Program instills values, educates children
June 7, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (June 7, 2012) -- The Main Post Chapel held this summer's Vacation Bible School session June 4-8, entitled "Babylon: Daniel's Courage in Captivity."
"We want the kids to know the word of God by focusing on biblical stories," said Nancy Jankoski, Fort Rucker director of religious education, as chapel staff and volunteers led over a hundred children ranging from kindergarteners to sixth-graders to different activity rooms in the Spiritual Life Center on June 4. She added that Vacation Bible School at the main Post Chapel is non-denominational.
"One of our goals is to show that Christians of different denominations have much more in common than they have differences, even if we sometimes tend to focus on the differences," she said.
Jankoski also explained the theme for this week's schooling centers on Christianity's roots in Jewish teachings and traditions, adding that, "If we don't have an understanding and a respect for that, then how can we understand where we came from?"
Each session of Vacation Bible School lasts for one week, with the average enrollment totaling between 100 and 120 children. Volunteer staffs of 50 to 70 people donate their time in order to ensure that classes can still take place between 8:30 and 11:30 a.m.
Children are split into 12 groups -- called "tribes" to reflect the 12 tribes of Israel -- and participate in a wide variety of educational activities, including carpentry, astronomy, crafts and learning various musical instruments.
Interest was evident on many faces as a younger group of children were instructed by Bethany Weiss, spiritual life vice-president, who taught some basic facts of Jewish tradition at the time of Christ in character as a rabbi.
"How do we know that God is always with us?" she asked, and received several quick replies, including one from a young girl who said, "Because he's in our heart."
"[The most rewarding thing is] seeing the kids use all five senses to learn," said Jankoski. "When they try something and they're successful at it, their faces light up.
"You know, not every kid is a good reader, not every kid is good at crafts, not every kid is good at athletics -- but this [Vacation Bible School] is done in such a way that they're rotating between all different kinds of activities and they'll find something that they can shine at," she said.
The curriculum uses biblical stories to instill values in the children that Jankoski hopes are reinforced in the home and used to provide a moral foundation that can last a lifetime.
"Some of these kids' parents have served in places like Iraq, where they may have been able to go visit at the prophet Ezekiel's tomb," she said. "These were real people who lived in a culture that was changing rapidly, and they had to decide: were they just going to blend in with the culture or were they going to stand true to the values they had been taught as children?
"That's the same thing our kids are facing in the modern world," she said. "They may ask, 'If I find myself in a foreign culture that doesn't seem to respect the same things I do, how can I respect people while still remaining true to myself?'"