Hidden down a long driveway in the heart of a busy industrial area, Decatur Adventist Junior Academy (DAJA) is experiencing a stellar school year. A lower than expected enrollment is providing the opportunity for innovative, individualized learning, with one-on-one instruction as the norm. A large entry-hall television monitor welcomes visitors and volunteers, keeps track of activities, and celebrates students’ achievements. The bright bulletin boards outside classroom doors announce that something special is going on at DAJA. One of the new students was heard saying, “This is the best school ever.”
On a special evening, September 23, 2016, teachers, parents, seniors, church and school board members, and excited students lined the hall outside a closed door with a yellow ribbon stretched across. Everyone, including the Conference vice president for education, Kim Gaiter, was waiting for the grand opening of the Decatur Adventist Junior Academy Science Lab. Principal Yvette Cooper arrived at the school last year with a vision for a science/ STEM lab, and teachers enthusiastically embraced the vision. Students got excited. People caught the vision. The Jett Setters, Decatur Adventist Church’s senior group, held their annual fundraiser and donated the funds to the science lab. The Friends of DAJA, a support group, hosted a golf tournament; and, private donors came together to help fund the science lab.
When the ribbon was cut, the first-class science/STEM lab was opened. The lab contains the latest state-of-the-art Promethean Board (funded largely by the Jett Setters), a science touch table, a Listening Center with activities for the youngest students, large models of simple machines, and detailed models of human body systems. But that’s not all. Lining the walls are iPads, coding activities, an electronic microscope, a projector with its own interactive table, and a coat rack outfitted with lab aprons, gloves, and equipment for dissecting and experiments. But, even that still is not all! On the back wall of the lab is a working fountain with live plants. Not far away is located Critter County, an innovative shelf/cage display with fish, gerbils, hermit crabs, and even a snake, all live and thriving. This lab is used daily by excited students for a variety of activities. It was just as the kindergarten class completed their first activity in the lab when several students enthusiastically declared, “Please, Mrs. Hupp, can this be our classroom?”
DAJA provides even more cutting-edge science/STEM instruction through an engineer with a love for Christian education who volunteers at the school, teaching science and STEM classes weekly to students in grades K-8. She has also established a robotics class. Students who attend this class are a part of a team that will compete this spring in the First Lego League competition, a competition sponsored by this organization to inspire future scientists and engineers by engaging children in real-world engineering and problem-solving challenges.
Emphasizing the science curriculum does not mean other curriculum areas are being neglected. DAJA continues to maintain School of Excellence standards. Cooper and teachers are planning a Reading Achievement Center, a room designed to encourage reading at all levels. A specialist will track the students’ growth in the areas of reading and literacy. The center will also be a reading diagnostic center for students in grades K-8. Students will be assessed, and an intervention plan developed to monitor progress.
While challenging students to compete and excel in the modern world, the spiritual emphasis so critical to the school’s mission is not neglected. October 27, 2016, was designated “Call to Prayer and Pastors’ Appreciation Day.” This is the second year that DAJA has invited pastors from around the Atlanta area, especially the pastors of the students enrolled at the school, to join students and staff for a special day of prayer. Students placed their prayer requests on the prayer wall. Pastors were assigned to each classroom to pray for God’s blessing and guidance on the students and their requests. In addition, special prayers were offered for the country during this turbulent time. After prayer, pastors and students proceeded to the cafetorium where tables were beautifully decorated. Junior and senior choirs sang, and poems of appreciation were spoken. The pastors received a framed picture of the students who attend their church. All the pastors and elders expressed their appreciation as they enjoyed a scrumptious breakfast.
“True education does not ignore the value of scientific knowledge or literary acquirements; but above all information it values power; above power, goodness; above intellectual acquirements; character,” Education, page. 225, Ellen G. White.
DAJA welcomes all visitors to experience an Adventist school on fire with excited students, motivated teachers, committed supporters, cutting-edge educational experiences, and individualized instruction with a strong spiritual foundation.
South Atlantic | December 2016