Logan Ralston has shelves and shelves of colorful children’s books to choose from for a bedtime story.
However, on many occasions, he selects one: a Bible for children.
Since his preschool days at St. Bonaventure School in Columbus, the 7-year-old has been fascinated by the scriptures.
His parents, Joe and Sarah Wacha, were amazed at the questions he asks and the level of conversation the first-grader engages in.
“He gives me all these details,” Sarah Wacha said, “and it challenges my own knowledge of the Bible, what is good, what we need as Catholics.”
Wacha credits Logan’s preschool teacher, Cheryl Drozd, with sparking his interest in the scriptures, an interest that hasn’t waned nearly two years later.
Drozd (which rhymes with “rose,” as she tells her kindergarten students) learned from her own life how reading the Bible and praying with it can help a person in any situation.
She begins her preschool classes by reading and discussing the scriptures with the children. Drozd formalized his methods from these experiences and developed a Bible study curriculum for each grade from kindergarten through sixth grade. It’s called “At school with Jesus”.
Two years ago, the materials were used in a pilot program in St. Bonaventure, in which teachers, parents and students provided feedback to Drozd. Several archdiocesan priests went through the program and gave their endorsement and support before it was released last year and put to use in other schools.
This year, teachers at 31 schools in Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri are using the program to make Bible reading a regular start to their students’ day.
At each grade level, students focus on one book of the Bible, breaking it down into a story or a few verses each week to read, reread, ponder, and journal, with younger students drawing pictures instead of writing.
The parts of the Bible that are studied meet established religious standards for archdiocesan schools, said Vickie Kauffold, superintendent of Catholic schools. Drozd presented his program to other archdiocesan educators during a Zoom meeting during the pandemic.
Drozd spent much time in prayer throughout the process of developing the program and its standalone publication. And it shows, says Cheryl Zoucha, director of Saint-Bonaventure.
“I recognized from the start that the Holy Spirit was working in her, and sometimes we just have to get out of the way,” Zoucha said.
Drozd “repeatedly came back to the importance of the scriptures and the fact that children should understand them well,” the director said. “She wanted them to learn and take it home and share what they learned.”
Drozd and her husband, Joe, are members of St. Isidore Parish in Columbus and parents of young adult children: Natalie, 22; Cameron, 20; and Ben, 17.
CONNECT WITH GOD
The teacher said she had personally experienced the importance of connecting with God through the scriptures when she faced trials in her life, including taking college courses while raising her children and working full time. time as a childminder.
“I chose to turn to God and ask for help,” Drozd said. “I learned how the Bible teaches us everything we need to know. It teaches us to give everything to God and to turn to him for everything. So that’s what I started doing with my life.
This relationship with the Lord is something she wanted others to have as well.
“I wanted to be able to help others know how to trust God and love God through the hard things in life. When you experience it yourself, you want to help others have that same experience as you did. … So that’s what I’m doing right now, just sharing the love that I received from Jesus. I want everyone to have that in their hearts. »
START THE DAY
The courses in the Drozd program are intended to start the day for students. They are brief and take five to 15 minutes to complete.
“I really like to start the day with the word of God,” said Jill Erickson, a teacher at Saint-Bonaventure. “I just think that sets the tone for the rest of the day.
“I love how the curriculum covers a different section of the Bible at each grade level,” said Erickson, who taught third and fourth graders at St. Bonaventure. “It goes further. We do Lectio Divina (meditative and prayerful reading) with it. It really gets kids thinking about how the Bible applies to their lives.
“It sparks a good conversation,” she said, “and it helps them understand the importance of our faith.”
“It has helped my family,” strengthening their prayer together, said Erickson, a wife and mother of four children ages 4 to 11.
STRONG AND EXCITING
The series of programs begins with the Book of Genesis in Kindergarten and continues with 1 Samuel in Kindergarten, Esther in Grade 1, and each successive grade through Jeremiah, Jonah, the Gospel of Mark, and the Letters from Saint Paul to the Ephesians and the Hebrews.
When Logan comes home from school, he talks about what he’s learned, his mother says, and connects the Bible stories “to the social situations he finds himself in. And for a 5, 6, 7-year-old can do this, I feel it is a testament to the strength of the program.
“And the excitement,” Wacha said. “She (Drozd) put that love of Bible reading in their hearts.”
“She brought it in, so we (the parents) can take the ball and roll with it.”
This past Easter, Logan became more interested in the passion and resurrection of Christ, noticing the details of the Stations of the Cross at church, Wacha said.
“As a parent, it’s pretty amazing because it allows us to have these real conversations about who Christ is and what his experiences have been — and in a way that makes sense to a kindergartner.”
These conversations have been a huge benefit for her and her husband, Wacha said, “because as a parent it can be overwhelming. How do you even start these conversations? How to approach the Bible with a child of 5 or 6 years old?
“When Logan starts asking the questions, it forces us, in a good way, to go back and reacquaint ourselves with the story and find a kid-friendly way of explaining,” said the mother.
“It helps us think about it as it relates to our own lives. This is a good reflection for us. The questions are always so innocent, but sometimes they land heavy. Like the crucifixion story, with Logan just asking factual questions. Yeah, those things really happened. Jesus really did that for us. This is a great opportunity for us adults to reflect.
WHAT WE NEED
Zoucha said she encourages schools that want to incorporate more scripture into their teaching to take a look at “To School with Jesus.” Information can be found at inschoolwithJesus.com.
As a parent, Wacha highly recommends the program.
“I feel like we’re setting a foundation for them to be lifelong Bible readers, and I feel like that’s something we need,” she said. .
“When you think about sending your kids to a Catholic school, that’s what you hope they get.”