Activity time: 7 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Chalice and LED/battery-operated candle
- Handout 1, Ten Million Stars
- Handout 2, Love Will Guide Us Lyrics (Hymn 131 in Singing the Living Tradition)
- Large, black cloth or paper for Night Sky display
- Leader Resource 1, The North Star
- Leader Resource 2, The Big Dipper
- Push pins, tape, or sticky tack
- Leader Resource 3, The Sources of Our Unitarian Universalist Beliefs
- Optional: A recording of the song "Love Will Guide Us" and a music player
Preparation for Activity
- Create a paper or fabric Night Sky. The Night Sky will serve as a background to which you will attach-over the course of the program-a paper, cut-out North Star (Leader Resource 1); a Big Dipper (Leader Resource 2); up to 16 Source Stars (provided as a leader resource in each session), and (optional) one 8 1/2x11 UU Source Constellation each time you do the alternate activity provided in sessions 2-16. There are many possibilities for creating a Night Sky display to suit your meeting space. You can attach black fabric or paper to a wall or bulletin board. For a more portable sky, paint a large sheet of foam core or use fabric to make a Night Sky that rolls up. Display the Night Sky in a space where it can remain for the duration of the program or where you can easily re-post it each time the group meets.
- Print out Leader Resource 1, The North Star and Leader Resource 2, The Big Dipper on white or yellow paper. Cut out the star and the constellation. Attach them to the Night Sky, positioning the North Star so it lines up with the two stars at the end of the Big Dipper's bowl.
- Use Leader Resource 3, The Sources of Our Unitarian Universalist Beliefs, to make a poster for the meeting space. A simple way is to download the leader resource, then cut and paste the text of the Sources into a new document on your computer and format a one-page poster. Or, display the words of the Sources with pictures to represent each Source. Illustrations help children remember concepts.
- Copy Handout 1, Ten Million Stars, for all participants. Or, save paper by writing the words on newsprint to post for the duration of the program.
- Copy Handout 2, Love Will Guide Us Lyrics, for all participants. Or, copy the lyrics on a sheet of newsprint, and post. The children will sing "Love Will Guide Us" at each Opening.
- Plan to collect and store Handouts 1 and 2 (or the newsprint sheets) for re-use in future sessions.
- Optional: Plan to play the tune of "Love Will Guide Us" for the group; find a music clip online. Or, invite a member of the choir or another musical volunteer to accompany the song or help you teach it.
Description of Activity
This activity establishes the program's opening ritual and introduces the Night Sky display.
Gather the children in a circle. Distribute Handout 1, Ten Million Stars, or point out the words printed on newsprint. Light the chalice and invite the group to read the words together responsively.
Indicate the Night Sky display. Say, in your own words:
Have you ever looked up and seen the stars in the night sky? When people first began to ponder the night sky, they wondered, "What are stars and why are they there? Why do they move?" "Where did I come from? How did life begin? Why am I here?" Although the sky did not give the answers, people used the stars as symbols for their beliefs about the important questions in their lives.
When people looked at their night sky, they saw patterns and pictures in the way the stars were arranged. Thousands of years ago, Greeks and Romans, Chinese and Arabs, Native Americans, and other peoples all around the world named constellations for gods they worshipped, animals they relied on, and everyday scenes from their lives.
Indicate the Big Dipper. Invite the children to discover the pattern of a dipping spoon. Say:
We call this constellation the Big Dipper. But if we lived in Southern France, we would call it a Saucepan. Do you see a saucepan?
Ask participants what other pictures they see. Encourage them to imagine the constellation upside down. Tell them:
To the Skidi Pawnee Indians, this constellation looked like a sick man being carried on a stretcher.
To the ancient Maya, it was a mythological parrot named Seven Macaw.
To the Hindu, it looked like Seven Wise Men.
To the early Egyptians, it was the thigh and leg of a bull.
To the ancient Chinese, it was the chariot of the Emperor of Heaven.
The Micmac Indians saw a bear instead of the scoop, and hunters tracking the bear instead of the handle.
Long ago, people discovered how to use the stars to guide them when traveling. Knowing the constellations in the night sky helped them find the direction they wanted to go.
In our country, slavery used to be allowed. There were many places in the U.S. in the 1800s where white people in the Southern states controlled black people by forcing them to work hard for no payment. People who were enslaved in this way had little power to make decisions about their own lives—even the adults.
The people who were enslaved in the South knew that the Northern states did not allow slavery. They knew they could escape to the North by traveling at night, when it was dark, following the Big Dipper constellation in the sky. They gave the Big Dipper a new name: the Drinking Gourd. This constellation became a symbol of freedom.
Say, while pointing to the North Star:
This one star does not move much in the Night Sky. The earth rotates and orbits around the sun, but this star, the North Star, is located directly above the North Pole, so it seems to always stay in the same place in the sky. Travelers without a map, a compass, or a GPS can use the North Star to know where they are and where they are going.
Now indicate the poster you have made of the seven Sources. Say, in your own words:
For Unitarian Universalists, our Sources guide us, like stars in the Night Sky guide travelers. We use the wisdom of many Sources to help us answer the big questions about what we believe-just like ancient peoples used the stars.
We will learn about all seven Sources on our UU Sources poster. And we will learn about something else that guides us: love. Love is always there, like the North Star. It can always help us know where we are. Love helps guide us, as Unitarian Universalists, to make the right choices and decisions.
Indicate the Night Sky display.
Love will be our North Star as we build a Night Sky together. Each time we meet, we will add stars to our Night Sky as we discover the Sources that guide Unitarian Universalists, just as the stars have guided seekers and travelers for thousands of years.
Distribute Handout 2, Love Will Guide Us Lyrics or indicate the lyrics you have posted. Sing "Love Will Guide Us" together.
Collect handouts or newsprint for re-use.
Including All Participants
For participants who are not fluent readers, take time to teach the opening words and the song aurally, so children can come to know them from memory.
We highly recommend using an LED chalice to avoid a fire hazard and include participants who are sensitive to smoke or scents.