Every January, students at Christ the King High School spend a week just learning.
During Bridge Week, there are no grades, quizzes, papers or exams. Instead, they explore a topic that helps them better understand the relationship between faith and reason.
“It is a true joy to participate in an event that I believe represents an ideal model of what Catholic education can achieve; an interdisciplinary exploration of a vital theme of faith and reason within an environment of rigorous, yet inviting exchanges that incorporate the five senses,” said Michael Smith, dean of students.
The school, which opened in 2011 on more than 100 acres in Huntersville, has about 150 students and 24 full- and part-time faculty members.
This year’s Bridge Week theme was “the beauty of God’s creation.” Students did everything from building a chicken coop to making popcorn balls using George Washington Carver’s recipe.
The week’s keynote speaker was Jason Barger, an author and creator of the “Step Back from the Baggage Claim” movement. Barger spoke about his personal story and helped them think about their own goals for the future.
Barger “focused on helping us slow down in today’s busy world so that we can truly see the beauty of God’s creation,” said Brendan Keane, principal of Christ the King.
Bridge Week themes are based in Catholic theology and help students think about how the material applies to their lives outside of the classroom. During their study of beauty, students learned about human relationships and protecting the environment.
They heard from a farmer, a neurologist, a cardiologist, a physical therapist and a botanist, and they toured nearby Bradford Farms and Store. They learned about suicide prevention and compared beauty portrayed in the media with beauty portrayed by the church.
“I always look forward to Bridge Week because we are learning for the sake of learning and not having the pressure of grades,” said senior Mary Selzer, 18.
Junior Logan Thayer, 17, said he enjoyed a session with professional photographer Ben Butler, who talked to students about capturing the beauty of the world through photography.
At the end of the class, students were asked to walk around the school campus and try photography themselves.
“We took pictures of cattail weeds,” Thayer said. “The idea was to provide a different perspective that will reveal beauty.
“It looked pretty cool, and it was just cattail weeds.”
Students also built compost bins and a chicken coop, which was placed next to the school garden and soon will house chickens.
The week also includes sessions on the religious perspective of beauty, including reflections on the Virgin Mary and a focus on prayer and the theological underpinnings of the beauty of God’s creation.
Selzer said that the week had made her think more about how service to the community could lead to the betterment of God’s creation.
“It’s definitely challenged me on a deeper level than what I get in the pace of a normal school day,” she said.
The seminars, field trips and hands-on activities also will help the students and staff members learn and plan how to improve their school through what they learned during Bridge Week, Keane said.
“If the knowledge gained helps us have a deeper appreciation of the creation, and if we slow down a bit to appreciate it more, then we will be able to say that Bridge Week 2015 was a success,” he said.