Windows and Mirrors
A Tapestry of Faith Program for Children Grades 4-5
In spirit, we embrace the contribution of diversity to our collective ability to pursue truth, fairness, justice and love. In practice, however, we often fail to embrace all the experiences and viewpoints in our communities as respectfully or as wholly as we might. Sometimes, we fail to even see differences among us. We seem most prone to gloss over differences when to acknowledge them requires acute self-examination and may lead to pain, shame, discomfort or guilt.
About the Author
Gabrielle Farrell (co-author We Give Thanks and Windows and Mirrors) is Director of Religious Education at All Souls Church, Unitarian, in Washington, DC. She has a B.S. in Special Education and a B.A. in Elementary Education.
Natalie Fenimore (co-author Windows and Mirrors), a master’s level credentialed religious educator, is a M.Div. student at Wesley Theological Seminary. She serves as Director of Religious Exploration at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax, Oakton, Virginia.
Dr. Jenice View (co-authorWindows and Mirrors)is a lifelong member of All Souls Church, Unitarian in Washington, DC. She has a Ph.D from The Union Institute and is an assistant professor in the Graduate School of Education at George Mason University.
Mirrors in which they can see themselves,
windows in which they can see the world.
— Lucille Clifton, African American poet, writer and educator
Unitarian Universalism views our members' multiple perspectives as a blessing. In spirit, we embrace the contribution of diversity to our collective ability to pursue truth, fairness, justice and love. In practice, however, we often fail to embrace all the experiences and viewpoints in our communities as respectfully or as wholly as we might. Sometimes, we fail to even see differences among us. We seem most prone to gloss over differences when to acknowledge them requires acute self-examination and may lead to pain, shame, discomfort or guilt.
Windows and Mirrors nurtures children's ability to identify their own experiences and perspectives and to seek out, care about and respect those of others. The sessions unpack topics that lend themselves to diverse experiences and perspectives—for example, faith heritage, public service, anti-racism and prayer. The program teaches that there are always multiple viewpoints and everyone's viewpoint matters.
The metaphor of windows and mirrors represents the dynamic relationship among our awareness of self, our perceptions of others, and others' perceptions of us. Beginning in Session 2, an ongoing art activity gives children a way to respond to the metaphor creatively and concretely. Participants do guided work on individual Window/Mirror Panels in each session to explore looking inward and looking outward in terms of the session's topic. As a mirror, the panel reflects the individual child. As a window, it represents their view and connections beyond themselves to the congregation, other communities to which they belong and the world.
An important element of this program is to display participants' Window/Mirror Panels collectively. The group may want to discuss whether, and if so how, they want the congregation to view the panels. The exhibit serves the congregation as a window into each and all of the children's experiences and perspectives. It is also a testament to their learning. Although it is important that each participant complete a panel as an integral part of the program, it is equally important not to lose sight of the journey of each participant. The self-reflection and discussions are the heart of this program. The panels are the expression of each participant's self-discovery process.
Your plan for creating and exhibiting the Window/Mirror Panels will determine the arts and crafts materials you purchase for this entire program. See Before You Start in this Introduction for planning guidance.
Be mindful of visually impaired participants. While the Windows and Mirrors program is based on a visual metaphor, activities can generally be adapted to incorporate tactile and other senses. Using alternate ways of "looking" will help the whole group understand the metaphor more deeply.
Unitarian Universalism is a faith we live in community, acknowledging and acting on our responsibility toward one another. We encourage one another's search for truth and meaning. We affirm the interdependent web of which we are all a part. In Windows and Mirrors, children will learn that when we come together as Unitarian Universalists, we nurture our individual spirits and work to help heal the world; the two are inextricable.
This program will:
- Present Unitarian Universalism as a faith that is lived out through identifying and acting on responsibility toward one another
- Introduce the reality and the impact of multiple perspectives and multiple experiences as we live in this world
- Use the metaphor of a window and a mirror to help children better understand themselves in relation to others
- Present the windows and mirrors metaphor as an effective tool for understanding and living our Unitarian Universalist Principles
- Guide children to identify and respect their own values, views and needs as well as those of others in a variety of contexts; teach that to do so is a faith practice
- Provide children with practice in observation, interpretation and critical thinking
- Develop children's empathy, open-mindedness and respect for differences, seen and unseen.
