Making Disciples Socially: Elementary Students Learn Life Skills in New Class

By: Alyssa Mendez
What if children could prepare for adulthood and all that comes with it as early as kindergarten? This possibility has become a reality for Elementary students at Calvary Christian Academy with the introduction of a new Specials class. Learn how social-emotional learning is positively impacting students lives, preparing them for future success.

“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” -Luke 2:52



“Adulting” is no walk in the park. If you’re an adult who’s reading this, you know that the responsibilities, expectations, and relationships can be a lot to manage at times. What if children could prepare for adulthood and all that comes with it as early as kindergarten?

This possibility has become a reality for Elementary students at Calvary Christian Academy.

This school year, students in kindergarten through fifth grade were introduced to a new Elementary Specials class titled Luke 2:52, which teaches them practical ways to grow in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and all people. The class was developed to reinforce social-emotional learning (SEL) and values that are being taught in the home by their parents — invaluable skills such as:

  • Carrying a conversation and inviting another person into it
  • Expressing healthy coping skills to navigate the challenges of everyday life
  • Adapting a growth mindset
  • Developing self-awareness
  • Learning spiritual disciplines like prayer and tithing to help them grow with God
  • Showing kindness to others and ourselves
  • Making eye contact
  • Practicing gratitude
  • Staying physically active to keep our hearts and bodies healthy


 
“We’re teaching spiritual truths in a fun, unique way,” said Debra D'Agostino, curriculum lead and teacher for Luke 2:52. “Our prayer is that these lessons will be life-changing, helping students understand who God created them to be and embrace their individuality and calling.”

As a collaborative effort between CCA and a Christian school in Alabama, CCA’s former Elementary Principal Renie Contento had the opportunity to travel there, exchange best practices, and learn about their programs and offerings — one being a class focused on social-emotional learning. Although the idea for starting a class like Luke 2:52 had already been in discussion by Renie and her team prior to this trip, God confirmed their work by showing them another school that was already doing it successfully.

Upon returning back to Fort Lauderdale, Renie approached Mrs. D’Agostino, asking if she would take the lead with bringing this new Specials class to CCA by developing its curriculum and discipling students directly with her teaching experience. It just so happened that Luke 2:52 is Mrs. D'Agostino's life verse that has always been on her heart. We know that with God, there are no coincidences!
Such instruction and social-emotional support has been especially beneficial for students in what has been a unique school year filled with many changes due to COVID-19.
 
Luke 2:52 was introduced in August 2020 to both on-campus and mobile learners in kindergarten through fifth grade. In this class, students participate in mock scenarios, workshops, engaging activities, discussions, and journaling, which encourage them to make meaningful connections with their peers and think critically. Such instruction and social-emotional support has been especially beneficial for students in what has been a unique school year filled with many changes due to COVID-19.

“I think of skills I would want my own kids to know and filter them through the four areas Jesus grew in that are noted in Luke 2:52,” she said.

It’s always fascinating when research reinforces biblical concepts and God’s perfect design. According to an Edutopia article, “SEL programs can promote academic success and increase positive behavior, while reducing misconduct, substance abuse, and emotional distress for elementary school students” (Vega, 2017, para. 11).

Additionally, the long-term effects of ongoing social-emotional learning have been studied. Longitudinal research on the impact of SEL programs has revealed an increase in positive social skills and greater academic success (Gulbrandson, 2019).

The Luke 2:52 class joins the list of Specials that Lower School students at Calvary Christian Academy participate in weekly to enrich their academic experience and promote a well-rounded education: music, PE, art, technology, media, drama, and STEM.
“Not only do the students love this class, but their parents do as well because we’re co-laboring with them to prepare their children to thrive in middle school, high school, and beyond,”
 
Looking ahead, Mrs. D'Agostino and her support team are working on creating a grade-specific curriculum that ensures students are learning fresh new content each year that is age-appropriate and builds upon what they have learned in years past. But regardless of their age, students will walk away knowing how to apply what they’re learning in the classroom to real-life situations.

“Not only do the students love this class, but their parents do as well because we’re co-laboring with them to prepare their children to thrive in middle school, high school, and beyond,” Mrs. D'Agostino said. “We’ve even heard that students are sometimes teaching new concepts to their parents!”

You can learn more about how CCA partners with parents to help their children grow spiritually, academically, and socially by attending our upcoming Open House on Tuesday, February 23 at 8:30 AM. Click here to RSVP for this free event or forward it along to a friend.

 

Alyssa Mendez joined the CCA family in 2019 and serves as the Content Specialist on the Marketing Communications team. She holds an M.S. in Leadership from Nova Southeastern University and a B.S. in Public Relations from the University of Florida. Alyssa enjoys playing guitar and spending time with her husband Mike and 85-pound dog named Sadie.

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  • Wendy Lane
    I have witnessed Mrs. D'Agostino in action. She is amazing! The content of Luke 2:52 is so needed. This, coupled with the love she has for our students and the fun way she teaches the curriculum, has students engaged and loving this new special.

Find out more about CCAH at our March Open House!


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