In "Moral Tales," a Tapestry of Faith program
Have the children stand in a circle. Lead them in a quick stretch. You may say:
Let's all pretend to be Nasruddin for a moment. We'll reach up high to get some food and then put it in our pockets.
After the stretch, ask the children to raise their hands if they've ever had a time when they felt unwelcome. Briefly ask the kids to contribute things that people do that can make someone feel unwelcome. Prompt with suggestions such as:
When it is clear that the children have a pretty good understanding of behaviors that are unwelcoming, put on the ragged, worn garment. Say, in your own words:
When Nasruddin was wearing dirty clothes, the people at the feast did not welcome him. They judged him on his clothes and decided he wasn't good enough. Now we're going to use our bodies, our faces and our words and we're going to pretend to be the guests who did not want to include Nasruddin.
Go around the circle and invite each child to do or say something unwelcoming. You may want to have ground rules that include no physical violence or inappropriate language. Encourage the kids to be dramatic and to act unwelcoming with their whole bodies. If a child uses words without movement, you can ask, "What would your body look like if you were really saying that to someone?" When everyone has had a turn, if it seems like there might be more ways of being unwelcoming that have not yet been enacted, offer a few and ask for volunteers to add any new ideas.
Now say, in your own words:
In our congregation, we say that all people have inherent worth and dignity. Unitarian Universalists think all people are important — no matter what. We think you should not judge people based on things like what clothes they are wearing or what color hair they have.
See if the children can fill in the sentence, "Unitarian Universalists believe all people are important, no matter ________."
And/or, ask the children to answer some of these questions, in unison. A co-leader might be helpful in leading the children in answering "Yes" for the first few questions:
Add your own categories of people who are welcome.
Now put on the fancy garment on top of the ragged, worn one. Say:
Fancy coat or old rags, at our congregation, all people are welcome, no matter what.
Ask the children to think about a time when they felt welcome. Invite the group to name ways that people can make somebody feel welcome. Prompt as necessary, with ideas such as:
Walk around the circle again, inviting children this time to show you "welcome" using their words, bodies and faces.
The goal of this activity is to integrate the learning in the story by voicing and embodying the contrasting attitudes of welcome and unwelcome. Naming and enacting ways to be welcoming and ways to be unwelcoming makes learning more concrete.
Inclusion and exclusion are very real experiences for children at this age. If there is a child in the group who may be a frequent target of unwelcoming behavior, or who may be a recipient of racist, classist, or any type of prejudice and prejudgment, be careful to support this child. Create a safe space for him or her to name any unpleasant experiences, but do not put the child on the spot or ask the child to be a spokesperson. Simply include him or her in the activity, along with the other children.
For example, if the group is mostly able-bodied, white, and American-born, and includes children who are African American, who use a wheelchair, and/or do not speak English well, do not single out these children during this activity. Do not make assumptions regarding what experiences this child may or may not have had. Do not ask the child to speak on behalf of all African Americans (people in wheelchairs, folks who don't speak English, etc.) Finally, do not put this child in a situation where he or she is treated with exclusive or unwelcoming behavior, even if it's in the form of a role play. Second and third graders cannot always keep imaginary play and reality separated. It is very important that all children experience Moral Tales and your congregation as a place of safety and caring.
For more information contact web @ uua.org.
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Last updated on Thursday, October 27, 2011.
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