April 22, 2006: ~2 hours, 6 children, average age 6-7. The material we put together was great — but it didn’t last long enough. We started with prayers like usual, then talked briefly about Easter (since last weekend was Easter and many of the children in our class go to Sunday school) — most of the comments were about chocolate instead of Jesus, of course. We explained that Baha’is also have a very important holiday that started on Friday: the festival of Ridván. We explained briefly the meaning of Ridván, and how Bahá’u’lláh sacrificed forty years of His life in prison and exile to bring His message to the world. One of the children made the most amazing and unexpected comment — in trying to make the comparison between Jesus and Bahá’u’lláh, she said “So, they’re like brothers, right?” I live for moments like this.
We read a story about Ridván from God Passes By and then prepared pictures for painting (the rose above, as well as the map and the slide from book 4). The painting was a special treat for the kids, since we usually colour and draw with felt pens, crayons, and coloured pencils. The two main problems we had were a lack of coordination with the parents (i.e. some of the kids were picked up about 15 minutes after the time the class usually ends), and a lack of contingency planning (i.e. having more material ready to go to cover the ‘dead spots’ in between activities). I definitely could have been more on the ball during the week to remedy the first problem — for instance, calling the parents a couple of days in advance to remind them about the class. Also, it’s clear that we could have used more activities as backups in case we went over time. One note – usually we have lots of musical instruments for the kids to play while we sing, and today we didn’t have enough to go around. I think several of the kids lost enthusiasm and got distracted because of that.
April 8, 2006: 1.5 hours, 4 children, average age 6-7. This class went well – better than we had expected! It had been a while since we had revisited the topic of obedience and it was long overdue. Most of the children had just come back from a birthday party (one of them was the birthday boy) so they were a bit rowdy and undoubtedly full of sugar, so it took a little while to get them calmed down, but miraculously, it happened. We said prayers (with some difficulty) and sang some songs, after which we had a talk about obedience. I think the children were able to catch what we were saying on some level; we gave all sorts of examples, and even asked them if some of the things they were doing (for example, writhing on the floor or sitting quietly, being loud or showing reverence during prayers, etc) were examples of obedience or not. Their conduct seemed to improve during the colouring period / artistic activity, where we used the drawing from Ruhi Book 3 – of a young boy kneeling to pray. We explained the connection between the drawing and the content of the lesson. They were even sharing pencils and felt pens while colouring, and patiently waiting for their turn with certain colours (with minimal grabbing)!
The simple nature of this lesson seems to be what made it so successful (at least in our eyes). In fact, most of the lesson was taken straight from Ruhi Book 3 – you can’t get much simpler. As well as being simple, the lesson was also focused – since the Ruhi lessons are designed to reinforce the theme of each lesson in many different ways (through memorization, songs, stories, games and art).
April 1, 2006: 2 hours, 6 children, average age 6-7. The class went fairly well, but I could tell that there was a lack of preparation – I spent most of the time focusing on the “walk in nature” part – finding outdoor activities to do with the kids – but didn’t focus as much on what to do before then, and how the walk would fit into the schedule of the class. we usually conduct the class entirely indoors, and it flows a lot better. when you add the element of going outside, you have to take into account the time spent putting on boots and coats, keeping everyone in the same group, making sure the children are always holding someone’s hand before crossing the street, and so on…
the weather played against us somewhat; it was windy and cold, with threatening rain clouds lurking overhead. it had rained the night before so there were puddles around, and one child got soaking wet (his mother didn’t mind, thankfully). the three-legged race didn’t go over too well, but I suspect that may have been because the rules weren’t properly established before starting up. there may have been confusion. the result was that few of the kids wanted to play. most of the boys loved it, of course. the scavenger hunt was given a lukewarm reception, but I think the children enjoyed it once we got going. we had to cut it short because it was becoming cold and windy.
this lesson needs to be reworked and re-tried. Earth day is coming up in three weeks, so that might be a good opportunity to revisit the topic. Perhaps we could put more emphasis on the Baha’i take on the subject, and perhaps we could tie in kindness to animals (which is another topic entirely, one we’ve already done, but which is sort of related)…