Program marries public schooling, Mennonite tradition

Bridges, a brand new Thames Valley District faculty board pilot program for Low German-speaking Mennonite schoolkids, has been so widespread with mother and father, it has outgrown two school rooms and can increase into a 3rd.

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A few of these pupils have by no means been to high school earlier than.

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Others could have attended a Bible-based church faculty or studied at residence.

And lots of have by no means spoken something apart from Low German.

Bridges, a brand new Thames Valley District faculty board pilot program for Low German-speaking Mennonite schoolkids, has been so widespread with mother and father, it has outgrown two school rooms and can increase into a 3rd.

Forty-nine pupils are enrolled now and extra are on their means. Half-time college students additionally pop in from different elements of the varsity every day to share within the pupils’ cultural traditions.

“Phrase of mouth has unfold (information of this system) properly,” mentioned Tim Coombs, principal of Straffordville elementary faculty. Straffordville is about 20 kilometres east of Aylmer in Elgin County,

This system additionally has two lessons at Summers’ Corners elementary, close to Aylmer, he mentioned.

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Straffordville Public School (HEATHER RIVERS/The London Free Press)

Southwestern Ontario is residence to many various Mennonite communities, starting from the Horse and Buggy Previous Order to Conservative to various. Numerous Mennonites within the Aylmer space are Low-German-speaking Mennonites.

The Thames Valley board estimates solely about 10 per cent of Low German college students in east Elgin County, about 1,500 pupils, attend board colleges.

On the coronary heart of the Bridges program is the hope that Mennonites, typically reluctant to ship their youngsters to public colleges, could change their minds after they see how this system embraces their cultural roots with, for instance, faculty days that open with the Lord’s Prayer and Bible readings.

Isaak Hildebrandt, 12, mentioned his Low German-speaking mother and father have been “super-excited” about him with the ability to attend public faculty and nonetheless have a Christian-based schooling.

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“I learn the Bible and lead the scripture readings (in my classroom),” he mentioned.

The pupils, with assist from Low German-speaking lecturers and a translator, are celebrating Mexican Mennonite Week, marking 200 years since Mennonite households first got here to Canada from Europe

“We’re attempting to honour their residing expertise, the cultures and skills of our college students and household,” Coombs mentioned.

“The mother and father are seeing the worth of studying English and the educational curriculum we’ve. They’re additionally seeing the worth of integration and socialization with different college students who will not be Mennonite.”

As soon as taking part pupils full Grade 8, they might be “bridged” to highschool, which many East Elgin Mennonites have by no means attended.

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Pupils can also take go away – bringing faculty work with them – to go to kinfolk in Mexico or assist their households with farm work or different duties.

They’re graded via assessments, tasks and displays, Coombs mentioned.

“We’re attempting to interrupt down the limitations which have been on this space historically,” Coombs mentioned. “We’re capable of present public schooling to them, which our college students in Ontario obtain, however they’re additionally persevering with with their private tradition.

“They’re getting the very best of each worlds.”

Main instructor Jessica Dyck, who grew up close to Alymer in a Low German household, loves how this system lets siblings keep collectively creating “little households in our school rooms.”

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“I like the group as a result of our tradition’s focus is on the household,” she mentioned. “You see the sense of loving and caring for one another.”

For a lot of of her pupils, it’s their first time in a classroom, she mentioned. “Some have by no means attended faculty in any respect.”

The hope is that sooner or later, program pupils will transfer on to East Elgin secondary faculty, the place they might proceed to work with lecturers to earn highschool diplomas, whereas nonetheless adjusting their studying schedule to accommodate household actions.

“They shift instances so the youngsters can miss per week or two at starting or at finish of yr,” Coombs mentioned. “They do some studying on-line or exterior the standard studying hours if they’re wanted on their household farms.”

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What Mennonite pupils mentioned

“I like the whole lot. We love studying collectively.” – Anna Peters, 8

“I like prayer and devotion and our little mates (part-time college students) who come to our classroom.” – Keegan Teichroeb, 9

“Within the Bridges program you’ll be able to pray with folks we all know.” – Selena Klassen, 12

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