June 29, 2013: 5 children, aged 6–11. Today was our second class on the topic of being a true friend, taken from Lesson 13 of Ruhi Book 3, Grade 2, Set 5. Since we had told the story of the prisoners in the Siyáh-Chál last week, we planned to continue this week with the dramatic exercise, which was for the children to practice telling the story on their own. After we were done with the memorization and introduced the activity, though, the children unanimously told us they wanted to draw and colour. What could we do? We had a few extra colouring sheets, so we let them go ahead. We took the opportunity to go over the story again, since several of them were using the same colouring sheet as last time, which showed the Shah peering into the sky, listening to the heavenly chanting as it echoed from the depths of the dungeon. We had a great time and a great conversation—which shows, I suppose, that although things don’t always go the way you’d like, there’s usually a way or two to make the best of the situation.
Hello everyone! In case you didn’t read it on our Facebook page, Baha’i children’s class ideas has some exciting news to share!
It’s been a long time coming—it feels like we’ve been talking about it forever—but it looks as though our website will be ready for a long-awaited design update very soon! Our target date is Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013. Besides a new look and feel, we’ll be improving the site’s organization to make it easier to find lesson plans, activities, tips and experience, adding new content, making the site mobile-friendly, and more! Pay us a visit next week and check it out for yourself!
June 22, 2013: Today was our first class on the topic of being a true friend, taken from Lesson 13 of Ruhi Book 3, Grade 2, Set 5. We attracted the younger brother of one of our students, who joined us quite enthusiastically when he heard that there were cookies in class last week. (Oh well.) We let him know that the hot chocolate was a one-time thing, and he still stayed; hopefully he wasn’t too disillusioned.
We started out by asking the children whether they could remember some of the friends they made in kindergarten. Most of them said they could. We asked them what makes someone a good friend, and we got a variety of good answers, such as spending time together, caring, kindness, and so on. We then asked whether they were still in touch with their good friends from kindergarten, and we got mixed answers. Most of the younger children were still in touch with their friends, but many of the older ones had immigrated to Canada since they were small, leaving their friends behind. When one of the younger children said he would be sad to leave friends behind, one of the older ones replied: “That’s part of life! You don’t always keep the same friends all your life.”
Taking the opportunity to segue into the day’s topic, we asked them: is there a friend that will always be with you your whole life, and beyond? They eventually came up with the answer we were looking for—God is our true friend, who will never leave our side. We moved into the memorization part of the class, presenting them with cut-up pieces of paper with the words of the quote on them: “Incline your hearts, O people of God, unto the counsels of your true, your incomparable Friend.” We challenged them to put together the quote, without having shown it to them beforehand. They enjoyed the challenge, and went at it enthusiastically, successfully putting together the whole quote on their own.
To finish off, we handed out the corresponding colouring page from Ruhi Book 3, Grade 2, using them to tell the story of how Bahá’u’lláh taught His fellow prisoners in the Siyáh-Chál to sing “God is sufficient unto me”. As is usual when we tell stories of Bahá’u’lláh’s imprisonment and exile, several children asked: How could the Sháh imprison Bahá’u’lláh even though He had done nothing wrong? We answered that lust for wealth, power and influence had blinded the eyes of the Sháh and made him fear Bahá’u’lláh rather than love Him. I wondered whether this was really a good enough answer for the children, whose tender hearts are developing such a strong love for God—we had a discussion of the concept on our Facebook page later on, which turned up a great idea for a game about the need for spiritual education.
Many of us are familiar with Ruhu’llah, who, although he was very young, was ready to lay down his life rather than deny the cause of God—I’ve told this story several times, and blogged about how it was received positively by the children in our class. While doing some reading the other day, I came upon another, short story about Ruhu’llah which would be perfect for classes on a number of themes, including progressive revelation, seeking knowledge, and the investigation of truth. The story can be found on page 58 of The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, Vol. 4.
