The benefits of connecting the chapel and the classroom

Experiri Blue

Experiri is a quarterly newsletter presenting stories of innovation in school ministry from Australia and beyond. Each edition provides two or three profiles of  innovative strategies that have been developed in response to challenges or emerging issues for chaplains or others in Anglican Schools, including Heads and Religious Educators. Until now Experiri was an emailed newsletter but in  the coming months some of the previous profiles will be posted here.

This profile is from the first edition Term 1 2013 and was contributed by Richard Browning, Chaplain at Radford College. canberra

What was the need or challenge being addressed?

The problem was Junior School chapel remained disconnected from the classroom, units of inquiry or general classroom initiatives. Chapel was isolated and lacked relevance or substance beyond the actual chapel session itself. (Context: 35 minute weekly chapel with Religious and Values education (RaVE) hosted by the JS teaching staff.) The need was simple: ground Chapel in the RaVE and simultaneously lift both chapel and RaVE in profile and substance, combining the College’s developing interest in Community of Inquiry practice, a strategy outlined in the Philosophy for Children program.

What was the response to the need?

A two year themed chapel and RaVE course. Tuesday chapel Week A introduced theme and reading. Friday chapel Week B gathered it in and included the classroom work and student reflections. The outline included four sections: Scripture and theological reflection; philosophy (using Philosophy for Children principles); values; extension and resources.

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What was the impact?

Enthusiastic staff, engaged and open students, incredibly thoughtful and sophisticated student responses, a very happy Chaplain and a Head of School pleased to see RaVE enrich the wider learning of the student. The staff were very happy to take up the resources. Returning to chapel at the end of week B allows a very natural point of honest accountability. The chapel services now have real substance and a footing back into the classroom. We are now in the third year (doing year A again) and refining the work even further.

What were the greatest challenges?

The attempts to link theme and material to the in-class units of inquiry failed from the beginning. The discovery was that if the themes are big and engaging enough, they feed back into inquiry quite naturally. What we do naturally enriches inquiry. Having all the JS teaching staff in the chapel has not been a big issue. The biggest issue is the pressure on classroom teachers to find the time to follow up and develop the work in the eight school days before returning to the chapel for the reflection chapel.

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