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SHEPHERDSVILLE - The first graduating class from the Heart of Worship Christian Academy participated in a most unique hands-on lesson plan: A visit to actual Bible locations.
Academy instructors Brian James and Dana Bischoff James hosted five students on a tour of historical Mediterranean areas where Bible stories were said to have taken place.
The students included Ally Renee, Olivia Bailey, Trever Yates, Noah Edwards and Kayla Beeler.
The group toured more than 10 countries in three continents, discussing the Bible stories and performing cheer maneuvers at many of the locations.
Among the stops were the Acropolis and Mars Hill, along with Ephesus, one of the seven churches of Asia listed in the Book of Revelation.
"We actually got to stand in the places where the people in the Bible stood," said Dana Bischoff James.
Students took jobs at local businesses such as Mr. Gatti's and Kart Kountry to raise funding for the trip, as well as bake sales and babysitting for their host church, North Bullitt Christian.
"The students primarily funded this trip," James said. "We didn't want the parents paying for it, and we wanted students to learn to appreciate more."
Students kept journals during the trip to document their experiences. Math books were also brought to maintain lesson plans while traveling.
"We told them that the world is your textbook," James said. "There's nothing that compares to this."
Renee and Beeler said one of the most fascinating stops was the catacombs in Italy, where the deceased were placed for the past thousand years.
"It's weird, walking around and seeing dead people," Beeler said.
Edwards was fascinated by ancient Greece, including the Parthenon, Nike's Temple and Mars Hill.
"Just being able to be in the same vicinity of where they stood and spoke, you could almost feel their presence," he said. "You get caught up in it, you think about the time and how they built things in those days."
Yates said locals were "amazed" at the group's cheerleading and were always stopping to take photos of them.
Students were able to communicate with home, though some parts of the trip included no-call zones. James said the students purchased iPads that could contact home whenever WiFi was available.
"My family was in tears when I got home," Bailey said.
A tour in Italy included flatbread pizza and Italian soft drinks from a pizzeria located near the hotel.
"We loved the food," Edwards said.
"They cut the pizza with scissors," Renee mentioned.
Stops in Italy included the Coliseum, St. Peter's Basilica, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the famous Spanish Steps.
"All you could see there was people," Edwards said of the steps.
"We had sword fights at the Coliseum with plastic swords," Beeler said.
James said each student prepared a PowerPoint presentation based on a portion of their trip. Bailey did a project when the students returned home on Pompeii, the town that was devastated by Mt. Vesuvias in 79 AD.
In Greece the students saw the site of the first Olympics, as well as the Changing of the Guard at the U.S. Embassy.
One unique opportunity awaited Yates in Italy: He met actual distant family members related to his great-grandmother who came to the U.S. from the country. The group laughed because the family all spoke while using their hands, just as Yates does.
James said the school hopes to plan another tour in the future, possibly including Israel. She said Israel was the original goal before government shutdowns made it too difficult to plan.