notes to self (take 2)

World Environment Day: June 5

Environment theme – cleaning up after ourselves… recycling, respect for the earth… “ecological footprint”… connection to aboriginal wisdom, words from Bahá’í Writings on nature?

Father’s Day: June 18

Love, honour, respect towards parents – what does it mean to “honour thy father and mother” – revisit obedience towards parents –

National Aboriginal Day: June 21

Activities related to aboriginal / first nations people… build a dream catcher, papier-mache masks maybe?

Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day: June 24

Canadian Multiculturalism Day: June 27

“flowers of one garden”, “leaves of one tree”… something related to cultural exchange… perhaps a guest who could speak about his or her culture? or role-playing activities related to getting along with people of different cultures?

Canada Day: July 1

Martyrdom of the Báb: July 9

Story of the Martyrdom of the Báb (Ruhi Book 4, Unit 2, Section 8; here’s another version from Dayspring Magazine (UK), aimed at kids.

Civic Holiday (Ontario): August 1

Recognition of Indigenous Peoples Day (UN): August 9

Activities related to aboriginal / first nations people… build a dream catcher, papier-mache masks maybe?

International Literacy Day: September 8

activities related to literacy, language, reading, writing, and understanding words, letters, and sounds. the importance of communication, educating ourselves so we can communicate better with others…

avoiding gossip and backbiting (take 1)

Today’s lesson: avoiding gossip and backbiting.

May 26, 2006: ~2 hours, 2 children, ages 6 and 10. Due to amazing weather conditions, most of the class was held outside, with a healthy dose of walking around. We started off by reciting prayers together (along with a few other adults), after which we continued memorizing Blessed is the Spot with the kids, accompanied by gestures to help with memorization. We had a good walk down to a nearby park in search of feathers, to help tie in with the ‘Feathers in the wind’ story. We didn’t find any – just some young leaves – so we headed back home for a break and continued along with the story. The children seemed to understand the story quite well; we asked a few questions to help some of the main concepts sink in. Afterwards, we went back outside and did about fifteen minutes of skits showing how to avoid gossip and backbiting. Afterwards, we took another walk outside to play some soccer (and tag, and marco polo).

We tried a few new things this week. One was to invite some of the adults into the opening prayers and readings. Another was to provide prayer books so that children who wanted to could read new prayers from books if they wanted to – we usually read the prayers we’ve already memorized or recite them from memory. We also put more of an emphasis on practice this time around, in the form of the skits. Much like participants in the local institute process are devoting more time to the practice included in the Ruhi curriculum, we took a little inspiration from Counsellor Scott’s talk and tried teaching some concrete skills instead of just learning what we “should” be and “should” do. I think it made a difference in the children’s understanding of how to avoid gossip. We’ll bring it up again next week and see what the reactions are. In any case, I think we’ll be using this skill-building angle more often – it seems to be much more in keeping with the spirit of the Baha’i teachings. Thoughts?

thoughts from counsellor scott’s ottawa talk…

This post was also blogged at doberman pizza.

Counsellor Scott’s talk went off quite well. About sixty people showed up, a mix of parents, teachers, members of institutions, children and youth. Part of the talk reprised points and ideas that were discussed at the meeting with the youth on the 5th, and that formed the conceptual framework necessary to understand the lines of action in the newest Five Year Plan. The focus at this meeting being the education of children and junior youth, we spent time discussing concepts related to the state of our education system and the state of children’s education in our community.

The talk made all of us question the sort of education we provide to our children—is it really enough to talk about virtues we “should be” manifesting, and go straight on without teaching related skills and developing in children the will to manifest those skills, or without practicing them in a safe, loving and encouraging environment? Is it enough to teach our children to be “relatively” excellent, whereas Shoghi Effendi exhorts the Bahá’ís not to “content themselves merely with relative distinction and excellence”? Are we teaching our children to be merely good citizens, or are we teaching them to be agents of change that will transform the society around them?

I’ll definitely be doing some thinking, particularly since I’m involved in a Bahá’í children’s class (recently featured on Baha’i Views. cool, huh?). Sometimes I really feel like I’m learning everything from the ground up. These questions have profound implications for the way I serve, the importance I place on these weekly classes, and the attitude I cultivate about my role in the process. Food for thought from the Writings:

Blessed is that teacher who shall arise to instruct the children…

(Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Education—A Compilation, p. 9)

Among the greatest of all services that can possibly be rendered by man to Almighty God is the education and training of children…

(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections From The
Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, #106, p. 133

According to the explicit divine Text, teaching the children is indispensable and obligatory. It followeth that teachers are servants of the Lord God, since they have arisen to perform this task, which is the same as worship. You must therefore offer praise with each breath, for you are educating your spiritual children.

(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Education—A Compilation, p. 33)

love (take 1)

Today’s lesson: love.

May 13, 2006: ~1.5 hours, 2 children, average age 6. Mother’s day. The class started late, but we managed to hit on most of the main activities. We practiced and sang prayers with our two participants: “Blessed is the Spot” and “Say God Sufficeth”. We read the story of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and the unkind man and had a good conversation about love and gratitude, which segued very well into the handprint flowers – the children’s Mother’s Day gift. Gotta go – more soon.

justice (take 1)

Today’s lesson: justice.

May 6, 2006: ~2 hours, 6 children, average age 6-7. The class went well. I was able to consult with the children to see what sort of games we could play, and we ended up playing a game called “tic-tac-toe” which is basically a variant of “hot potato” – we passed a ball around in a circle while one child repeated “tic, tac, tic, tac…” and whoever was holding the ball when he/she said “toe” would have to leave the circle and replace him/her counting. The kids loved it.