Decatur Adventist Junior Academy (DAJA), Stone Mountain, Ga., is bursting at the seams! Ninety-six students walked the red carpet into their classrooms on the first day of school. This was a substantial increase in enrollment from last school year. DAJA also welcomed two new faculty members this year, Tonisha Jackson, grades 3-4 teacher, and Giselle Fields, grades 7-8 teacher.
In preparation for this school year, the teachers at DAJA spent part of the summer learning new teaching models. They traveled to Loma Linda, Calif., to take part in the Excellence in STEM Experiential Education (EXSEED) program. EXSEED focuses on innovation and collaboration to enhance STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education in Adventist K-12 schools. “Many times, I attend a conference and get excited about new information I have learned, but the excitement doesn’t always pass to the faculty. With EXSEED, everyone is excited because we all experienced it,” says Yvette Cooper, DAJA principal.
Last year, DAJA began to teach project based learning (PBL) and opened its first STEM lab. With the help of several volunteers from Decatur, Ga., Church, students won second place in the first Lego League Robotics Competition at Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tenn. DAJA also welcomed Southern Adventist University students to witness their PBL project on the harmful effects of oil spills in the environment. Because of the training teachers received in the EXSEED program, Cooper expanded the school’s vision from science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM), to science, technology, religion, engineering, arts, math, and service (STREAMS). This incorporates everything that Christian education should be.
DAJA students will be working on four PBL projects this year. Students will collaborate, research, and come up with innovative ideas to solve problems like pollution. Last year the projects mainly focused on older students. This year older students will work with younger students, fostering peer learning and leadership skills. “Last year we also found that students who struggled in traditional classroom environments thrived during the PBL projects,” Cooper says.
STREAMS learning and PBL projects are academic programs that make DAJA exceptional, and enhance the sense of purpose. For example, the R, for religion, in STREAMS will focus on showing students how to build a personal relationship with God, not just learning the facts to pass Bible class. The S, for service, helps ensure that service projects aren’t seen as mere extracurricular options. Students will also take part in choir, flag chore, athletics (basketball and flag football), chess, and band.
“Christian education is evangelism, and we have just started a 180-day revival,” stated Cooper to the congregation at Decatur Church. As the faculty, staff, and students begin this immense evangelistic series, the members stand in support financially and through prayer and volunteering. Please join with the church and school in prayer for the success of the students and families of Decatur Adventist Junior Academy.
South Atlantic | November 2017