Elementary School Philosophy

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Philosophy

“Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations, baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.” (Mt 28: 19-20)

As members of Christ's Body, we have been commissioned to invite others to a personal relationship with Jesus. As teachers and catechists we nurture, support and challenge those with whom we work on their journey to a deeper relationship with Jesus and in doing so we are further transformed ourselves. This process of faith development is absolutely fundamental to our lives as Christians. How critical it is then to give priority to the prayerful and energetic consideration of Religious Education within the Catholic School and the parish Religious Education Programs.

The goal of Catholic Eduction is to make one's “faith become living, conscious and active through the light of instruction.” (Christus Dominus: Decree on the Bishop's Pastoral Office in the Church, #14). To have a living faith we must truly integrate it into our entire being. To have a conscious faith we must process, discern and understand. To have a truly active faith we must enter into relationships and into service. A variety of people are involved in, and a number of influences affect, our striving towards this goal. In the Philosophy of Education for Catholic Schools in the Province of B.C., the bishops state the following:

Faith Lived in Community

Christian faith is not lived in isolation but is born and develops in communities under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The student lives first of all in the domestic community of the home, then the parish community, school community, and the wider communities of district, province, nation and world.

Parents have the first responsibility for the education and Christian formation of their children. The school exists to complement this responsibility, not to replace it. Parents have a “duty to send their children to Catholic schools wherever possible, to give Catholic schools all the support in their power, and to cooperate with them in their work for the good of their children.” At the same time, parents have a right to the Church's help with their responsibilities as teachers of their children.

Pastors are, too, expected to promote and contribute to Catholic education for the young, who are the hope of the Church, especially those who are poor, those deprived of the benefits of family life, and those weak in faith. The parish community supports and strengthens fathers and mothers in their duties as educators. By participating in parish activities, the growing child experiences what it means to belong to a larger faith community.

The school itself is called to be a faith community and precisely as such teaches Christian habits of mind, heart and work. It hands on Catholic faith and values to the young both by word and by example. Thus, the whole Church has a family interest in Catholic schools, since all the baptized are responsible for seeing that the specific mission and distinctive characteristics of Catholic schools are maintained and improved. Laity, clergy and religious are responsible, each according to their proper roles, for the Catholic school in all of its facets and for the decisions made in its regard.

Religious Instruction

Religious instruction is another constitutive element in the Catholic schools' process of education. The aim of religious instruction “is not simply one of intellectual assent to religious truths but also of a total commitment of one's whole being to the Person of Christ.” This commitment to Christ is intrinsically linked to the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church, which the school encourages as its students discover and express their Christian identity and mission.

Christ-centered Education

The entire school program is meant to be Christ-centered. The Catholic school “strives to relate all human culture eventually to the news of salvation, so that the life of faith will illumine the knowledge which students gradually gain of the world, of life, and of humankind”, as the Declaration on Christian Education states.

This document addresses elements of Christian education and formation (word and action) mandated for the Vancouver Archdiocese.

The Role of the Teacher Catechist

“The person of the catechist is the medium in which the message of the faith is incarnated” (Sharing the Light of Faith: National Catechetical Directory for Catholics of the United States. – Conclusion). Through our entire being we are responsible for making Christ alive for our students:

  • “No methodology, no matter how well tested, can dispense with the person of the catechist in every phase of the catechetical process. The charism given to him [her] by the Spirit, a solid spirituality and transparent witness of life, constitutes the soul of every method. Only his [her] own human and Christian qualities guarantee a good use of texts and other work instruments.

