Friday, March 14, 2014 10:30 AM
Published on: Wednesday, September 18, 2013
By Tracey Gold Bennett
A class size averaging 14 students, 90 percent of the children go on to college — and most of those graduates are awarded academic scholarships — and they’re reading Thomas Aquinas.
That’s Woodstream Christian Academy — and perhaps the most unusual part is that the academy’s upper classmen are getting their lessons at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex in Landover.
“We’re small in number, and we’re mighty in spirit,” said Alicia Brown, who has been a tutor (teacher) at Woodstream for nine years.
“I have five kids, and we’ve experienced every setting. What I like (about) the small class settings (is) the students are more than just a number. We can infuse a biblical worldview in our curriculum unapologetically,” she said. “Our first graduating class finished this spring. We’re very pleased about what they’re doing. Some are going to grad school and some are working and many have shared with us.”
Woodstream Christian Academy is based on the vision of Woodstream Church Pastor Robert Wingfield, who wanted to start a classical Christian school. The private school serves a wide range of students from varying income levels, who hail from affluent areas in Prince George’s County to economically disadvantaged areas. “God is no respecter of persons,” Brown said.
“We interview the families, and we want to make sure it’s a good fit and all line up with the philosophy, the statement of faith, which is distinctively Christian. We want to develop young men and women of integrity, and we want to see the students make a difference,” Brown said.
The curriculum is rigorous. Students study classical literature and theology and are expected to deliver an oral thesis on a subject in front of an adjudicating panel each year.
“We do logic. We teach rhetoric, and we have a great curriculum featuring Plato and Aristotle. Students also take debate courses.We teach our students not just what to think but how to think,” said Douglas Kump, debate director and tutor at Woodstream, who recently returned to the school after leaving to teach at a private school in Rockville.
Last year the Woodstream debate team won third place in the local debate championship, third place in the National High School Ethics Bowl at American University and second place at a debate competition hosted by fraternity Omega Psi Phi at George Washington University. All of the winners were first year debaters.
“I missed Woodstream ... the classical curriculum — great books courses here are called omnibus, or all encompassing including Shakespeare and Aquinas. Students here also read college level texts in our program,” Kump said.
“The Communist Manifesto” and George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” are among the kinds of reading materials to which Woodstream students are exposed. Kump, a doctoral candidate, teaches an award-winning cadre of orators who can argue the pros and cons of very sophisticated subjects.
“A lot of our parents are informed about the issues now that students are studying (such as) whether Washington, D.C., should become a state, year-round schooling, gender-segregated education and whether the embargo on Cuba should be lifted,” Kump said.
But how did this school with a main campus at 9800 Lottsford Road in Mitchellville end up with a campus at the Sports and Learning Complex in Landover?
“The facility where we were was no longer enough space, and we needed to create an environment for the upper school. We needed the space, and Adrienne Mercer, one of our school board members, had the idea—knowing that the space was not used at the sports and learning center,” Woodstream Dean Bonita Bailey said. “The partnership that developed between the Sports and Learning Complex and the staff has been phenomenal. We have everything that we need to be a successful and productive school environment.”
Graduating students have earned more than $5 million in scholarship funding. Students have entered and graduated from universities and pursued graduate school education in liberal arts and business.
“We want our students to be aware of what’s going on so they can change the world. (In order) to be able to change the world, you have to understand it,” Kump said.