Proverbs 27:17 – As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (NIV)
Birth out of necessity to efficiently utilize resources and maximize the involvement of our children, we are transitioning to multi-age formats in both our preschool and children’s programs. This concept isn’t new or novel in the field of education or in churches. We’re already realizing the benefits in our K-6th grade Sunday School class since making the change in September. We are now fully embracing this format in the preschool area with the toddlers and pre-K children. Yes, a driving force is the number of children that we have in each age group- we do not have a consistent, critical mass represented in our previous age/grade level groupings. Thus, we’re merging groups. A commitment to quality remains. In fact, it may be stronger than ever. Our teachers and volunteers are focused on providing quality learning experiences, rooted in biblical facts. By ensuring our base (quality Christian education) we are building the infrastructure and programming that can scale once growth occurs in the church.
Since this is a new idea, you may have some questions. I’ve attempted to answer some of the basic questions below. If you have others, I’d love to discuss them with you. Feel free to drop by my office at any time. I’d love to chat!
What is a multi-age classroom?
A multi-age classroom, also known as a composite classroom, is one that contains children of varying ages and/or grade levels. Inherent in that, the children represent a range of development and maturity levels. In a multi-age classroom, teachers provide content appropriate for all learners. The success of multi-age classrooms is directly related to the level of personal and small group instruction and activities targeted to the ability level. In the context of our children’s programs (Sunday School, Extended Session, Children’s Church and Living Inside Out on Wednesday evenings), our teachers utilize whole group and small group/age specific groupings to bring bible stories, foundational principles and Christian virtues to life for our children.
What are the benefits of a multi-age classroom?
There are numerous benefits to both older and younger children that are in multi-age classes. In many ways, multi-age classrooms mirror families and society as a whole. The peer-to-peer interactions are meaningful building blocks for growth. Younger children benefit from the conversations of older children, enhancing language skills, reasoning and critical thinking. They are also exposed, often through authentic and subtle ways, to concepts that they will be more formally introduced to later in life. Older children develop leadership skills. Often very naturally, older children take on “teacher” roles, helping younger children learn and achieve new skills. Seen as role models, younger children tend to emulate their older classmates, reaching to achieve those milestones that they’ve seen others achieve.
Will the multi-age format be the norm moving forward?
We will monitor the new format and adjust as needed. The feedback that we’ve received thus far from parents, teachers and children has been very positive. Parents have commented about the eagerness of their children to attend Sunday School. Teachers are able to plan in a more collaborative fashion and integrate lesson ideas that target the various age groups and abilities. Children are enjoying having a larger group of peers with whom to learn.
How can you help us ensure success?
Your feedback is always appreciated. Both positive and constructive criticism allows us to enhance and grow. Therefore, if you have ideas or suggestions that can benefit our program, please share.
In closing, I think Proverbs 27:17 summarizes our new format very well. Children learn from each other. The iron is sharpening iron. At all ages, we have great children that have varied skill sets and knowledge of who God is and who we are through Jesus Christ. By interacting in more inclusive groupings we are increasing the likelihood of them being able to positively impact one another for the sake of God’s kingdom.