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Building Citizens in Second Grade

January 12, 2018
By Dan VanderArk

My job at NorthPointe Christian is to help teachers carry out our mission of “equipping students to impact the world for Christ.”  As part of the job, I wander and observe our preschool on up through high school classes. 

Earlier this semester, a parent alerted me to a fascinating assignment taking place in Maria Joaquin’s second grade Spanish Immersion classroom.  Maria’s letter home, as the parent showed me, explained that the class was about to begin a social studies unit on “Community and Citizenship.”  She then set out the goals: (a) why people live in communities, (b) what is in them, and (c) how is one different from another.  

Sounds heavy for children this young, right?   Maria countered that question by adding that the project would “get real” by seeking to create “our own community in 2nd grade.”

Each student needed to create a cardboard box building at home - with the help of their families - that would contribute to the making of a community and improve the community.  The student creations would be hung in the hallway.  But prior to that, students would present their boxes to the class, with each maker answering three thought provoking questions about his/her building:

  1. Why is this building important in our community?

  2. How could this building be used to impact the world for Christ?

  3. How might the Spanish language be used in this building?

The individual results were captivating, the buildings together even more so, as they so perfectly captured the imagination, inviting viewers into a vibrant community, just as the project intended. 

I asked Maria why she chose to do this assignment.  Her response: 

I wanted to make what they were talking about in class to come alive and be relatable to their lives.”  

She mentioned that the students had talked about what it meant to be a good citizen; they talked about “how it begins in family, neighborhood, city, and goes out further into all the world.”   

In that discussion Maria said the students “talked about what God expects of us as Christians and how to be a good citizen in all these communities” and “finding similarities and differences among these kinds of communities.”  

The parent who gave me the heads-up on the assignment also expressed why she thought it worthwhile: “I thought I would pass along how much I love this assignment Maria is doing with the Spanish Immersion 2nd graders and the questions that go along with the project.  Today, I am thankful for the education my girls are getting...that Jesus is the center, and they are having to think from a very young age how Jesus can impact our community.

As I recall all aspects of this building assignment, I see the benefits of a Christian education in deed.   Indeed!