It is suggested that adult leaders not be new to the congregation or at least to Unitarian Universalism. Experience or interest in justice issues will be helpful. The ideal teaching team of two adult co-leaders for each session will have some diversity, which might be in gender, age, race or ethnicity, socio-economic class, theological beliefs and/or learning styles. If possible, leadership could include adults comfortable with leading songs or who can contribute musical accompaniment. Additional adult or youth volunteers will be needed to help facilitate small groups in some sessions.
This program is written for fourth- and fifth-grade children. You may find it useful to think about the developmental norms for this age group. Not all children arrive at each developmental stage at the same time, but knowing what to expect overall can be quite helpful, especially to first-time leaders.
In her book, Nurturing Children and Youth: A Developmental Guidebook ( Boston : Unitarian Universalist Association, 2005), Tracey L. Hurd lists characteristics of the older school-age child:
- Uses gross and fine motor skills, which are almost fully developed
- Enters puberty toward the end of school-age years (particularly girls)
- Is influenced by media images
- Engages in logical thinking
- Practices cognitive skills of acquiring, storing, and retrieving information
- Develops specific learning styles (auditory, visual, sensory, and/or kinesthetic)
- Exhibits domain-specific intelligence (verbal/linguistic, musical/rhythmic, local/mathematical, visual/spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, or naturalist)
- Engages in gender-specific play.
Faith Development Skills
- Uses student identity and knowledge as sources of self-esteem
- Engages peers and learns through mutual friendship
- Comprehends the perspective of others
- Works on developing racial, ethnic and gender identities and seeks peers' affirmation of these identities
- Shows interest in concrete aspects of faith and religion
- "Does" religion or spirituality by participating in traditions
- Explores religious or spiritual ideas as a way of deepening faith.
- Interested in moral issues/ what is fair and right
- Practices figuring out what is fair when developing rules
- Moral decision making is complex
- Practices reconciling moral ideals with pragmatic realities
- Demonstrates interest in broader moral issues
- Reconciles the violence of the world with personal own moral code (e.g., violent video games)
- Interest in knowing and living out moral ideas
- Uses the Golden Rule (treat others as you would like to be treated)
- Wrestles with moral dilemmas in relationships
- Demonstrates awareness of societal moral issues and interest in helping to solve community problems
- Ponders increasingly complex moral and spiritual questions.
Integrating All Participants
A group can include children with a range of physical and cognitive abilities and learning styles, food allergies, and other sensitivities or limitations. Adapt activities or use alternate activities to ensure that every session is inclusive of all participants.
Be especially mindful of visually impaired participants in this program. Windows and Mirrors uses visual metaphors. Yet, you are often guided, and should always remember, to think and speak broadly about looking, seeing and reflecting.
Activities can generally be adapted to incorporate tactile and other sensory ways of "looking." Find specific adaptations in many activities' Including All Participants sections.
Help visually impaired participants engage with the ongoing Window/Mirror Panel project by providing a variety of tactile materials for everyone's use. For example, include cotton balls, wooden craft sticks, pipe cleaners and craft glue to the baskets of Window/Mirror Panel arts and crafts materials. Obtain foam pre-cut in shapes and sheets of stickers with both the image and shape of common objects. Make sure you plan a tactile component for your collective Window/Mirror Panel exhibit.
The loving family unit, of whatever configuration, is the primary source of spiritual nurture and religious education in a child's life. The religious education children experience in Windows and Mirrors will be enhanced by involvement of parents or caregivers. To help, each session includes a Taking It Home section for you to download, customize and share with families as a handout or email.
Taking It Home summarizes the session's content and provides questions and activities to stimulate family conversations and extension activities at home. With Taking It Home, a parent will have enough details to ask an engaging question, for example: "What was your Window/Mirror panel assignment today?" or, "What did you find out about Silly Putty?" or, "Do you remember the story of how Henry Hampton's television show told African American history in a new way?" In this way, parents and children may learn from each other.