    The catechist is essentially a mediator. He [she] facilitates communication between the people and the mystery of God, between subjects amongst themselves, as well as with the community. For this reason, his [her] cultural vision, social condition and lifestyle must not be obstacles to the journey of faith. Rather, these help to create the most advantageous conditions for seeking out, welcoming and deepening the Christian message. He [she] does not forget that belief is a fruit of grace and liberty. Thus, he [she] ensures that his [her] activities always draw support from faith in the Holy Spirit and from prayer. Finally, the personal relationship of the catechist with the subject is of crucial importance.” (General Directory For Catechesis #156) 

Our role as catechist is a holy and noble vocation. To take on such a role holds many challenges for us; thus, we need to:

  1. have a faith that interpenetrates our life
  2. pray
  3. continue to actively seek growth as an adult Catholic
  4. celebrate the sacramental and liturgical life of the Church
  5. share in the life of our parish community
  6. give witness to the Gospel
  7. serve the community
  8. be willing co-learners, in community with our students, their families and the Church
  9. seek out relationships that will nurture us in this vocation
  10. be committed to continual development of our skills and abilities as teachers.

When we are committed to accepting these challenges we will then be facilitating catechesis that “is the whole process by which a Christian community informs, forms and ever transforms itself and every member in lived Christian faith.” (Thomas Groome) 

To be catechist means to echo Good News; it is a great, wonderful, mysterious challenge that God has graced us to accept.

GOALS, OBJECTIVES, and LEARNING OUTCOMES
OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION for the
ARCHDIOCESE OF VANCOUVER
 

In our Religious Education Programs we strive to respond to the mandate of Jesus who said: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19) 

Goals for Religious Education

In the light of the mandate, it is obvious that the general goal of all Religious Education is to foster discipleship and Christian living at each developmental stage. The more specific goals for Religious Education are as follows:

  1. TO KNOW GOD: by imparting a knowledge of the faith which will enable the student to respond to God's call and thus enter into a personal relationship with God and the community.
  2. TO LOVE GOD: by forming disciples of Christ who witness through their love of God, self and neighbour in their daily lives.
  3. TO SERVE GOD: by fostering service of God and neighbour.

Objectives of Religious Education

The Acts of the Apostles identifies the characteristics of the Church in every age. In light of this model we can evaluate the authenticity of Christian community. The following eight traits summarize this model.

  1. Teaching of faith: by understanding the faith
  2. Quality of community: by living life giving relationships
  3. Breaking of Bread: by valuing and living Eucharistic and sacramental life
  4. Common Prayer: by regularly praying together, using prayers from our tradition as well as spontaneous prayer and fostering the use of Scripture.
  5. No one is in need: by showing sensitivity to the needs of others in the local community and a willingness to share time, talent and possessions to meet those needs
  6. One of mind and one of heart: by living a common commitment to the ideals of the Catholic Church
  7. See how they love one another: by caring for, supporting and affirming one another in joyful community
  8. Sense of mission: by evangelizing (sharing the faith with non-believers), by showing a preferential option for the poor of the world, and by fostering stewardship of the earth

Religious Education Learning Outcomes for Catholic Students

TO KNOW GOD

  1. Read, interpret and apply Scripture to life.
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of liturgical seasons and feasts.
  3. Present a reasoned rationale for being Catholic.
  4. Illustrate basic understanding of Catholic dogma and doctrine in light of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
  5. Illustrate a basic understanding of the history of the Church and an appreciation of her basic traditions.
  6. Demonstrate a knowledge and appreciation of the diverse cultural expressions of Catholicism.
  7. Demonstrate an appreciation for the relationship between faith and culture (e.g., through arts, social sciences, sciences, technology, etc.).

TO LOVE GOD

  1. Pray regularly and use a variety of prayer forms to enrich and express personal and communal spirituality.
  2. Demonstrate an understanding and appreciation for the importance of Sacraments, with an emphasis on the centrality of the Eucharist, in the life of Catholics.
  3. Celebrate the presence of the Sacred through participation in worship experiences using sacramentals, symbols, and rituals.
  4. Use appropriate resources to plan and participate in liturgy and other prayer experiences.
  5. Demonstrate the ability to apply Catholic principles to interpersonal relations (e.g., family, peers, work, society, Church, etc.).
  6. Demonstrate the ability to make moral decisions consistent with Church teachings.
  7. Demonstrate an understanding and respect for the gift of life; demonstrate an understanding of responsible stewardship.

