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Program Structure

Program Structure
Program Structure

Each session is built around a predictable structure:

  • Free play, a time invaluable for meeting friends, making individual choices, exploring the environment, sharing time together, and building a sense of belonging and comfort with the group and the meeting room space.
  • Transition to Circle Time, using rhymes. The program guides you to use the same rhymes in each session. When you provide consistency, young children begin to learn the centering and mindfulness that come with worship.
  • Circle Time, which includes the chalice lighting, a sharing of feelings, a short teachable moment that summarizes the session theme for young children, and a story that expands on the theme of the session.
  • An activity that invites children to explore the theme using multiple senses, for example, making a Fruit Chalice.
  • Active group songs and games. These are the same for each session, helping the children get to know one another's names and to engage in play together. In addition, the program offers theme-related songs and games, such as "Hookey, Spooky" for Halloween, to add to the regular songs.
  • Closing, during which the chalice is extinguished. This represents the conclusion of "sacred" time, in parallel with typical adult worship structure. Children are invited to take their learnings and doings back into the world.

Additional resources are provided to help leaders center themselves on the theme. The Spiritual Preparation section invites you to encounter the theme in a way that is pertinent to your own life so that you will be ready to bring your reflections into your work with the children. The Find Out More section invites leaders to explore the theme through adult material, such as sermons.

Quote

A quote introduces each session. Some quotes may bring a tune to your mind; many come from our two hymnbooks, Singing the Living Tradition and Singing the Journey. The quotes are intended primarily for leaders; they are not at a child's level of understanding or experience. Co-leaders may like to discuss the quote as part of their preparation for a session. Exploring a quote together can help you each feel grounded in the ideas and activities you will present and can help a team of leaders get "on the same page." Quotes are also included in the Taking It Home section for families to consider.

Introduction

The Introduction gives an overview of the session concepts and explains how you can use the activities to teach the concepts. It also describes the session's thematic connection with the other sessions in the unit and/or the program.

Goals

The Goals section provides general participant outcomes for the session. Reviewing the goals will help you connect the session's content and methodologies with the four strands of the Tapestry of Faith religious education programs: ethical, spiritual, Unitarian Universalist identity, and faith development. As you plan a session, apply your knowledge of the group of children, the time and space you have available, and your own strengths and interests as a leader to determine the most important and achievable goals for the session and the activities that will serve them best.

Learning Objectives

The Learning Objectives section describes the specific participant outcomes that the session activities are designed to facilitate: what a participant will learn, become, or be able to do as a result of the learning activities. It may be helpful to think of learning objectives as the building blocks with which larger, "big picture" goals are achieved. If particular learning objectives appeal to you as especially important, make sure you select activities for that session that address these outcomes.

Session-at-a-Glance

The Session-at-a-Glance table lists the session activities in a suggested order, and provides an estimated time for completing each activity to conduct a 60-minute session. The table includes all the core activities, from the session Introduction through the Closing.

Keep in mind that many variables inform the actual completion time for an activity. Remember to consider the time you will need to relocate participants to another area of your meeting room or to include helping with clean-up in an art activity.

Note that the first session in each unit includes a Faith in Action activity and ideas for other service projects. These are done outside the group's regular meeting time.

Spiritual Preparation

Each session provides a spiritual exercise that leaders may use to prepare themselves for leading the session. Taking time to center yourself within the session's purpose and content will support and free you to be present with the children and focus on providing the best possible learning experience. The exercise will guide you to call forth your own life experiences, beliefs, and spirituality and relate these to the session you are about to lead. Take advantage of these exercises as a way to grow spiritually as a leader.

Session Plan

The session plan presents every element of the session in detail in the sequence established in the Session-at-a-Glance table, plus three additional sections:

  • Taking It Home, which provides extension activities for families
  • Resources, which includes all the handouts and other resources you'll need to lead the session activities
  • Find Out More, which suggests additional sources to help you, the leader, further explore the session topics.

If you are reading Chalice Children online, you can move as you wish among a session's elements—Introduction, Closing, Activity 4, Resources, etc. Each element occupies its own webpage. You can click on "Print This Page" at any time. If you click on "Download Entire Program" or "Download Workshop," you'll have a user-friendly document on your computer that you can customize as you wish, using your own word-processing program. Once you decide which activities to use, format and print only the materials you need.

Activities

Up to six activities form the core content of each session. A variety of activities are presented within each session to address different learning styles you may find among participants. In each session, one activity focuses the group's attention on a story that illuminates the session theme.

