Love Surrounds Us has a format that children will soon recognize. The Opening for each session identifies the UU Principles by different colors. The Closing pulls the group into community, affirming a mutual understanding they can take with them until the group meets again. Ribbon Sticks used in each session emphasize the way the UU Principles flow together.
Two sessions focus on each UU Principle. While most sessions can stand alone, it is best to do both sessions about any one Principle. By doing both sessions, children engage in a holistic experience of both receiving and giving love, connected conceptually to the words and actions of the Principles.
The program offers an ongoing project for individuals to reinforce and celebrate the Principles. The Heart Ribbon Magnet, introduced as Alternate Activity 1 in Session 2, is revisited in six subsequent sessions as a five-minute alternate activity. By Session 14, the children have added seven colored ribbons to their Heart Ribbon Magnet, each color representing one of the Principles, and they are ready to take their magnets home as a reminder to apply the UU Principles in their daily lives. Beginning in Session 3, each odd-numbered session offers an alternate activity in which children can free-draw a poster to illustrate one of the Principles. You may wish to display a set of children's Principles Posters for the congregation at the conclusion of this program.
A quote introduces the subject of each session. The quote may be read aloud to the group as an entry point to the session. However, the quotes are intended primarily for leaders, and are not always at a child's level of understanding or experience.
Co-leaders may like to discuss the quote as part of preparation for a session. Exploring a quote together can help 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 included in Taking It Home for families to consider.
The Introduction presents the UU Principle that is the session's focus and gives an overview of the session concepts. It explains what to aim for and what to watch out for in planning and leading the session.
Goals state general 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 development, spiritual development, Unitarian Universalist identity development, and faith development.
Learning Objectives identify how specific activities foster specific outcomes for participants. While planning a session, apply your knowledge of the group, the time and space available, and your own strengths and interests to determine the most important and achievable objectives for the session and the activities that will serve them best.
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 Opening through the Closing. The table also shows a Faith in Action activity for the session. Faith in Action activities are not included in the core 60-minute time frame. Each Faith in Action activity emphasizes the session's Principle; you may wish to use it in place of a core activity. The Session-at-a-Glance table also presents alternate activities with their estimated times. Use alternate activities with or instead of core activities when they better suit the group or when you have more or less than 60 minutes for the session.
Taking five or ten minutes to center yourself in the session's purpose and content will support and free you to be present with the children and provide the best possible learning experience. Each Spiritual Preparation exercise helps you focus on the session theme and reflect on the theme's connection to your own life and your Unitarian Universalist faith. The exercise will help you bring the topic to the group in an authentic manner and help you experience teaching as spiritual growth and faith development.
The session plan presents every element of the session in detail, in the sequence established in Session-at-a-Glance. Additionally, the session plan presents Taking It Home with extension activities for families, a Resources section with all the stories, handouts, and other resources you need to lead the activities, and under Find Out More, additional resources to further explore the session topics. It can be useful to scan Find Out More before you lead a session.
Opening: Each session begins with a chalice lighting, a sharing of opening words, and the opening song. To ensure safety, obtain an LED/battery-operated flaming chalice or use a symbolic chalice. The Opening is a time for centering, both for individuals and the group. Shape the opening for the group, the space, and the culture and practices of your congregation.
Activities: Up to four activities form the core content of each session. The variety of activities addresses the different learning styles you may find among participants. Generally, the sequence of activities is designed to activate prior knowledge, pique interest, engage children in experiential learning, and help them process and apply their observations and new knowledge. Each session includes a story.
Games and physical activities are offered in many sessions while options of art projects are included in every session as well as a coloring sheet specific to the session's story. Choose according to the learning styles, developmental readiness, energy level, and other attributes of the children in the group.
The suggested sequence of activities alternates listening and talking, sitting still and moving about, individual exploration and team or whole group exploration, to provide variation that will help keep kindergarteners and first graders engaged and on track. As you select activities to form a session that will work well for the group, keep in mind the benefits of a well paced session that includes different kinds of activities.
Finally, participants gather in a closing circle. This ritual affirms the love the group shared. Identical words are used in every closing and will soon be memorized by regular attendees.
Materials for Activity: This checklist lists the supplies needed.
Preparation for Activity: Review the bulleted preparation "to do" list for each activity at least one week ahead of a session. The list provides all the advance work you need to do for each activity, from downloading leader resources to organizing art materials.
Description of Activity: This section provides detailed directions for implementing the activity. For many activities, the description includes a rationale which links the activity thematically to the rest of the session and to the entire program.
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.
Faith in Action: An important component of the program, Faith in Action activities give children practice at being Unitarian Universalists in the world. By design, Faith in Action activities engage leaders, participants, their families, other congregants, and sometimes members of the wider community, often outside the group's regular meeting time and place. They can provide a way for children to inspire and be inspired by other members of the congregation and strengthen bonds between the generations.
Taking It Home: Taking It Home helps families extend their children's religious education. Taking It Home resources may include games, conversation topics, ideas for incorporating Unitarian Universalist rituals into the home environment, and/or book or online sources to further explore session themes or stories. For each session, download the Taking It Home section, adapt it to reflect the actual experience your session will provide, print and copy it for children to bring home, or send it to all parents/caregivers as a group email.
Alternate Activities: All sessions offer two or more alternate activities. Substitute or add these to core session activities to fill the needs of the group. Some alternate activities are simpler versions of a core activity; some require more time than a core activity; some are particularly suited to adaptation for developmental or ability differences among the children in the group. Each session includes an option for one of two ongoing projects to complete over the course of the entire program.
Resources: Each session includes all the stories, handouts, and all other resources you will need to lead every element of the session.
Under the heading Stories find full text of the session's central story. Coloring sheets for stories in Love Surrounds Us can be downloaded individually or as a packet for the entire curriculum.
Under the heading Handouts find any material that needs to be printed and photocopied for participants to use in the session.
Under the heading Leader Resources find the components you need to lead the session activities. These might include pictures, patterns, or game pieces.
Find Out More: You will find selected resources to help you further explore session topics. These might include book titles, website URLs, sermon excerpts, or detailed biographical information about Unitarians, Universalists, or Unitarian Universalists mentioned in the session. You may find it useful to scan this section before leading the session.