Varqa’s two children ‘Azizu’llah and Ruhu’llah who accompanied him to ‘Akka also had the honour of attaining the presence of Bahá’u’lláh several times. Contact with the Supreme Manifestation of God left an abiding impression on their souls. Though young in age they both became charged with the spirit of faith. Ruhu’llah in particular flourished spiritually in those holy surroundings. He may be regarded as one of the spiritual prodigies which the hand of God has raised up in this Dispensation. Although He was only about eight years old when He came into the presence of Bahá’u’lláh, his understanding of the Faith was very profound.
To cite one example: One day Bahá’u’lláh asked Ruhu’llah, ‘What did you do today?’
He replied, ‘I was having lessons from — [a certain teacher].’ Bahá’u’lláh asked, ‘What subject were you learning?’ ‘Concerning the return [of the prophets]’, said Ruhu’llah. ‘Will you explain what this means?’ Bahá’u’lláh demanded. He replied: ‘By return is meant the return of realities and qualities.’
Bahá’u’lláh, questioning him further, said: ‘These are exactly the words of your teacher and you are repeating them like a parrot. Tell me in your own words your own understanding of the subject.’
‘It is like cutting a flower from a plant this year,’ answered Ruhu’llah. ‘Next year’s flower will look exactly like this one, but it is not the same.’
The Blessed Beauty praised the child for his intelligent answer and often called him Jinab-i-Muballigh (His honour, the Bahá’í teacher).
June 15, 2013: 5 children, 7–10 years old. For the past little while (starting this winter, in fact), our junior youth have been planning a service project: come to the children’s class and serve hot chocolate and cookies to their younger siblings and cousins. Everything finally worked out this week, and they were able to follow through. The children loved it, of course—who would turn down hot chocolate and cookies? It also gave us the opportunity to discuss the qualities we show when serving, and reinforced our lesson about the need for cooperation and reciprocity—when we all serve together, everyone benefits. Unfortunately, the junior youth were so busy with other activities (football matches, family visits, and so on) that they couldn’t stay for long, but it was nice that they were finally able to put their plans to serve into action. We learned a good lesson, too: when you make plans, whether in a children’s class or in a junior youth group, make sure that you act on them sooner rather than later, in order to avoid losing the enthusiasm to serve, which could lead to discouragement. (Not to mention the fact that we had expected to be serving hot chocolate in February, not June.)
To finish off the class, we printed out colouring pages for Father’s Day, for the children to colour and give to their fathers. I got one, too, signed by all of them, since our own baby boy will be coming soon. (Quynh got a mother’s day card last month, too.) They’re all very excited to meet the baby; they spent a while during last week’s class thinking up and writing down names. Most of the names seem to come from boy bands and other celebrities, like Justin, Harry, Niall, Liam, Zack, Cody, and so on. Some were a little more unusual, like “Toutou” for example. This week, we challenged them to come up with some really unusual (even crazy) names, and they obliged, serving up gems such as Kratos, Tim Horton, Muscle, Goomba, Scorpion King, Benkie Barn, Crustino Ronundio, Spirit Bomb, Special Beam Cannon, Lightning Tsunami, President Of The United States, The Strongest Zeus In The World, and—probably my favourite—The Best In The World Is The Boy Who Love His Father. We shared some good laughs, and revelled in the children’s creativity. (I hope they won’t be disappointed if we choose more commonplace names!)
June 8, 2013: Today was the day we set aside to go over the drama portion of the class. We briefly went over the story of Nettie Tobin again to remind the children, and then got them to act it out up to the point where Nettie arrived at the site of the House of Worship (stopping there, to avoid having to portray ‘Abdu’l-Bahá). The youngest of the girls (an eight-year-old) played Nettie—scouting out a stone from the nearby construction site, and carrying it from trolley to trolley in a baby carriage all the way to the site of the House of Worship—and the other two filled in different roles, such as the foreman, Nettie’s friend, and even the baby carriage that carried the rock.
Everyone got a lot of laughs and had a lot of fun with this class. I think we can say with confidence that out of everything we do in class, the children love drama the most. The older girl who was present—a ten-year-old who normally appears timid—really comes into her own when playing a role. She says she wants to be an actress, and she’d probably be a great one: she really does well at learning and delivering lines, using her voice, her face, and her body to expressing emotion. Just one of those gems we’ve found while digging through the spiritual mines!