The Hiking club started their year with a simple walk to Lake Alice, visiting the Fergus Falls River Walk. Principal Jeff Isaac started the club to introduce students to the beauty of mid-western Minnesota. In two weeks the group will visit Maplewood State Park. The group connects with former Hillcrest instructor Lowell Quam who teaches students basic plant recognition and often takes students to his favorite fruit trees and plants on their walk to show some of the wild fruit grown in the area.
Principal Isaac explains how Hillcrest’s core values are strengthened in the classroom through the ongoing teacher development training through the Colson Fellows program.
Students shuffle through their final class periods to venture to their dorm rooms. Some plop down on their bed in exhaustion. Others make lists of the school supplies they need before Friday. Sports practices carry the rhythm of the school to the next beat. Character is formed in the football player who gets knocked down and resolves to get up again; the volleyball player who misses her mark and needs to collect herself, make an adjustment, and approach the line again; the soccer player who gets cleated while dribbling the ball and needs to push through the pain to touch the ball to a team mate. Resolve is learned best in practice. The theme wafts throughout nearly every aspect of life at Hillcrest. Practice makes purpose.
Twenty-five people from Hillcrest's staff, faculty, and administration are embarking on the two year Colson Fellows program. Hillcrest staff not only receive training from the Colson Fellows, but will provide important feedback as the Colson Center works to hone their training program for schools and churches around the nation. The other schools selected for the pilot program are located in North Carolina and Texas. Both have over one thousand students. This year Hillcrest will enroll 180. Of the three schools, Hillcrest has the largest number of participants with twenty-five. The other schools will enroll seventeen people combined.
When we celebrate the Fourth of July we do so as people who understand the freedom given us in Christ Jesus' death on the cross and resurrection from the grave. We have been set free. In that, when we look to the Fourth of July in honoring the work in retaining freedom for our nation we do so with a Judeo-Christian background. We are thankful that our nation has a tradition in noting and celebrating freedom, and we do so at Hillcrest in recognition of the foundational freedom found in Jesus Christ.
Classical education reframes school to teach students how to think, equipping them with tools for a life of flourishing. Students learn through time-tested methods that have been the staples of Western culture and the Church since the second century. Socratic teaching, debate, subject integration, and written and oral defense all provide the mental exercise to cultivate powerful minds to think well. Students see the big picture by studying history, philosophy, literature, art, theology, Latin, logic and rhetoric, math, and science. Classical education emphasizes cultivating wisdom rather than teaching facts and skills.
There is a tried and true tradition in education known as the trivium. It starts by teaching grammar, helping students understand the fundamentals and basic elements of what they're studying. Then students learn logic, piecing together the basics to form a structure that is definable and operates with purpose. The final stage is rhetoric, the manipulation and exercise of the logic and grammar the students have learned to enable human flourishing.
The class is working at a feverish pace. A few students are tying up some other projects from the year. One is building a small drone. His frame appears to be a little heavy, so he is starting a reprint on one of the 3D printers in the room. His rotors and blades are laying next to another project he finished with his class earlier in the year.
Many history courses are wrapping-up their Contemporary American History sections outlining recent conflicts. These courses are covering the background, political players, and repercussions of war and social conflicts. Where student's pencils feverishly take notes on the history in preparing for the test, Hillcrest's history class is in debate mode, unveiling the result of Hillcrest's educational approach.
Junior John Vall confidently walked to the podium where the day before three other students stood in sequence to present their case for addressing the Vietnam war. John's speech followed suit with the structure of the other students'; an explanation of the conflict, recounting how Vietnam grew to have the conflict that threatened more than their small island. From there, John outlined a solution he researched the political players at the time were considering. His points were clear and decisive, a winsome solution that would convince most. However, when John finished his lecture the teacher opened up a five minute debate session. John's friends in the class quickly attacked his reasoning, pulling out facts from other conflicts in history that stood in opposition to John's solution. John patiently heard their concerns, noting their points before outlining how they were misguided in how this conflict would unfold.
This is the rhetoric aspect of Hillcrest's educational approach. The goal is to teach students how to learn, guiding them to build reasoned ideas that are founded in truth. From there the students work to build a logical defense for their ideas. This history lesson wasn't just about the Vietnam war, it was a discipline in having civil discourse and friendly debate, something the world is struggling to do. It may be because the world hasn't been educated in how to have a civilized discussion. Teaching students how to learn and have dialogue is one of the many significant outcomes of a Hillcrest education.