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Program Structure (Riddle and Mystery)

All sessions follow the same structure. Each revolves thematically around a single Big Question. In between opening and closing rituals, participants react to the question, hear a story connected with it, create a television broadcast presenting UU responses to it, and explore their own ideas about it. The sequence of activities is carefully designed to intersperse action with reflection and to offer a variety of ideas about the Big Question before asking participants to articulate their own. You may, of course, change the order of activities and replace some with others, but be mindful of sequence, variety, and flow as you do. 

Every session provides Faith in Action activity suggestions. Many involve working for economic justice, a frequent and direct UU response to Session 8’s Big Question, “Is life fair?” While Faith in Action activities are not included in the 60-minute core session time, they are an important element of the overall Tapestry of Faith curriculum program. Some Faith in Action activities can be completed in one meeting. Others are longer-term. Many require the involvement of congregational or community members and/or meetings outside the regular gathering time or location. Co-leaders may wish to review and select the program’s Faith in Action activities before beginning Riddle and Mystery.

Every session offers alternate activities. Depending on your time and interests, you might replace one or more of a session's core activities with an alternate activity, or add an alternate activity to a session. You can also use alternate activities outside the Riddle and Mystery program at multigenerational gatherings, family retreats or other events involving youth.

As you design your program, decide whether the group needs extra meetings to incorporate additional activities or to complete a long-term Faith in Action project. Before you commit to an extended program, make sure you obtain the support of both your congregational leadership and the children's families.

Quote

A quote introduces the subject of each session. A few sessions suggest sharing the quotes with youth. Others provide the quotes primarily for leaders. Co-leaders may like to discuss the quote as part of preparation for a session. Quotes are also included in Taking It Home sections.

Introduction

The Introduction gives an overview of the session’s concepts, explains and offers suggestions about various activities and describes the session’s thematic connection to other sessions. The Introduction will also alert you to special preparation or inclusion adaptation needed for the session.

Goals

The Goals section provides general outcomes for the session. Reviewing the goals will help you connect the session’s content and methodologies with the four overall goals of Tapestry of Faith: faith development, Unitarian Universalist identity development, spiritual development and ethical development. As you plan a session, consider your youth, the time and space available, and your own strengths and interests to determine the most important and achievable goals for the session. Select the activities that will best serve those goals.

Learning Objectives

The Learning Objectives describe specific participant outcomes which activities are designed to achieve. They describe what a youth will learn, become or be able to do as a result of participating in the session. Think of learning objectives as the building blocks used to achieve the larger goals of Riddle and Mystery.

Session-at-a-Glance

This table lists session activities in their suggested order and provides an estimated time for completing each to conduct a 60-minute session. The table includes all core activities from the Opening through the Closing. It also shows Faith in Action activities and alternate activities, with estimated times as appropriate. (Note: You will need to adjust or extend the 60-minute session to present Faith in Action or alternate activities.)

Session-at-a-Glance is merely a guide for your own planning. Many variables affect the time needed for an activity, including the size of the group and the enthusiasm of the participants. Remember to leave time to move participants from one space to another and to clean-up.

Time estimates do not include leader planning and preparation time.  Some activities, especially Faith in Action activities, require advance arrangements to involve families, other congregants and members of the wider community.

Spiritual Preparation

Take time in the days before the session to reflect on its content and take time in the moments before the session to center yourself. Each session offers a spiritual preparation exercise that will guide you to call forth your own life experiences, beliefs and spirituality. It can help you enjoy your time with youth and provide the best possible learning experience for each session.

Session Plan

The Session Plan presents every session element in detail, including the core activities, a Faith in Action activity, Leader Reflection and Planning, Taking It Home, Alternate Activities, the full text of the Story(ies), Handouts and Leader Resources, and a Find Out More section for additional resources.

If you are reading Riddle and Mystery online, you can skip around easily among a session's elements: Opening, Closing, Faith in Action, Activity 4, Story, etc. Each element occupies its own web page. You can click on "Print This Page" at any time to print individual activities, stories, etc. in hard copy.

However, if you click on "Download Entire Program" or "Download Session," you will have a user-friendly document on your computer that you can customize as you wish, using your own word-processing program. Tapestry of Faith is designed to be used in this way. Once you plan a session or program, you can format and print only the materials you need.

Opening. Each opening includes several parts:

  • Greeting of youth
  • Selection of Kid for the Day by drawing a name at random
  • Lighting of the chalice led by Kid for the Day
  • Introduction of newcomers and (optional) very brief sharing
  • Announcement of today’s Big Question, led by Kid for the Day
  • Extinguishing the chalice by Kid for the Day.

Note: As the program moves forward, a youth may be chosen as Kid for the Day more than once. The participants will examine this possibility in Session 8, when they consider whether life is fair. If youth object before Session 8 that the selection process is unfair, ask them what they would like to do about it and try to reach a consensus. One possibility, of course, is to remove from the bag the name of each youth who has already been Kid for the Day. The group’s decision, too, can be revised in Session 8 or another time.