TO SERVE GOD

  1. Demonstrate an appreciation for faith community by participating in its life and activities as an essential way of coming to know God.
  2. Express a willingness to develop and use God given gifts and talents in a Christ like way to build Christian community.
  3. Critique societal structures in light of Catholic social justice principles and apply to social and personal situations.
  4. Engage in service to the community (e.g., family, parish, local, national, and global) in response to the Gospel call.
  5. Examine the variety of Christian vocations as ways to live out the Baptismal call to a life of service.

These outcomes have been adapted with permission from “By Their Fruits You Shall Know Them…” Copyright, NCEA, Washington, DC, 1995. 

Approved by Archbishop Exner: January 9, 1997. (Revised March 1998)

Content

Following is an integrated presentation of the four components of catechesis outlined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the fundamental tasks of catechesis outlined in the new General Directory For Catechesis and the nineteen learning outcomes.

Promoting knowledge of the faith

“Who has encountered Christ desires to know him as much as possible, as well as to know the plan of the Father which he revealed. Knowledge of the faith (fides quae) is required by adherence to the faith (fides qua). 24 Even in the human order the love which one person has for another causes that person to wish to know the other all the more. Catechesis, must, therefore, lead to “the gradual grasping of the whole truth about the divine plan”,25 by introducing the disciples of Jesus to a knowledge of Tradition and of Scripture, which is “the sublime science of Christ“. 26 By deepening knowledge of the faith, catechesis nourishes not only the life of faith but equips it to explain itself to the world. The meaning of the Creed, which is a compendium of Scripture and of the faith of the Church, is the realization of this task. (General Directory For Catechesis #85)  

The Profession of Faith

  1. Present a reasoned rationale for being Catholic.
  2. Illustrate basic understanding of Catholic dogma and doctrine in light of the “Catechism of the Catholic church”
  3. Demonstrate an appreciation for faith community by participating in its life and activities as an essential way of coming to know God.
  4. Examine the variety of Christian vocations as ways to live out the Baptismal call to a life of service.
  5. Illustrate a basic understanding of the history of the Church and an appreciation of her basic traditions.
  6. Demonstrate a knowledge and appreciation of the diverse cultural expressions of Catholicism.

Liturgical education

“Christ is always present in his Church, especially in “liturgical celebrations”. 27 Communion with Jesus Christ leads to the celebration of his salvific presence in the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist. The Church ardently desires that all the Christian faithful be brought to that full, conscious and active participation which is required by the very nature of the liturgy 28 and the dignity of the baptismal priesthood. For this reason, catechesis, along with promoting a knowledge of the meaning of the liturgy and the sacraments, must also educate the disciples of Jesus Christ “for prayer, for thanksgiving, for repentance, for praying with confidence, for community spirit, for understanding correctly the meaning of the creeds…..”,29 as all of this is necessary for a true liturgical life (General Directory For Catechesis #85). 

Sacramental Life

  1. Read, interpret and apply Scripture to life.
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of liturgical seasons and feasts.
  3. Demonstrate an understanding and appreciation for the importance of Sacraments, with an emphasis on the centrality of the Eucharist, in the life of Catholics.
  4. Celebrate the presence of the Sacred through participation in worship experiences using sacramentals, symbols, and rituals.
  5. Illustrate a basic understanding of the history of the Church and an appreciation of her basic traditions.

