year-end celebration

After seeing how well a “graduation” ceremony went for our local junior youth group, we decided it would be fun to have a similar event for our children’s class. Some time in August, we paid home visits to the kids and their families to introduce the idea of having a community celebration—something that would involve not only the families of the children in the class, but neighbours and friends as well. The kids would present some of the things they had studied during the past school year, and there could be refreshments and games too. Everyone agreed it would be a great idea, so we found a good date in early September, booked space at a nearby park, and forged ahead with our plans. As a first activity, we asked the children to create invitations to pass to their friends and family, which they did with gusto.

paper puppetsIn our teaching team, we decided on a few activities that might make for a good presentation. We settled on a couple of good songs: “The Human Race Is One” by Gina and Russ Garcia (available from the Ruhi Institute), and “This Little Light of Mine“. We also decided to make a puppet show out of one of the activities we had done during the year—specifically, the sketch about the village harvest from our lesson on justice and fairness (Ruhi Book 3, Grade 2, Set 4, Lesson 11). For the whole month of August, we practiced these with the children. Practicing the songs was simple enough, since they were already familiar with both of them. As for the puppets, we decided to go with paper stick puppets to keep things simple. We printed out a whole bunch of characters for the children to colour—a schoolteacher, villagers doing different things like harvesting vegetables or repairing the rooftop, the sun and clouds, etc. They had a lot of fun with this. After all the colouring was done, we put sticks on everything and voilà—puppets! In our spare time away from class, we had developed a script based on the sketch; when we put everything together, the puppet show began to take shape. Everyone really got into it; they each had their favourite puppets and enjoyed huddling behind our makeshift stage waiting for their cues.

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nine-pointed stars and snowflakes!

Imagine my surprise when, while looking for online resources for a recent lesson plan, I was totally unable to find any instructions on how to make nine-pointed stars and snowflakes out of folded and cut paper. I’m sure people have been making these 9-pointed versions for years—even decades—but when I looked online, everything I found had 6, 8, 12, even 5 points, but not 9!

Here, then, is something to fill that void. Quynh says she learned this method for folding nine-pointed stars from her father back in Vietnam, and it’s easily adaptable to making snowflakes, as you’ll see. The only part that I find really tricky is doing the 1/3 folds (steps 3-4, 6-7), because it’s a little imprecise and I often find I overshoot and have to redo it. It eventually works out, though, and makes beautiful, regular nine-pointed stars and snowflakes. Plenty of kids will probably never have seen these, so it’s a great, unique craft for any winter-themed class!

knowing god

Today’s lesson: knowing god.

January 26, 2013: We had a great, dynamic class. With just a few hiccups. When we arrived at our hosts’ home, we found one of the children was sick, so we poured some hot water for her and started with a healing prayer, after discussing some things she could do besides praying that would help her get better. After prayers, we reviewed the lesson and started on the story. The children loved the imagery of angels bringing raindrops to the ground; they come from a Christian background, and I guess they have a strong belief in angels. We reiterated the contradiction pointed out by the blacksmith, and we were about to ask the children what conclusions they could make about the illiterate blacksmith leaving a great scholar unable to address those contradictions, when our second hiccup arrived. The other half of our participants arrived late, due to a power outage (and a late meal) at home, so we stopped and greeted them. After starting over, we decided to keep the energy going with a few games, which we had planned anyway. We often play the detective game, so they loved playing it again; they also enjoyed charades, although some of them had trouble imagining how to express certain things with their bodies—how would you show a volcano, for example, or snow? Finally, we ended the day by making nine-pointed snowflakes with them.

snowflake modelling

such beautiful symmetry.

