Getting kids “hooked” into learning the Bible and wanting to know more about God can seem like an impossibly daunting task. Bible is my favourite subject to teach, but I previously found it to be a challenging subject to engage the interest of students, especially students who had no previous Christian experience or knowledge of God. Reading a textbook seemed flat and lacked a dimension that students could relate to as young people and that would challenge them to think about how God is reaching out to them in their own lives.
Last year, I remember receiving a barely half-finished Bible course overview that a teacher had kindly sent to me to help me finish my course overviews. At the top of the overview the teacher had written, “Since my students are non-Adventist, I am going through the Bible with them and creating my own Bible studies to do with them.” I remember wishing I had the time and energy to create my own Bible course for my students. I admired that teacher for the effort s/he had put in to meet the students where they were.
I was left with the textbook. My students who had little to no prior knowledge of the Bible or Adventist beliefs would be at a loss when trying to figure out the references to Ellen White or the Bible stories mentioned. I inwardly cringed at these gaps of understanding and the details they missed. Students who struggled with reading and writing would lose interest because they struggled with the text itself rather than the concepts taught.
Doing some research after school, I was surprised and disappointed to find that there are very few Adventist resources, beyond Sabbath school quarterlies, suitable for young people that would fill this gap between the learner and the realness of a God who loves them.
Then I heard about the Encounter curriculum. It was the subject of one of the many workshops offered at the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada’s Teacher’s Convention this past August. Encounter is completely separate from the other programs and workshops with the same name that have come up in the church over the past few years. The new curriculum, set out for the first time this year in the North American Division for grade 9, is an interactive form of learning and teaching, where students explore their own thoughts about God and who He is. The entire curriculum has been used in Adventist schools in Australia and is now being adapted and published for the North American Division. Teachers must have special training to teach it in order to faithfully follow the technique and sequence of learning and processing set out for the students.
Not only is there no textbook for this curriculum (other than the Bible!), there is a variety of activities that appeals to all forms of learners. The lessons are creative and original, with teaching techniques that involve interaction between the learners and others as well as engagement with their own thoughts and their current knowledge of God. The questions presented in the curriculum make me stop and think of my own relationship with God and how I’m portraying Him to my students. This consciousness of how God can use me in the classroom drives me to seek more of Him in my personal life.
I’m always excited to do my lesson plans for Bible and see what we’re going to be doing in class! What is most motivating for me is that I already have some of my professedly atheist students ask me with anticipation, “What are we doing in Bible today?” to which I just reply with a smile, “You’ll have to wait and see!”
As this curriculum continues to come off the press in the next few months, I anticipate that students will enjoy learning it as much as I enjoy teaching it. Once a few months have passed, I’ll let you know how things have been going and tell you more about the curriculum as I receive the newly printed units. [Ed. Unfortunately, the author will not be able to produce a follow-up article as she taught 5 of the 10 units of the Encounter Bible curriculum for academy students but is currently teaching a different grade level. In addition the first few units she had utilized are under revision. Thus the author will not be able to publish follow-up article at this time. If you’d like to read a review of the Encounter curriculum please click here.]
In the meantime, be sure to check out the Encounter website to see the overview video of the method and goals in the curriculum as well as documents about the prospective learning objectives. It is my hope and prayer that my students—and other students in Adventist schools across North America—will want to know our Savior more through this Bible curriculum.
Please keep Adventist teachers in your prayers. Pray for us secondary teachers as we experience teaching this curriculum and for all teachers as we help our students come closer to Jesus.
Read the Compass Magazine review of the full Encounter Curriculum here.