Moral formation

“Conversion to Jesus Christ implies walking in his footsteps. Catechesis must, therefore, transmit to the disciples the attitudes of the Master himself. The disciples thus undertake a journey of interior transformation, in which, by participating in the paschal mystery of the Lord, “they pass from the old man to the new man who has been made perfect in Christ”.30 The Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus takes up the Decalogue, and impresses upon it the spirit of the beatitudes,31 is an indispensable point of reference for the moral formation which is most necessary today. Evangelization which “involves the proclamation and presentation of morality”,32 displays all the force of its appeal where it offers not only the proclaimed word but the lived word too. This moral testimony, which is prepared for by catechesis, must always demonstrate the social consequences of the demands of the Gospel.33 (General Directory For Catechesis #85) 

Christian Moral Development:

  1. Read, interpret and apply Scripture to life.
  2. Demonstrate the ability to apply Catholic principles to interpersonal relations (e.g., family, peers, work, society, Church, etc.)
  3. Demonstrate the ability to make moral decisions consistent with Church teachings.
  4. Express a willingness to develop and use God-given gifts and talents in a Christ-like way to build Christian community.
  5. Critique societal structures in light of Catholic social justice principles and apply to social and personal situations.
  6. Demonstrate an understanding and respect for the gift of life; demonstrate an understanding of responsible stewardship.
  7. Illustrate a basic understanding of the history of the Church and an appreciation of her basic traditions.
  8. Engage in service to the community (e.g., family, parish, local, national, and global) in response to the Gospel call.

Teaching to pray

“Communion with Jesus Christ leads the disciples to assume the attitude of prayer and contemplation which the Master himself had. To learn to pray with Jesus is to pray with the same sentiments with which he turned to the Father: adoration, praise, thanksgiving, filial confidence, supplication and awe for his glory. All of these sentiments are reflected in the Our Father, the prayer which Jesus taught his disciples and which is the model of all Christian prayer. The “handing on of the Our Father” 34 is a summary of the entire Gospel 35 and is therefore a true act of catechesis. When catechesis is permeated by a climate of prayer, the assimilation of the entire Christian life reaches its summit. This climate is especially necessary when the catechumen and those to be catechized are confronted with the more demanding aspects of the Gospel and when they feel weak or when they discover the mysterious action of God in their lives. (General Directory For Catechesis #85)

Christian Prayer

  1. Read, interpret and apply Scripture to life.
  2. Pray regularly and use a variety of prayer forms to enrich and express personal and communal spirituality.
  3. Illustrate a basic understanding of the history of the Church and an appreciation of her basic traditions.

ELEMENTARY RELIGIOUS EDUCATION PROGRAMS
VANCOUVER ARCHDIOCESE
 

The goal of Religious Education in the elementary program is to teach the faith so that students will come to know, love, and serve God. The teacher/catechist works in collaboration with the parents who are the primary educators of the child. With the animation and support of the Archdiocesan Office of Religious Education, and guidance of the pastor and the Catholic School Principal/PREP Coordinator, the teacher/catechist teaches a curriculum which is facilitated through one of the two approved programs and other resources.

While the curriculum, program and resources are helpful, the embodiment of teaching is the teacher/catechist who witnesses God's love for the student and what it means to be a faithful disciple. Teachers/Catechists need to be chosen with utmost care and given basic and ongoing formation so that they can teach with skill and commitment. Recruitment of teachers and catechists is covered in archdiocesan policies.

In choosing programs for the Vancouver Archdiocese, the following criteria have been reviewed:

  • Sound faith and moral doctrine based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church
  • Holistic approach (head, heart, & feet) to ensure that the aim of catechesis be attained, namely, Christian living in the Church and the world
  • Development of prayer, private and communal
  • Opportunities for theological reflection so that the children can relate their own experiences and stories to the way of discipleship
  • A call to the service of charity and justice with ideas for specific application
  • Age appropriate language and activities
  • Developmentally appropriate faith and moral formation
  • Comprehensive teacher resource manual which promotes an integrated approach to catechesis leading to knowing, loving, and serving

Two programs which meet the above criteria were selected for use in the Vancouver Archdiocese. They are the Christ Our Life Series and the Born of the Spirit Program. The major reason for choosing just two programs is to facilitate in-service and ongoing formation in the specific programs. The decision on which of the two programs will be used in the local parish and school programs rests with the Pastor in consultation with the PREP Coordinator and, where applicable, the school Principal. In special circumstances, other programs may be approved with special written permission from the Archbishop.