Activities. Four to six core activities are suggested for each session. Each activity presents materials you will need, preparation you must do, and step-by-step guidance for leading the activity. Under “Including All Participants,” some activities offer adaptation ideas to meet special needs.

Three recurring activities deserve special mention:

  • Story and Discussion. A central story is presented each session. Some stories are written to be interactive. All include discussion prompts.
  • WCUU. The letters stand for Wisdom of the Community of Unitarian Universalists and function as the call letters of an imaginary television station. (For congregations west of the Mississippi, change the call letters to KCUU, Knowledge of the Community of Unitarian Universalists.) WCUU is central to each session. It leads youth to have fun discovering Unitarian Universalist responses to the session’s Big Question. Each WCUU activity offers a script. Some scripts are complete; others ask youth to create their own roles from information supplied. WCUU offers opportunities to youth who enjoy speaking and acting and to others who might prefer a crew or audience role. You can decide how simple or complicated to make your WCUU segments. (It is not necessary to create a real video program, though if your congregation has the equipment and skills, you may wish to. If you do create videos, plan to view them with participants and their families at the close of the program.) Especially in the first sessions, you might have youth just sit in a circle and read the scripts aloud. In later sessions, as they get the idea, you might add props such as a camera—cardboard or real—plus a microphone or two and lights. It will be helpful to have supplies on hand throughout Riddle and Mystery to make name cards for each of the On-Air People in a WCUU program. Keep WCUU broadcasts under control. Some youth may become so intrigued that WCUU begins to take up more time than is allotted. To prevent that, you might designate a participant—perhaps the Kid for the Day, or the WCUU director—to keep track of time during the sessions.
  • WIT Time. WIT stands for ”What I Think.” In WIT Time, youth consider their own responses to the session’s Big Question. WIT Time is often suggested as the final core activity so youth have plenty of ideas from earlier activities to help them shape their opinions.

The sequence of activities has been carefully thought out. You may certainly make changes, but in general you should look through the entire session before deciding how to adjust it.

Each session, too, has been intentionally designed to mix quiet and active activities, and to engage a variety of skills and learning styles. Keep this balance in mind as you adapt a session to your group’s needs.

Alternate Activities. Each session provides several alternate activities you may substitute for a core activity, incorporate into a core activity and/or use to expand the session (possibly outside the regular meeting time). Three alternate activities recur throughout the program:

  • Notable Thoughts asks youth to write or draw their thoughts about the session’s Big Question.
  • Challenge Question guides a deeper inquiry into the session’s Big Question.
  • Song introduces a UU hymn related to the session’s Big Question.

Faith in Action.  Faith in Action ideas offer practical ways for youth to realize and apply their learning and their developing faith for the betterment of the world and their own communities.

Faith in Action in Session 1 introduces the concept of economic justice, a recurring though not exclusive Faith in Action theme in Riddle and Mystery. Session 2 guides the selection of an ongoing project and/or a specific one-time action the youth can do. Session 3 introduces another Faith in Action alternative to pursue for the remainder of the curriculum: the UUA Action of the Month program.

Faith in Action activities, like core and alternate activities, provide lists of required supplies and preparations and may suggest adaptations to include youth with diverse abilities and needs. Faith in Action is not calculated into a core, 60-minute session, but the group can easily do Faith in Action activities on a regular basis if you meet for more than an hour. You could substitute them for other activities, or use them outside the program.

If you want the group to commit to a long-term Faith in Action project, consider using the brainstorming suggested in Session 1. However you structure the Riddle and Mystery program, do include some form of Faith in Action. As we know, actions can speak louder than words.

Closing. Closings include a summary of the day's activities, a chalice lighting with ritual closing words, Taking It Home suggestions and appropriate announcements about future sessions.

Leader Reflection and Planning. Leaders will find it very helpful, immediately after a session, to spend a few minutes reviewing what they have done and planning what they will do next. Each session suggests a few discussion ideas.

Taking It Home. Taking It Home suggests ways youth can extend the session’s ideas and projects on their own and with family and friends. It may include games, family trips, photography, discussions, and family faith in action projects.

In Tapestry of Faith programs for younger children, Taking It Home addresses parents. In programs for older youth, it speaks directly to youth. In this program for sixth graders—the oldest of children and the youngest of youth—Taking It Home is designed to engage both the youth and their parents. Suggest this opportunity to families as you correspond with them about Riddle and Mystery.

Stories, Handouts and Leader Resources

  • Stories—The full text of the session’s story(ies).
  • Handouts—Pages you will give youth to use in the session.
  • Leader Resources—Resources the leaders may need such as a recipe, a puzzle to print out and cut into pieces, or an illustration to show the group.

Find Out More. This section offers book and video titles, website URLs and other selected resources to further explore the session topics. It is recommended that you scan Find Out More before leading a session.

For more information contact web @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Friday, May 4, 2012.

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