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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cooperation and reciprocity (take 4)

Today’s lesson: cooperation and reciprocity.

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.)

father's day artTo 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!)

cleanliness (take 2)

Today’s lesson: cleanliness.

November 22, 2008: 1.5 hours, 4 children, average ages 9 and 5. the lesson itself was very short today. we had a quick conversation about cleanliness, pointing out several different ways of keeping clean (showers, baths, wearing clean clothes, brushing teeth, washing hands, trimming nails, and so on), and then looked at one of the quotes above: “…Although bodily cleanliness is a physical thing, it hath, nevertheless, a powerful influence on the life of the spirit.” – ‘Abdu’l-Baha.  We set a 16×16 grid on the floor and used it to play a game sort of like hopscotch – words of the quote were placed in order throughout the grid and the children had to hop on each of the squares in order to complete the quote. After that, we continued with the masks we were working on last week.  I was going to encourage them to observe cleanliness during that activity, but we still got paint and glitter all over, because my mind was everywhere trying to keep everything else going.  You know, one kid needs help cutting while the next one wants more paint and the next one says he’s starving and wants a snack. And so on. Overall, a short lesson, the delivery wasn’t perfect, but at least we made some effort to examine a quote – which we’ve been lacking so far this year.

service (take 3)

Today’s lesson: service.

August 18, 2007: 1.5 hours, 8 children, average age 8. Our last regular children’s class before school starts again! We had five of our usual kids and three cousins, and the group dynamic was great—although there was a little too much between-cousins tousling for the spiritual atmosphere of the children’s class. After two weeks of daily outreach classes, though, I had gotten used to playing kindergarten cop, so it was manageable. Most of the children said prayers, after which we memorized “O God, guide me” for the sake of our new students (and to refresh the memory of the kids who hadn’t been around during the summer) and then sang the same prayer in Haitian Creole (since several of our children come from Haitian families). We used the “step game” to help memorize the quote, but we noticed a couple of problems with it: 1) the game doesn’t work so well when there are lots of children (say, eight or more) in a line; 2) the game doesn’t work so well when the children can’t read well. We may adapt it for use with this class, which typically takes place indoors rather than outdoors and has fewer high-energy children than the outreach class. One nice thing is that we involved the children in snack time more than usual; for example, one set out a plate of cookies and poured juice for the others, while another helped wash dishes afterwards, and others helped to put away the colouring materials before we went outside for the end of class. The child who washed dishes—usually a rather distracted child—even thanked us for letting him serve in that way. nice 🙂

allah’u’abha: greetings

Today’s lesson: allah’u’abhá.

October 14, 2006: ~2.5 hours, 7 children, ages ~6-10. A good class to start off our new year of classes. We had encouraging turnout: 5 of last year’s core group of children attended, plus two more. The class started out slowly as we waited for some of the children to arrive, so we played a number guessing game in the meantime. Maybe not the most original game, but the kids got into it. We started (late) with prayers; they were quite beautiful. About half the children were shy and didn’t want to say prayers; the others did. I noticed it was the usual ones who didn’t want to say prayers. Still struggling to find ways to open up the desire to pray in these kids. Afterwards, we started with one prayer (O God! Guide me…), discussed it and asked what the words meant. We worked on memorizing it, with several children leading in a repeat-after-me style. Once the memorization was done, we opened up with some get-to-know you games; we played a couple of versions of Jump-Up and Greet & Switch. One of the kids, as was his habit last year, became distracted during the games and began to disrupt the class. I think all of us lost some patience with him, which I personally regret. After the games, we took some time to work on our new prayer books – after that was all done, we had snacks and went outside to play more active games. All in all? As I said, not too bad, but we could have done better. We didn’t mention “Allah’u’abha” as a particular Baha’i greeting, which is an important oversight. I think we probably all got panicked because it had been a while since we had done the class, and we weren’t as prepared (spiritually? materially?) as we could have been. It was a nice little jolt starting the class again – stressful, but doable. I still feel very confident about this year’s class and know that, once we get back into the rhythm of the class, things should go just fine.