Other programs which are approved as supplementary to these main programs are:

  • Chastity Formation: The Love and Life Series
  • Sacramental Preparation: The We Celebrate Reconciliation, Eucharist, & Confirmation Series
  • New Catholics Preparation: The Heritage Series

Approved by Archbishop Exner: January 18, 1996. 

Approach and Methods

Once we have identified what we are to teach, it is critical to take the time to plan how we will structure the learning experience in order to guide our students to new understanding. Pope Paul VI succinctly stated that our “methods must be adapted to the age, culture and aptitude of the persons concerned, they must seek always to fix in the memory, intelligence and heart the essential truths that must impregnate all of life.” (On Evangelization in the Modern World #44) As we face this task we must also remember that Jesus has promised to be with us in this process and that He plants the seed that we are called to water. We are instruments of the Spirit.

A Process for Planning (individually or as a team)

  1. Establish an atmosphere of prayer
  2. Be familiar with desired outcome(s)
  3. Reflect on what meaning that outcome has in your own life
  4. Assess where your students presently are vis-à-vis this outcome
  5. Gather resources, including approved Archdiocesan program
  6. Decide how you will assess whether the outcome has been achieved
  7. Create a learning opportunity

Choosing the Experience:

The possibilities are endless but there are factors to consider in order to keep our teaching rooted and balanced.

In Catechesi tradendae: on Catechesis in Our Time (John Paul II, October 16, 1979) four characteristics of catechesis are outlined:

  1. Catechesis “must be systematic, not improvised but programmed to reach a precise goal.” (CT #21)
  2. Catechesis and life experience cannot be separated. (CT #22)
  3. “Catechesis is intrinsically linked with the whole of liturgical and sacramental activity.” (CT #23)
  4. Catechesis needs to be nurtured within community. (CT #24)

Keeping these points and the mandate “to fix in the memory, intelligence and heart, the essential truths” before us we can develop activities that will foster a living faith in our students.

The following outline the ways and means of facilitating catechesis. All are important and should be incorporated into any unit of Religious Education.

Scripture Sharing

When we reflect and share on God's Word it becomes “living” for us. God's Word becomes a constant source of nourishment and challenge not a static, intellectual pursuit. It takes root and lives in both heart and mind. If our students are encouraged to ask, “What is God saying to me in this passage?” and “What am I called to be?”, they will, we hope, begin a life long desire to be touched by God's message.

Lectionary based catechesis, Liturgy of the Word with Children, and Groome's Shared Praxis approach are wonderful ways to experience Scripture with our students. (See appendix for outlines of each approach)

Prayer

Children have a natural sense of God's presence in their lives and allowing them frequent opportunities to nurture that relationship through various forms of prayer is vital. Each prayer experience should be approached with a sense of awe, mystery and reverence. Prayer as “living with God” should be emphasized. So often talking and listening become the focus and we forget that “Prayer is the habit of being in the presence of the thrice – holy God” (CCC#2565). This is the fundamental gift of prayer. We need to guide the students to see that prayer should envelop our lives. On this foundation various forms of prayer can be explored: blessing and adoration, prayer of petition, intercession, repentance, thanksgiving and praise, as well as the expressions of prayer: vocal, meditation and contemplation. Children should be given opportunities to experience and respond to prayer through song, gesture, dance, art, drama, writing and spontaneous prayer.

Liturgy and Celebration

We know that we cannot teach an experience, it must be lived. The rich sacramental and liturgical tradition of our Catholic faith provides some of the most profound moments in our lives. The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life”. (Lumen Gentium #11) therefore our catechesis should lead our students to desire to celebrate the Eucharist as well as the other sacraments.

Rituals such as an Advent wreath service, classroom prayer rituals, a retreat for confirmands, the Rosary are all opportunities for our students to understand that our faith interpenetrates our lives. Other experiences such as a tree planting ceremony, a class birthday, a school's anniversary can be designed to reflect the integration of our faith in daily life and celebration.