We actually had three teachers present, since I had to leave early for a meeting elsewhere in town. Quynh, who usually facilitates our neighbourhood junior youth group nowadays, helped out. I should also mention that the children who arrived halfway through actually came with their older sisters, who take part in the junior youth group; both of them joined in with the class and enjoyed it a lot. We’re planning to ask them to help teach the children’s class as an upcoming service project, so it was great to have them around. After the class, they even went with Quynh to talk to one of their friends—who’s come to the class before—about joining them in a new junior youth group. Apparently it went really well, and their friend is excited about joining the group! Awesome. Seeing this kind of coherence in action is so refreshing and feels like such a confirmation: both of our efforts, and of the course we’re following under the guidance of the Universal House of Justice. We’re really seeing a community being built before our eyes, slowly but surely.

oneness tree

Following a great discussion on our Facebook page recently, we tried out a new activity at our class: a “oneness of religions” Christmas tree made with wool, decorated with symbols of different religions. We found instructions for the woolen tree on Pinterest, and got the “oneness of religions” idea from a story told by one of our readers. Each of the children painted the symbol of their choice and hung it on one of the hooks along the edges of the tree. We tied this in to our lesson on God’s commandments, noting that Bahá’u’lláh has commanded us to “consort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship”. Many of the children in our class wanted to celebrate Christmas, so we thought this would be a nice activity that would engage them in thinking about the holidays that are sacred to the many different religions.

oneness tree

the tree on the wall

you are beautiful

detail of one of the “ornaments”

tree details

more ornaments

the sockpuppet who cried wolf

This video comes to us from the same children’s class teacher training in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam that showed us the “Birds of a Feather” game.

The training session, aimed mainly at youth, covered children’s classes and JY groups—I was working with the children’s class teachers. We shared strategies and spent a lot of time learning how to present the different activities that make up the classes. This segment combined crafts and drama. Participants spent the morning creating the sockpuppets out of old socks, buttons, felt and yarn, and then studied the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, presenting it with the sockpuppets (that’s the second part of the video, starting at 1:20). Sockpuppets are easy to make, and they can be a fun way for children to get involved in telling stories. They get to create their own characters, and then bring them to life with their own hands! Plus, who doesn’t love to see a good puppet show?

The Boy Who Cried Wolf is a great story to act out in this way, too. We’ve even done it with stick puppets before (see january stories); you’ll probably see photos of that craft in a future post. Also, as mentioned before, there’s an excellent retelling in Book 2 of Bahá’í Education for Children, aka the Furútan curriculum, that would be perfect for use in a puppet show.

Thanks to George Wesley Dannels of Baha’i Views for picking up on this video before I even had the chance to post about it!

c is for cookies

Everyone loves cookies, especially children; it’s little wonder why so many people around the world have incorporated baking cookies as an activity in their children’s classes. Long-time readers of this blog will remember that we’ve celebrated Naw-Ruz with cookie-baking several times now. Others have made it a tradition to bake cookies for ‘Ayyam-i-Ha. Children are genuinely proud to bake and decorate their own cookies—the sense of accomplishment that comes from successfully following a recipe can help children gain confidence in their abilities. When we tried our hand at baking, the children enjoyed it immensely, and looked forward to sharing with their families. Some of the children had been so industrious in making the cookies, and had amassed such a stack of them, that they started sharing their cookies with anybody they could find.

Baking cookies is pretty easy, and a quick Google search will turn up some good recipes. Good preparation is key; try making your own batch at home before the children’s class to make sure you understand how to do it (if you don’t already). A nice thing to bring along is a set of nine-pointed star cookie cutters—readily available online from Indiana-based Special Ideas. For those whose baking skills are more advanced, you may want to try your hand at Baha’i Cookie Temples—cookie models of Baha’i Houses of Worship, akin to gingerbread houses. (I seriously doubt my own skill level is that high!)

Jessica Craig, a seventh-grade student in the state of Washington, USA, recently wrote the following in an essay for United Nations Universal Human Rights Day; it might be nice to mention as a way of tying in the cookie-baking with Baha’i principles!

“Every cookie is made up of basically the same thing […] flour, sugar, and baking soda. For humans it might be our brain, heart or lungs which are all the same, and completely necessary to be alive. In cookies you have the basic ingredients but the things that make each cookie different may be you add nuts, or dried fruit and chocolate chips! […] All human beings are the same, but all of us have different beliefs and ideas.”

Related post: naw-rúz – baha’i new year, spring

naw-ruz cookies 5

“gingerbread cookies, fresh out of the oven!” from dragfyre

naw-ruz cookies 7

“in the midst of decoration” from dragfyre