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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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?

a walk in nature: god’s creation

Today’s lesson: nature, god’s creation.

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)…