What do roller coasters and the beatitudes have to do with each other? Well, just ask the eighth grade class at St. Ann Catholic School in Bartlett. St. Ann eighth graders have been working on a project where the Beatitudes and many stories from the Bible and concepts that we have learned so far during their confirmation journey are being brought to life in a large amusement park that they are creating in groups. For example, Are you feeling poor in spirit? Well, let the eighth graders take you into their Amusement Park on a ride on the “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:3) roller coaster which features roller coaster cars that resemble their interpretation of Heaven where the patron riders poor spirit will be refreshed on the ride of Heaven, or in one group, they have decided that when you enter the gates of the park, patrons of the park will choose which ride they will get on and in which direction they want the ride to go in the park but beware! one of the rides does not lead to Heaven. The creativity in applying their learning to this project has just been astounding. One of my favorite concepts came from Zack Griffith, Caydence Davis and Cade Sartain, their group created a water park in their Beatitudes Amusement park where their patrons can take a boat ride in St. John’s Baptismal Water Park-SPLASH!
Mrs.Harden, the eighth grade catechesis teacher states, “This type of design thinking and interactive learning is what helps the eighth graders to really grasp the concepts they are learning and helps them internalize their learning for a more successful and memorable confirmation journey. For example, the students studied the Catholic churches’ belief of purgatory, and therefore, it is really fun to see that in one of the group’s amusement parks, although the main rides are the Beatitudes, the idea of purgatory is a Ferris Wheel that continuously goes round and round. I was pleased when I asked, ‘why they choose that ride for purgatory,’ and they were able to enthusiastically explain the concept of purgatory and the use of a Ferris wheel as a metaphor for that concept.” To take this learning a step further, the eighth grade class will be creating prototypes of their rides in science class with Mrs. Griffith for STREAM night. This project has been a blast, and I hope to bring more of our Catholic Faith to their attention through hands- on projects such as this one because this is where real learning comes to life.