By Georgia Blanchard, Sarah Grace Farrell, Kennedy McCalman, Audrey Sanders, Adelynn Walker

Making learning fun again, First Baptist Church School’s new Charis Lab program is a hands-on learning experience for the kids and the community.

Charis Lab is a unique classroom where students get to learn at their own pace and in unique ways. Students start the class with an assessment of their current academic strengths and weaknesses. The students are then placed in various programs to meet them where they are. If a student is below grade level, or if a student is high above grade level, the program will begin at their level. By filling in these learning gaps, students can excel and learn.

Charis Lab incorporates project-based learning on a daily basis. Project based learning means the students are learning academic material in a hands-on way. Any student can choose to join the Charis Lab, instead of a traditional classroom. Charis Lab takes the place of traditional core classes. Instead, these classes are taught through a digital platform. Students complete core classes in Charis Lab and still have their elective classes with their individual grade levels. First Baptist Church School chose to add the Charis Lab to offer a more innovative, hands-on style of learning. The Charis Lab is led by highly experienced teachers, Judith Reeves and Kristi McDonald. Mrs. Reeves guides a group of 3rd-5th grade students and Ms. McDonald guides a group of 6th-8th grade students.

Bill’s Bikes

By Ella Grace Barton, Levi Durr, Gunner Matthews

For the first nine weeks, Charis Lab teamed up with Bill’s Bikes which is a non-profit organization founded by KTBS news anchor, Bill Lunn. The students selected Bill’s Bikes as a program to support because they believed in the mission, and they wanted to help the community while they learned. The students contacted Bill, set up meetings and learning days and set a goal to donate 100 bikes to local students in need. 

 The Charis Lab students gathered bikes from our neighbors, friends, and family. After we collected bikes, we had a fix-it day. A hands-on day, the students cleaned bikes, made repairs, and learned hands-on skills such as repairing brakes and changing tires. 

Divided up into work teams, the students cleaned and repaired close to 100 bikes.

On the giveaway day, “We had families lined up around the building, starting at 6am that morning in the cold.” says Headmaster Dr. James Gillespie. Once the Charis Lab was all ready to start the giveaway a preacher led everyone off with a message and a prayer. Students worked as greeters and helped each family pick out a bike.

100 bikes were given away in 19 minutes!

The Graveyard Shift          

By Cayden Maggio, Rowan Martin, Kendall Slack 

In October, we went to visit one of Louisiana’s oldest graveyards, Oakland cemetery. Dr. Cheryl White from LSUS was our guide during the experience. We were very honored to be led by such an accomplished historian. The students spent the morning learning the history of Shreveport as told through the eyes of one of the greatest historians in the area. With a focus on Yellow Fever and the early settlers of Shreveport, many students used this opportunity to learn “research” doesn’t always mean reading books! Kendall Slack, a student in the Charis Lab said, “This field trip really made me think about the lives of those before us and how they’ve helped build our society.”

Involving the Community

Through interactions in creating these projects and inviting guest speakers, Charis Lab is always involving the community. Elizabeth Beard Deal from SB Magazine came to speak with the class and discuss what goes into the day-to-day activities involved in producing a magazine! The students began working right away. Dividing into teams, the students set out to create the story of the Charis Lab and its project-based learning style. They have set a goal to be published writers by the end of this school year!

What’s next for Charis Lab?

With the first weeks of school focused on the hands-on skills of bike repair, public relations and hands-on history, the students are now eager to explore their language arts and grammar options – by writing and directing a movie of course! The students are working together to create a short film for submission to the Louisiana Film Prize, Jr competition. 

Students in the Charis Lab are showing academic improvement through hands on project based learning experiences and becoming interested in their community like never before – and as middle school students, community means something to these kids! Although they are busy from the morning bell to the afternoon bell, homework is not part of the program. Most of the learning happens while working on hands-on projects. The students love being able to be part of something bigger, but their favorite advantage to Charis Lab is, as student, Kennedy McCalman sums it up, “My mom is able to come home from work and cook dinner because she doesn’t have to help me with homework. We are eating dinner together now as a family.” 

Elementary Students who helped create the creative content and outline of the article: Mollie Denham, Elyse Glass, Ethan Johnson, Thomas Redens, EJ Robertson, River Ross