The setting was a professional development trip with other colleagues from ACS to an exemplary school, founded on project-based learning principles.

I remember first walking in and being taken aback when a student approached me, offering a tour of the school. Joseph was his name, and he especially wanted me to experience a class that was completing a project called “Calculicious: Making Calculus Delicious!” Essentially, the project combined Art 12 with Calculus 12.

At first, the classroom appeared really messy…but then I started to realize what I was witnessing.

The idea was for students to create a piece in art class from what they learned in calculus. The project was aesthetically beautiful and the students were so proud of their work. There were words on the actual artwork that said things like, “A Chord:  A line segment linking any two points on an ellipse,”  and “E²=c²/a².I was more enamored with the level of engagement in the classroom, as well as making practical use of mathematics—even calculus! I was that kid in school who constantly asked, “When am I ever going to need this in real life?” Calculus equations explaining artwork?

Now that was absolutely real life!

And then, what was even cooler was that the teacher investigated multiple places to display the art and managed to get it exhibited regularly at the city’s international airport. The students were beyond proud.

I thought to myself that if this is Deeper Learning, imagine what ACS could do if we layered our Christian world and life view onto this type of learning?

Where It All Began

Since the beginning of the Christian education movement in our province (which began soon after WWII), educators have been discussing and implementing updated best practices that can BEST meet an individual schools’ mission and vision. The movement also started with the core underpinnings of a reformed worldview—our whole world belongs to God and He is sovereign over it all; there is no sacred and secular divide.

But like good movements, we eventually became restless.

At the turn of the 21st Century, we questioned our relevance and used terms like 21st Century competencies. Out of this restlessness came many new and invigorating ways to educate while still clinging to our reformed worldview underpinnings.

Moved The Needle

At ACS, there were many changes to how we delivered education and we jumped deeply into a framework called project-based learning, or PBL. This inquiry-based framework equipped our staff to engage with students. We suddenly realized that PBL led us to deliver on our mission and vision better than before.

We noticed firsthand that our image-bearing students were “shaping God’s world” before our very eyes!

We spent many years “moving the needle” with the PBL framework as our guide. We did things like:

  • Provide exciting professional development opportunities for staff. We took a number of staff back to High Tech High in San Diego to learn about many of the concepts and ideas of PBL and then take this back to our setting at ACS.
  • We also created our own “boot camp” called the PBL Residency, where we spent a week right before school preparing and developing staff to become fully equipped to teach PBL from a Christian world and life view. This was taught by our teaching staff who were well equipped. The Residency became so popular that teachers from around the province (and the globe) participated and brought their learning back to their own schools.
  • Re-brand ourselves to “tell our story” around this framework over and over so that anyone can enter into our community and raise their Christian family alongside the rest of us who have already been on this journey.
  • Re-design many of our learning spaces to reflect this new style of teaching and learning (the This Square Inch campaign and building project reflected this).

More Than Just Projects

Recently, we realized that many Christian schools have adopted similar types of educational shifts, and even the province of BC has mandated learning to be an educational framework that embraces this new way of teaching and learning (without the worldview component, of course).

Christian schools have shifted the language to “Christian Deeper Learning” as opposed to PBL, but the concepts and framework have not changed. This language resonates with many of us because we are doing more than just projects—we are creating deeper learning opportunities, helping our students to shape God’s world.

As recently as six years ago, the ACS Board made a visionary decision to create a Deeper Learning Fund to significantly advance Christian deeper learning at our school. With seed money from the province, that is matched by the annual budget, this Deeper Learning Fund still exists today. The projects shared in the ACS 2022-23 Annual Report are a result of this fund—projects that were completed by students last school year (The annual report is on its way. Look for your copy in your mailbox very soon!).

A Beautiful Expression

We believe that Christian deeper learning, and the Deeper Learning Fund furthers our mission and vision in incredible ways, and we hope that by reading the annual report, you recognize this as well.

Mission statements state why organizations exist. Ours is exciting and we are living into this: engaging minds, nurturing hearts, and shaping God’s world.

Vision statements, on the other hand, try to capture a beautiful future that may even be somewhat unattainable yet inspires us. Here is ours:

ACS will be a vibrant school that is an adaptive and innovative leader in education, inspiring courageous Christ-like learners to magnify community impact.

Combining why we exist (mission statement), and where we are going (vision statement) is so motivating.

We believe our work towards Christian deeper learning is moving our students to a more beautiful expression of Christian education, while holding true to the underpinnings of who we were when we started: that this whole world belongs to our sovereign God, that there is not a sacred and secular divide, and that our image bearing kids are beautifully and wonderfully made with gifts that will further His Kingdom and help shape God’s world.

NOTE: Your copy of the ACS 2022-23 Annual Report is on its way. Look for it in your mailbox very soon. Or if you are eager to read more right away, check out the digital copy.