Activity 3: Story Basket and Centering
Activity time: 5 minutes
Materials for Activity
- A large basket
- Objects related to the story "Valentines for the Governor," such as Valentine's Day cards; wedding paraphernalia, such as a miniature bride-and-groom cake decoration; a heart-shaped box such as a gift box of chocolate candy; a photograph of California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger; a map of the U.S. with California highlighted; a photo-documentary book such as Courting Equality: A Documentary History of America's First Legal Same-Sex Marriages, by Patricia A.Gozemba and Karen Kahn, photographs by Marilyn Humphries (Boston: Beacon Press, 2007).
- A chime, rain stick, or other calming sound instrument
- Optional: Box or small table and a decorative cloth cover to form a small altar
Preparation for Activity
- Place story-related items and the sound instrument in the story basket. Place the filled story basket in the storytelling area.
- If you will make an altar as a focal point for story objects, set up the box or table you will use next to your storytelling area. Place the decorative cloth on the altar. It is not necessary to ritualize the altar as a sacred place. It can simply serve as a focal point where objects related to the story will be visible while you tell the story.
Description of Activity
Gather the children in a circle in your storytelling area. Show them the storytelling basket. Say something like, "Let's see what's in our story basket today."
Tell the group the items in the story basket will be placed on the altar or table after the children have passed them around the circle. Take the story-related items from the basket, one at a time.
Briefly name each item and pass it around. Objects that are fragile or should not be passed around for any reason can be held up for all to see and then placed directly on the altar. As items come back to you, display them on the altar for children to look at as they listen to the story.
Ask the children, "Who knows what marriage is? What does it mean when people get married?" Affirm that marriage is a way two people affirm that they love each other and proclaim that their relationship is a special one where they agree to take care of each other, to live together as partners in life, and possibly to be parents together. Affirm that marriage is something adults can do and that some participants may want to marry someone when they are grown up.
Some places have laws about which adults can get married and which adults cannot. In some places, two women who love each other, or two men who love each other, are not allowed to marry each other, even if they already have a home and a family together.
Many people think this is unfair. In our faith, we believe that all love matters, and nobody's love is better or worse or more or less important than anyone else's love. In our Unitarian Universalist congregations, many people have gotten involved to ask governments to change those marriage laws so every couple who wants to can marry.
Now remove the sound instrument from the story basket. Tell the children that every time you tell a story in Faithful Journeys, you will first use the instrument to help them get their ears, minds, and bodies ready to listen. Invite them to sit comfortably and close their eyes (if they are comfortable doing so). You may tell them that closing their eyes can help them focus on just listening.
In a calm voice, say, in your own words:
As you breathe in, feel your body opening up with air. As you breathe out, feel yourself relaxing.
Repeat this once or twice and then say:
Now you are ready to listen. When I hit the chime (turn the rain stick over), listen as carefully as you can. See how long you can hear its sound. When you can no longer hear it, open your eyes and you will know it is time for the story to begin.
Sound the chime or other instrument. When the sound has gone, begin telling the story.
Including All Participants
Make sure no participants have allergies to any items you wish to include in the story basket, such as Valentine's Day candy or snacks. A severely allergic participant may react even to an empty box of chocolates.
Make sure you or a child in the group offers a chance to see and touch each object, as needed, to anyone who is unable to hold or pass items or cannot see the items.
Some people do not feel safe closing their eyes in a group. If any children resist, respect their resistance and suggest that they find a single point of focus to look at instead.
If you have a basket of fidget objects for children who may listen and learn more effectively with something in their hands, make the fidget object basket available during this activity. Remind children where it is before you begin the "centering" part of this activity. For a full description of fidget objects and guidance on using them, see Session 2, Leader Resource 2.