Activity time: 13 minutes
Materials for Activity
- A copy of the story "Dinosaur Bones in New Jersey"
- A large basket
- Objects related to the story, such as a variety of animal figures, including dinosaurs, or pictures of amoeba or one-celled animals
- A rain stick, or another instrument with a calm sound
- Optional: Box or small table and a decorative cloth cover
- Optional: Fidget basket (see Session 1, Leader Resource 4, Fidget Objects)
Preparation for Activity
- Place the story-related items and the chime, rain stick, or other sound instrument in the story basket. Place the filled basket in the storytelling area you have designated.
- Read the story a few times. Plan how you will use items from the story basket as props.
- Optional: To provide a focal point where story-related items can sit while you tell the story, set up a box or table next to your storytelling area and drape it with a decorative cloth.
- Optional: If you have a basket of fidget objects for children who will listen and learn more effectively with something in their hands, make the basket available during this activity. Remind children where it is before you begin the "centering" part of this activity. See Session 1, Leader Resource 4, Fidget Objects for a full description of fidget baskets and guidance for using them.
Description of Activity
Gather the children in a circle in the storytelling area and show them the story basket. Say something like, "Let's see what's in our story basket this week."
Tell the group the items in the story basket will be placed on this table after the children have passed them around the circle. Take the story-related items from the basket, one at a time, and pass them around. Objects that are fragile, or which should not be passed around for any reason, can be held up for all to see and then placed directly on the table.
Briefly name the various objects. Ask a wondering question about each one, such as "Is this an animal or a plant? Is this predator or prey?"
As items come back to you, display them on the table. Then say, in your own words:
I am going to share a story that tells something about the beginning of life. I'm sure you have all heard of dinosaurs. Who has heard of evolution? Evolution is how science explains how dinosaurs are connected to us. Evolution is science based on reason and a perfect way for us to explore our fifth Unitarian Universalist Source, "the use of reason and the discoveries of science." Reason is a way we think about things. An example would be, if we see clouds in the sky, we can use reason to determine that it might rain.
Now remove the sound instrument from the story basket. Tell the children that every time you tell a story, you will first use the instrument to help them get their ears, their minds, and their bodies ready to listen. Invite them to sit comfortably and close their eyes (if they are comfortable doing so). You may tell them that closing their eyes can help them focus just on listening. In a calm voice, say, in your own words:
As you breathe in, feel your body opening up with air. As you breathe out, feel yourself relaxing.
Repeat this once or twice and then say:
When I hit the chime (turn the rain stick over), listen as carefully as you can. See how long you can hear its sound. When you can no longer hear it, open your eyes and you will know it is time for the story to begin.
Sound the chime or other instrument. When the sound has gone, begin telling the story "Dinosaur Bones in New Jersey."
Use the rain stick again to indicate the story is over. Then, process with these questions:
- Did you discover something new listening to this story?
- Why do you think Mr. Hopkins didn't care much about the giant bones in his backyard?
- Why do you think his friend, Mr. Foulke, did care? What was the difference between these two men?
- Dinosaurs were quite different from us. In what ways were they the same as us-and how do you know? (Affirm that from reason and science we know dinosaurs lived on earth like we do-they breathed air, they needed food to live, etc.)
- Have you heard about evolution before? Where?
Say, in your own words:
As Unitarian Universalists we understand we are connected to each other and the earth by an interdependent web of life. This story is one way to see how this web began, way before we were born.
Including All Participants
Make sure everyone has an opportunity to experience the items in the basket, whether by sight or touch.
You may wish to make fidget objects available to children who find it difficult to sit still while listening to a story or can focus better with sensory stimulation. Remind children where the Fidget Basket is before you begin the "centering" part of this activity. (For a full description and guidance, see Session 1, Leader Resource 4.)
Consider using rug squares in the storytelling area. Place them in a semi-circle with the rule "One person per square." This can be very helpful for controlling active bodies.