Witness Moment

Concordia Ignite Sparks Faith and Learning in Nebraska

The mixed-age classroom in Omaha, Neb., provides an alternate way to reach families with the Gospel.

“I love the fact they are in God’s Word,” teacher Kayla Marty said of the students in her mixed-age classroom at Concordia Ignite in Omaha, Neb.

The second- through fifth-grade students are brothers and sisters in Christ, but they don’t fight like real brothers and sisters. “We’re a family,” said fourth-grade student Alayna Thrasher. The class is built on the cornerstone of Jesus Christ and housed in St. Mark Lutheran Church.

This modern, one-room schoolhouse is under the umbrella of Concordia Lutheran Schools of Omaha, which also includes an elementary academy, junior high and high school. Ignite is a “micro-school” concept that “takes the silos away from the ages,” Marty said. By putting different ages together, Marty revels in the “aha” moments when older students help younger students overcome challenges in their work and when younger ones get pulled up academically by their older peers.

“Micro-schools, cottage schools and other educationally sound models are showing up in many of our LCMS districts as alternatives to traditional classroom education and as partners to the homeschool model,” said Robert Cooksey, head of Concordia Lutheran Schools of Omaha. “While every model is unique in some way, the variety of offerings expands our reach for the sake of the Gospel.”

Ignite is also joined by other Synod schools that have embraced the “micro-school” concept, including St. John School, Ellisville, Mo.; Inspire at Immanuel Lutheran Church and School in St. Charles, Mo.; and Veritas Academy in Wylie, Texas.

Last September in Marty’s classroom, students sat in a circle on the rug and debated a topic, asking questions to ignite more debate. They used a curriculum and other supplies purchased with money from an LCMS Domestic Development Grant. Before that, they settled into stations to use technology. When Marty quizzed two students in a small group, others nestled into comfortable chairs with class work.

“It breaks down social barriers, where students might compare themselves,” said Concordia Academy Principal Nathan Domsch. “It’s OK to work at your own pace.” The theme for the class is “A Champion’s Journey,” based on Hebrews 12:2: “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

“We can only consider ourselves champions because of what He did for us,” Marty said. “We keep that first and foremost at the center of everything we do.”

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Erik M. Lunsford 

Managing photojournalist for LCMS Communications.

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