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Alternate Activity 2: Writing in Code (20 minutes), Session 14: Honor Life

In "Faithful Journeys," a Tapestry of Faith program

Materials for Activity

  • Paper and pencils for all participants
  • Newsprint, markers and tape
  • Optional: Faithful Journeys Path and pins, glue stick or tape

Description of Activity

For many years, Beatrix Potter kept a diary, which she wrote in a special code that she created. No one figured out the code until twenty years after she died. In this activity, children create their own code to write out an instruction on caring for our planet, such as "Walk to school" or "Don't litter."

Gather participants at work tables, seated a bit apart so everyone has a private space. Invite the children to think silently about a brief message they might like to give to others about how to take care of the ecosystem of our planet.

Distribute paper and pencils. Ask the children to write down their message, without showing it to anyone — except a leader, who may be able to help with phrasing or spelling. Then, direct the children to write the alphabet as a list along the side or bottom of their page. Demonstrate on newsprint.

When their alphabets are finished, explain how children can create their own secret code by assigning each letter its own symbol. A code symbol might be a different letter, a number, or an invented symbol or picture. Tell the children they do not need symbols for the entire alphabet — only for the letters that are actually in their secret message.

As children finish creating their codes, give them a fresh sheet of paper. Tell them this will be the solving sheet another child will use to decode their secret message. Instruct the children to make a small line for each letter in their message, leaving extra space between words. Again, demonstrate on newsprint; for example, "Save Water." would look like: __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __.

Then, below these spaces in which the decoder will write the message, the children should write the key to cracking the code, showing which symbols stand for which letters. Suggest they scramble the order of the letters in the key, so the answer to the coded message is not obvious.

When all the children have composed a coded message and created a solving sheet with a key, collect the solving sheets and redistribute them. Make sure no one gets their own sheet back.

Give the children time to decipher the codes, and read aloud the conservation messages they have decoded. You may wish to post these messages as new signposts on your Faithful Journeys Path.

Conclude by sharing that learning how to treat the nonhuman beings in our world can seem a little like decoding a message. You might say:

It may seem that we can't communicate with the nonhuman beings of the world. But every living being, human and nonhuman, does communicate. If we pay attention, perhaps we can decode the messages we receive from the beings that share the Earth with us. We can learn what animal and plant life needs us to do so they can survive and keep our ecosystem balanced. And we must make sure our actions communicate the thoughts and beliefs we really care about.

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Last updated on Thursday, October 27, 2011.

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