As soon as your program is scheduled, prepare a calendar with the dates for each session and additional activities. The more co-leaders and parent volunteers a program includes, the more useful a calendar will be. Post the calendar in your shared meeting space, and duplicate it for each adult participant.
Use the calendar as a to-do list. Once you know which activities you will include in each session, carefully read the activities' materials and preparation sections. Put advance preparations on the calendar and, if possible, assign them.
Plan to obtain any materials that your religious education program does not keep in your supply closets. Note materials that may be difficult to find, or need to be ordered in advance or collected in quantity.
For sessions with activities that need assistance from others in the congregation or community, write reminders to contact these people well in advance and to confirm their visits shortly before the session date.
Communication to families can powerfully boost the program's impact. Note on your calendar when to download, customize, and distribute Taking It Home for each session. If the group will go off-site for a Faith in Action activity or take a walk beyond the grounds of your congregational meeting place, mark the dates when you need to create, distribute, and collect permission forms. Mark dates to email or hand out reminders or requests to parents.
If someone on your leadership team has the expertise to create a shared electronic calendar, take advantage! Designate one person to keep the calendar up to date. If different leaders will lead different sessions, make sure to assign responsibilities as appropriate for distributing permission forms, requests for volunteers, and other communications to parents. Note assignments of these tasks on the calendar.
Make name tags for participants and leaders before the first session. Keep extra materials to make additional name tags for newcomers or guests.
To lead a session, you may need to download, customize, print, and/or photocopy materials from the Love Will Guide Us program on the Tapestry of Faith website. These materials may include the text of the central story; handouts for participants; Taking It Home for parents/caregivers; and leader resources such as arts-and-crafts templates, recipes, or scenarios to use in role plays. Make sure you have all the materials you need before the day of the session. Allow yourself time to become familiar with the materials and prepare completely for the session.
The Love Will Guide Us Night Sky
This program utilizes a metaphor of being "guided to love" as by stars in the night sky. Make and display the Love Will Guide Us Night Sky before the first session to establish the metaphor and create a concrete, visual learning atmosphere. You can make a Night Sky as elaborate or as simple as you wish. Find guidance in Session 1, Opening.
UU Source Stars
As the program progresses, you will add Source Stars to your Night Sky during each Closing. Source Stars begin with "We learn from... ;" the completed phrase summarizes the Source of the day.
UU Source Constellations
To take our metaphor a step further, Alternate Activity 2 in each session expands the guiding night sky with "constellations" created specifically to illustrate each Source. Stars in each constellation connect—as in dot-to-dot coloring sheets—to create an image symbolic of the Source. For example, stick people represent "the prophetic words of women and men" and an infinity sign represents "humanist teachings." Each session includes a Handout (only stars) and a Leader Resource which shows how to connect the stars to create the image (an answer sheet).
Do not use this Alternate when revisiting a Source previously explored. Instead, take an opportunity to point out that Source's constellation.
If you use the Source constellations throughout the program, your Night Sky will include nine panels with stars (one for each of the seven Sources, a Big Dipper, and a North Star), along with the seven UU Source Stars. Encourage everyone who enters the room to notice the Night Sky!
Story Basket and Centering
Each session includes instructions to fill a basket with objects related to the central story and pass the objects around to the group to focus participants' attention and build curiosity about the story. Obtain a basket large enough to accommodate items of different sizes and shapes, yet light enough for participants to hold.
The story basket should also have room for a sound-making instrument such as a chime, rain stick, bell, or small drum. You may want to have both a soft and a loud sound instrument. A calming sound that lingers and fades is part of the centering activity that transitions the group from exploring the story basket to listening to or participating in your storytelling. At other times, you will need a sound-making instrument to start and stop the action during a game.
Love Will Guide Us Music
It is suggested you open each session by singing "Love Will Guide Us," Hymn 131 in Singing the Living Tradition, and close each session by singing "Our Sources," lyrics and music by Kathleen Tracy, commissioned for this program. Familiarize yourself with these songs. Lyrics for both songs are provided in the sessions and you can listen to a music clip of "Our Sources." Consider including parents and caregivers in the Closing and have them learn and sing along with participants.
"Our Sources" reinforces the metaphor of the night sky. When you sing this song in a session, you may choose to emphasize the particular phrase for the Source highlighted:
The sense of wonder we all share (Direct experience)
Lives that remind us to be kind and fair (Deeds of women and men).
Like starlight beacons in the night
They point the way to love
Wisdom from teachers all over the world (World religions)
Love that reaches out to others in turn (Jewish and Christian teachings)
They point the way to love.
O shine down mystery
The path may be different for you and me.
Let's walk together as we learn and grow
And sing about the things we know.
We can use our minds to see what's true (Humanist teachings)
And feel the circle of life we're connected to (Earth-based teachings)
These are things that we believe
And they point the way to love.
The idea of providing children with pipe cleaners or other quiet, manipulable objects to use during sedentary, listening-oriented group activities comes from Sally Patton, author and advocate for children with special needs. It is a simple, inexpensive way to include and welcome children who find it difficult to sit still or who learn better while moving. In Tapestry of Faith programs, we suggest a basket of fidget objects. See Session 1, Leader Resource 4, Fidget Objects, for detailed guidance.
Fidget objects may especially benefit children who are kinesthetic learners, have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, or simply tend to be physically restless or highly social during religious school. Get to know the particular children. Decide whether you wish to make fidget objects available for the duration of a session or to limit access, e.g., bringing the basket out only for activities, such as storytelling, that require children to sit still for a prolonged period of time. There are quite a few stories and listening-based activities in this program that require children's full engagement and active participation. At these times, it may be best not to introduce fidget objects unless there is a child who cannot attend otherwise.
Requirements for Your Meeting Space
Work with your religious education team and congregational leaders to ensure that the program has an adequate meeting space. Multiple activities occur in each session: lighting the chalice, sitting in a circle for a story or sharing, stand-up role plays, group games and hands-on projects for which children need to sit together at work tables and share arts-and-crafts materials. For some activities, having a water source nearby will be helpful. The ideal meeting space is spacious, with multiple areas that include a carpeted space for storytelling; an open space large enough for cooperative group games; and child-size tables and chairs. Identify a wall space to post the Night Sky for the duration of the program. You will need other wall space or a sturdy easel for posting newsprint and writing on it.
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Last updated on Thursday, October 27, 2011.
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