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New program marriages public schooling, Mennonite tradition

Bridges, a brand new Thames Valley District faculty board pilot program for Low German-speaking Mennonite schoolkids, has been so fashionable with dad and mom, it has outgrown two lecture rooms and can develop into a 3rd.

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A few of these pupils have by no means been to highschool earlier than.

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Others could have attended a Bible-based church faculty or studied at house.

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And lots of have by no means spoken something aside from Low German.

Bridges, a brand new Thames Valley District faculty board pilot program for Low German-speaking Mennonite schoolkids, has been so fashionable with dad and mom, it has outgrown two lecture rooms and can develop into a 3rd.

Forty-nine pupils are enrolled now and extra are on their method. Half-time college students additionally pop in from different components of the college every day to share within the pupils’ cultural traditions.

“Phrase of mouth has unfold (information of this system) nicely,” stated Tim Coombs, principal of Straffordville elementary faculty. Straffordville is about 20 kilometers east of Aylmer in Elgin County,

This system additionally has two lessons at Summers’ Corners elementary, close to Aylmer, he stated.

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Bridges, a new Thames Valley District school board pilot program for Low German-speaking Mennonite pupils at elementary schools in Straffordville and Summers Corners, has proven popular with parents.  (Heather Rivers/The London Free Press)
Bridges, a brand new Thames Valley District faculty board pilot program for Low German-speaking Mennonite pupils at elementary faculties in Straffordville and Summers Corners, has confirmed fashionable with dad and mom. (Heather Rivers/The London Free Press)

Southwestern Ontario is house to many various Mennonite communities, starting from the Horse and Buggy Previous Order to Conservative to various. A lot of Mennonites within the Aylmer space are Low-German-speaking Mennonites.

The Thames Valley board estimates solely about 10 per cent of Low German college students in east Elgin County, about 1,500 pupils, attend board faculties.

On the coronary heart of the Bridges program is the hope that Mennonites, usually reluctant to ship their youngsters to public faculties, could change their minds after they see how this system embraces their cultural roots with, for instance, faculty days that open with the Lord’s Prayer and Bible readings.

Isaak Hildebrandt, 12, stated his Low German-speaking dad and mom had been “super-excited” about him with the ability to attend public faculty and nonetheless have a Christian-based schooling.

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“I learn the Bible and lead the scripture readings (in my classroom),” he stated.

The pupils, with assist from Low German-speaking lecturers and a translator, are celebrating Mexican Mennonite Week, marking 200 years since Mennonite households first got here to Canada from Europe

“We’re making an attempt to honor their residing expertise, the cultures and skills of our college students and household,” Coombs stated.

“The dad and mom are seeing the worth of studying English and the educational curriculum we now have. They’re additionally seeing the worth of integration and socialization with different college students who usually are not Mennonite.”

As soon as taking part pupils full Grade 8, they’d be “bridged” to highschool, which many East Elgin Mennonites have by no means attended.

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Pupils can also take depart – bringing faculty work with them – to go to kin in Mexico or assist their households with farm work or different duties.

They’re graded by checks, tasks and displays, Coombs stated.

“We’re making an attempt to interrupt down the obstacles which were on this space historically,” Coombs stated. “We’re capable of present public schooling to them, which our college students in Ontario obtain, however they’re additionally persevering with with their private tradition.

“They’re getting the most effective of each worlds.”

Major trainer Jessica Dyck, who grew up close to Alymer in a Low German household, loves how this system lets siblings keep collectively creating “little households in our lecture rooms.”

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“I like the group as a result of our tradition’s focus is on the household,” she stated. “You see the sense of loving and caring for one another.”

For a lot of of her pupils, it is their first time in a classroom, she stated. “Some have by no means attended faculty in any respect.”

The hope is that in the future, program pupils will transfer on to East Elgin secondary faculty, the place they’d proceed to work with lecturers to earn highschool diplomas, whereas nonetheless adjusting their studying schedule to accommodate household actions.

“They shift instances so the children can miss per week or two at starting or at finish of 12 months,” Coombs stated. “They do some studying on-line or outdoors the normal studying hours if they’re wanted on their household farms.”

hrivers@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/HeatheratLFP


What Mennonite pupils stated

“I like every part. We love studying collectively.” – Anna Peters, 8

“I like prayer and devotion and our little pals (part-time college students) who come to our classroom.” – Keegan Teichroeb, 9

“Within the Bridges program you possibly can pray with folks we all know.” – Selena Klassen, 12

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