Storytelling

Jesus is the consummate storyteller. Children have a wonderful sense of this art, also. We, as teachers, need to foster the ability to listen to another's story and, as importantly, to tell our own. We can then enter more deeply the mystery that is our life with Jesus. We can appreciate the turns, twists, lessons and surprises that are behind, in and before us as we journey with God.

Art Forms

Creativity can give voice to God within us. Little children freely create and express themselves through music, song, dance, drama and art. Our students, in an environment of trust, care and respect, need to continue to be in touch with that creative expression. We need to encourage students to take risks and to experience various art forms simply because they are a way to celebrate one's relationship with God and not just because one has a particular creative talent. We need also to share our own artistic expression with our students as well as that of other more well-known artists, in order to spark that mysterious, God-like, creative process.

How to Implement this Curriculum Framework

Teacher Planning

Curriculum planning is the process through which a teacher makes real for the students the prescribed Religious Education Goals and Outcomes of the Vancouver Archdiocese. Planning, assessment & evaluation, and reporting are elements of a continuing cycle or process.

THREE STEPS TO PLANNING

  1. Goals and Learning Outcomes
    What goals and learning outcomes are prescribed and needed for the class?
    This includes:
    1. looking at the Goals of Religious Education
    2. looking at the prescribed 19 Religious Education Learning Outcomes
    3. looking at the expected learning outcomes by grade
    4. combining outcomes in natural, logical groupings according to liturgical season and school's approved Religious Education program

     

  2. Assessment and Evaluation
    How will I know how the students are meeting these goals and learning outcomes?
    What am I looking for?
    What assessment and evaluation tools will I be using?
    This includes:
    1. designing assessment tasks
    2. determining criteria, involving students as much as possible
    3. finding/creating models and exemplars of the performance
    4. designing/choosing appropriate rating scales and rubrics

     

  3. Learning Opportunities
    What will the students actually be doing to work towards these goals and outcomes?
    What types of learning experiences/instructional strategies am I going to provide?
    This includes:
    1. using one of the two approved Archdiocesan programs
    2. designing teaching/learning units, lessons, activities
    3. refining criteria

     

Adapted from A Tool Box For Teachers compiled by the Catholic Independent Schools of Vancouver Archdiocese.

The following is a sample of one format which can be used for planning. (A full-sized sheet appears in the Appendix.)

 Learning Outcome(s) 

(What goals and outcomes are needed for this unit/class?)

Assessment Task 

(How will I know if the out- come has been met?)

Instructional Strategy 

(What learning opportunities will I provide to enable the students to reach the outcomes?)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Assessment Tasks

A quality assessment task allows the students to demonstrate the knowledge, skills and attitudes prescribed in the outcomes. It also enables students to demonstrate their progress and capabilities in an authentic way.

Assessment tasks should match the different learning styles and intelligences of the students. They should denote whether the task is to be completed by an individual or in groups, who the audience is, what options or choices may be available, and what materials, equipment and resources are available to the students. The students will also need to know how much time is allowed for them to complete the task and what criteria their work will be evaluated against.

Criteria-Referenced Evaluation

In criteria-referenced evaluation, student performance is compared to established criteria. It involves using observable indicators which help us to be as objective as possible when determining student progress. When establishing criteria for any assessment task it is important to involve the students as much as possible and to provide examples so that the students can be clear about what is expected. For instance, when evaluating a student's ability to plan and lead a prayer service the teacher should model in the class what s/he is expecting the students to do.

Tools for evaluating an assessment task will vary depending on the assessment strategy being used. Samples of a variety of assessment tools are included in the Appendix of this curriculum framework binder.

For further framework reading in the area of planning, assessment, and evaluation please see A Tool Box For Teachers compiled by the Catholic Independent Schools of the Archdiocese of Vancouver. Also recommended is the NCEA Publication Creating a Curriculum that Works by Lorraine A. Ozar, PH.D., the parent book toBy Their Fruits You Shall Know Them…” from which the 19 Religious Education Learning Outcomes were derived.


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