Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Love Surrounds Us: A Program on the UU Principles and Beloved Community for Grades K-1

Activity 1: Story: Barn School, Free School

Activity time: 10 minutes

"Barn School, Free School," Illustration by Nancy Meshkoff

Download the coloring sheet for "Barn School, Free School" (PDF).

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Read the story several times; it has a lot of conversation. Practice using differing voices for each character.
  • Optional: Download, print, and copy the coloring sheet (PDF). Place coloring sheets and crayons where children can use them when invited but will not be distracted beforehand.

Description of Activity

Participants will hear the story of an imagined result of Dorothea Dix's real life choice to begin a free school for the poor.

Gather the children to hear a story. Say, in your own words:

Dorothea Dix exemplified the UU Principles in her life choices. Born into a poor family, Dorothea took responsibility for her own life. She left home at the age of 12 and went to live with her grandparents in Boson. She chose to go to school and learn. Dorothea never forgot the lack of hope in her life when she was poor. She offered to teach a free school in the barn of her Grandmother's house. After a period of exhaustion, Dorothea was exposed to the plight of the mentally ill. Again Dorothea chose to take that experience and make the world a better place. For the rest of her life, Dorothea was an active reformer for the mentally ill. Dorothea Dix was a Unitarian woman who made choices to make the world fair for others.

Lead a discussion with these process questions:

  • Why did Dorothea choose to go to school and learn?
  • How does going to school and learning help all of us learn to make good choices?

Say, "Now let's hear the story about Dorothea Dix."

Read/tell the story enthusiastically. Use these questions to process after the story.

  • What do you think "free school" means?
  • How did Dorothea use what she had to help others?
  • If you could choose to go to school or not to go to school, what would you choose? Why?
  • How does going to school and getting an education help us follow the sixth Principle?