By Cameron Montefu I can’t believe Thanksgiving is right around the corner– and who doesn’t love this time of year?!! This is when we make it a point to count our blessings. Here at Mission Hills, our goal over the Thanksgiving season is to be purposeful in showing God’s love to others. We focus on giving. This year my fifth graders have taken on the responsibility of making blessing bags for families at Mission Hospital (through Ronald McDonald House Charities). I’ll be honest, the first thing they did was chuckle when I told them what organization we were partnering with. All those fifth grade brains initially took in was “Ronald McDonald”…ha! But what impressed me the most was how serious they became when I began explaining what it was about and how we were going to use this opportunity to serve the families of hospitalized children. My students became silent, wide-eyed, and instantly attentive. Sick kids? Exhausted and hurting families? That was an attention grabber. Throughout our conversation, I watched young hearts begin to break for people they’ve never met or even seen. The empathy in the room was palpable. My kids were counting their blessings. Chatter quickly began over what they wanted to donate and how cool it was going to be to do the project. Mission accomplished! When an act of service is a “have to,” a joyful opportunity is clearly missed. When it becomes a “want to,” we’ve tapped into the heart of it all. I often refer to the words from one of my favorite worship songs and make it my prayer. I encouraged my students to do the same: “Heal my heart and make it clean Open up my eyes to the things unseen Show me how to love like You have loved me Break my heart from what breaks Yours Everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause As I walk from earth into eternity” Don’t we all want our eyes opened to what breaks the Father’s heart? To see opportunities to be the arms of compassion to the hurting, lonely, and unsaved? We are blessed to be a blessing, and the joy of serving others is immeasurable! When these families receive a blessing bag, they will find it filled with small comforts, encouraging words, Bible verses, and prayers. The love of Jesus. Every part of this project is a small seed being planted for the kingdom of God — in the heart of each student and each recipient. We don’t know who is meant to receive each one, but God certainly does, and I believe with all my heart that He can do great things with one little bag covered in prayer. Are you looking for ways for your family to serve? Try getting plugged into ministries, community outreaches, or global missions through your church. Think about getting involved in organizations like Ronald McDonald House Charities, Jessie Rees Foundation, Orange County Rescue Mission, or Samaritan’s Purse. Seek out your local food bank or a soup kitchen. You can even participate in walks or races that support foundations for cancer, autism, and other worthy causes. Just say yes and watch God do amazing things in and through you.
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.