oldest son, then in second grade, was unable to control his seemingly limitless energy in order stay focused in class. We decided to try changing what he ate for breakfast to see if it would make a difference. We thought it would make sense to eliminate as much sugar as possible and instead offer our son plenty of protein. Of course, cereal (which typically contains a fair amount of sugar) had always been an easy, go-to breakfast, so this required a whole new morning routine for us. My wife Stacey began waking up about 20 minutes earlier every day to make both our sons a high protein, low-sugar breakfast–eggs, bacon, sausage, breakfast burritos. No more high-sugar breakfasts. The loss of sleep was sometimes difficult, but Stacey stayed the course, and the results were immediate. Justice was better able to focus, stay in his seat, and get his classwork done every day. Now, after 10 years, Stacey is still going strong, cooking that high-protein breakfast for both boys every single day of the school year. From a personal and professional standpoint, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for children to get good “brain food” every morning. During my 14 years in the classroom, I’ve seen innumerable students come to school with doughnuts and chocolate milk as their breakfast, and I know how it impacts their ability to do their best work. Now, don’t get me wrong. I enjoy a doughnut as much as the next teacher, especially when one of my students brings me a tasty chocolate one. But that’s the exception, not the norm. Of course, our boys still sometimes eat cereal and waffles on weekends and during the summer. But the high-protein breakfast habit has made such a difference, we are not going back to our old sugary breakfasts during the school year. Changing your breakfast routine may be a struggle at first, especially if your young one is conditioned for that sugary breakfast – or if you’re conditioned for that extra 20 minutes of sleep. But the results are unquestionable. The Margy family is living proof.