Sunday, April 28th, Wisconsin Academy was literally “buzzing” with activity; and not just from the live honey bee exploration activity led out by Dwight Rosen, but from the 200 different 3rd-10th grade students assembled for the annual Wisconsin Conference Adventist Education Fair. “Ed Fair,” as it is simply known to those who take part, has been taking place for years. Beginning as an annual science fair years ago, more recently Ed Fair has expanded to hosting a variety of themes including world cultures, literature, Bible, and more.
This year’s Ed Fair was designed to be an especially unique experience for students. “I’ve been wanting to do something really special for students and teachers for a long time,” said Linda Rosen, Superintendent of Education. “It was my intention to bring in two special guests well-known in Adventist circles, and also to find a way to incorporate community leaders from right here in the Columbus area to partner with us to create a great educational experience.” This “experience” turned out to be an unforgettable day indeed featuring well known Adventist artist Nathan Greene, author/scholar and speaker Dick Stenbakken, Columbus area fire fighters, EMT’s, Wisconsin Academy and Wisconsin Conference staff, and even Columbia Counties’ own K-9 unit.
The day started out with all students assembled together in the Wisconsin Academy chapel to hear an inspiring worship message from Nathan Greene. Greene shared how God had used Harry Anderson, artist of the much beloved SDA classic Bible Story Book series, and his artwork at various times in Nathan’s life to help guide and influence the decision to use his artistic talents to touch others for Christ. Greene has become our own beloved Adventist artist and his work has been featured in various publications like The Signs of the Times and Ranger Rick, walls of Christian hospitals, and even NASA, just to name a select few. It was fascinating to learn that Nathan uses live models for his artwork, and that many of the people in his paintings are people with stories and backgrounds which make his artwork even more meaningful.
Following worship the activity rotations began. Ed Fair has always been designed to get students excited about hands-on learning, but this year’s Ed Fair was specially designed with activities to introduce the students to possible career choices. One special activity session gave 40 students an up close and personal drawing class with Nathan Greene, himself. “He began by showing us how to correctly draw shapes and do shading and then had us each choose a picture as a model, said Clare Castleberg an 8th grade student. “Then he told us to just sit down and draw. He was so helpful and came over and talked personally to each one of us when we needed help. I really enjoyed it. Mr. Greene let me know that if I worked on my skills, drawing could even turn into a career someday.”
Other activities scheduled included getting to know community workers, such as the Columbus Volunteer Firefighters, Lt. Jerrod Fox and Dylan Quamme, who brought a fire truck and fire equipment that students could literally explore. How amazing to find out that Lt. Fox had actually responded to an emergency call years earlier at Wisconsin Academy during a fierce storm and became an integral part in saving the life of one of this year’s parent volunteers who was chaperoning for the day. It was a touching reunion.
Another session dealt with emergencies and how the EMT team responds in tense situations. This session was lead out by Paul Britain, who works for the Madison Fire Department as a Firefighter/ Paramedic and worked for eight years on Medic 2.
One favorite activity session among the students was learning about Columbia Counties’ K-9 unit. Officer Deputy Jordan Haueter and K-9 Mattis, three-year-old dual-trained German shepherd. Officer Deputy Jordan Haueter showed the students how Mattis responds to commands by giving a demonstration of the K-9 cop finding pre-planted materials and alerting his handler. Mattis did a great job and was rewarded with his favorite toy, a tennis ball. The students were then able to come pet Mattis if they wanted.
Other activity sessions included “Noteworthy” (learning how to write a Scripture song lead out by Heidi Rasmussen), “Bee Buzz” (learning about honeybees and how to harvest honey lead by Dwight Rosen), and “Roman Soldier” (real-life example of an ancient Roman soldier’s armor made and worn by Dick Stenbakken, bringing greater meaning to Paul’s admonition from Ephesians 6:10-18 to put on the “full armor of Christ.”
At the end of the day the group again assembled in the Wisconsin Academy chapel to end their day in the same way they began, with worship. Special guest Dick Stenbakken had just enough time to transform from being a Roman soldier, to the apostle John on the Isle of Patmos. John’s personal story and interactions with Christ were told to the students in a first person account. Students responded with giggles as “John” recalled some outrageous fish tales, and more serious thoughtfulness as he continued to talk of Jesus in Gethsemane, and ultimately on the cross. Stenbakken used his engaging talents to bring John’s story to life while relating with students that John and the other disciples experienced many similar feelings and trials to the ones they experience. In closing the call was made for each one to trust in Jesus and have a deeper relationship with Him.
Students and staff alike responded with great feedback. It was especially nice that this year the teachers and students didn’t have additional class time and work to prepare something ahead of time. Instead, they were just able to come and absorb learning more about God and how He uses people from all different roles in life to help others. God really brought the timing together perfectly for this year’s Ed Fair. Mrs. Rosen has been trying for over two years to schedule Nathan Greene and Dick Stenbakken, but their calendars are extremely pressing and neither of them had previously been able to make a date work. It really was a miracle that each of them had this small window of time available.
“Learning should be fun,” said Linda Rosen who is retiring as of August 1st. “Education Fair, this year really was designed to give teachers and students a break from the regular classroom and incorporate involvement with our community.” From the many smiles seen among the 3rd through 10th graders as well as the teachers, it is safe to say the goal was indeed met and that the “buzz” of 2019’s Education Fair will be humming for quite some time.
Danielle Lawson Lawrence, Bethel Junior Academy Head Teacher