Presenting activities in the sequence suggested will help you provide a coherent learning experience. In general, sessions are structured to first activate children's interest in and prior knowledge of the main topic; next, to offer hands-on engagement with the topic; and finally, to provide opportunities to process and apply new observations and knowledge. The suggested sequence alternates between listening and talking, sitting still and moving about, and individual exploration and team or whole-group exploration, to provide variation that will help keep the children engaged and on track.

Materials for Activity

These checklists, provided for each activity, name the supplies you will need.

Preparation for Activity

Review the bulleted preparation "to do" list for each activity at least one week ahead of a session. All the advance work you need to do for the activity is listed here, from requesting information about family situations to snipping evergreen boughs before participants arrive.

Description of Activity

This section provides detailed directions for implementing the activity. For many activities, the description includes a rationale that links the activity thematically to the rest of the session and to the entire program.

Read the activity descriptions carefully during your planning process so that you understand each activity and its purpose. Later, when you are leading the group, use the description as a step-by-step how-to manual.

Including All Participants

Adaptation to include all participants should always be part of your planning process. For certain activities, an Including All Participants section suggests specific modifications to make the activity manageable and meaningful for children with limitations of mobility, sight, hearing, or cognition.

Closing

The Closing signals the end of the group's time together. Each session includes a closing ritual, which includes extinguishing the chalice and decorating the Taking It Home handout. As you plan each session, allow plenty of time for your Closing. Avoid rushing through it.

As with the Introduction, repeating the same basic Closing at the end of each session will be both enjoyable and educational for children. Each session also offers suggestions for tailoring the Closing to the session's topic. Shape a closing ritual that fits both the group and your faith home's culture and practices.

Leader Reflection and Planning

This section provides guidance, often in the form of questions, to help co-leaders process the session after it is concluded and use their reflections to shape future sessions. Be sure to share pertinent information with the director of religious education; the UUA Faith Development Office also appreciates feedback on Tapestry of Faith programs.

Taking It Home

Taking It Home resources for each session are designed to help families extend their children's religious education experiences. These resources may include games, conversation topics, ideas for incorporating Unitarian Universalist rituals into the home environment, and/or online sources for the session's themes. Download the Taking It Home section and adapt it to reflect the actual activities you have included in the session. You can print and photocopy the Taking It Home section for children to bring home, send it to all parents/caregivers as a group email, or post it on your congregation's website (or perhaps do all three!).

Alternate Activities

A few sessions include alternate activities that you can substitute for or add to the core activities. Sometimes the alternate activities are simpler, which is useful if the group as a whole seems unready for the core activities or if the group includes children with vast developmental differences. Materials checklists, preparation, and descriptions for alternate activities appear in the same format as they do in Introductions, Closings, core activities, and Faith in Action activities.

Resources

Here you will find artwork, handouts, and all the other resources you'll need to lead the session:

  • Under "Handouts," you will find any material that needs to be printed and photocopied for participants to use in the session.
  • Under "Leader Resources," you will find the components you need to lead the session activities, such as a recipe, a puzzle for you to print and cut into pieces, or an illustration you will show the group, which you can print as a hard copy or display on a computer as a PowerPoint slide.
  • Under "Find Out More," you will find book and video titles, website URLs, and other resources to further explore the session topics.

Faith in Action

Faith in Action activities are provided for each of the five units, at the end of the first session of each unit (Sessions 1, 9, 17, 23, and 30). Faith in Action activities are an important component of the program and give children practice at being Unitarian Universalists in the world. When you lead a Faith in Action project, you create an opportunity for the children to experience the active expression of faith values. By design, Faith in Action activities engage leaders, participants, their families, other congregants, and sometimes members of the wider community, outside the group's regular meeting time and place.

Faith in Action projects usually require special arrangements to be made in advance. If possible, recruit a team of parents to help plan and implement the Faith in Action activities and/or collaborate with other groups in the congregation, such as the Social Action Committee or the Buildings and Grounds Committee.

Faith in Action activities can also be used independently from this program with a wide age span of children or with a multigenerational group. For example, if your congregation participates in the UUA Green Sanctuary program, you may want to include the Green Sanctuary Committee in helping to plan and carry out an all-ages Faith in Action activity for Earth Day. For more ideas, see Faith in Action Resources.

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For more information contact religiouseducation@uua.org.