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It might seem odd for a Christian school community in rural British Columbia to invite a world-renowned speaker who is famous for speaking against current models of education to address their community. But that’s what Abbotsford Christian School (ACS) did, attracting more than 1,200 educators province-wide to an afternoon session held at Gateway Christian Reformed Church and 350 business leaders to an evening event to hear Sir Ken Robinson speak on January 13.

Robinson, a British author and speaker on creativity and innovation in education and business, is best known for his famous TED talk, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” That particular video has been seen by an estimated 350 million people in over 160 countries and is the most viewed talk in the history of the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) organization.

The Robinson event was part of a wider campaign by the school to raise money to renovate and expand its facilities while also shifting the focus of the school on how it provides education.

“A number of years ago, ACS made an intentional shift to become major thought leaders in education,” explained Julius Siebenga, the school’s executive director. He described their desire to be pioneers in the way they provide education—using project-based learning, open concept classrooms, and student-led, collaborative learning. In fact, a team of students from grades 8 to12 have been heavily involved in the design process for the new school, meeting with architects and traveling to other new facilities for research and inspiration.

The event with Robinson was meant to inspire educators and supporters alike to invest in the new concepts and connect them to the business world. “As we considered conveying our vision through this event, it made sense to pursue [him], because his message captures our vision better than anyone else,” Siebenga told the crowd on Friday evening. He added that some of the leadership team nearly fell off their chairs when they heard that Robinson had accepted the invitation.

Coordinators of the expansion campaign had heard from the corporate community that they needed to demonstrate how the school is going to produce graduates who are better equipped to work in their industries because of the proposed changes.

Siebenga felt this was accomplished at both events. He said that even though Robinson's message is not overtly Christian, his ideas fit well into their belief that each child is created unique and that we should strive to provide conditions for them to flourish and to shape God’s world.

Robinson’s message focused on the need to redesign our current educational system, which was created in the 19th century to serve the purpose of the industrial revolution. “That system wasn’t designed for our current reality,” he emphasized. “The real marks of humanity are diversity, creativity, and adaptability. The good news is that the system can be changed. And schools need to be part of this solution.”

Jaime Spyksma, a member of the school community, found Sir Ken to be engaging and hilarious, and she was excited about the impact he had. “This event welcomed the entire province, not just Christians, and anytime [we can] set an example as leaders in our world . . . it’s an opportunity for others to see us and wonder what makes us unique as Christians.”

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