Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Riddle and Mystery: A Program on the Big Questions for Grade 6

Alternate Activity 7: Personal Timelines

Activity time: 20 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Oval wooden beads large enough for youth to write on and string for all participants
  • Paper and pencils for all participants
  • Scissors (including left-handed scissors) and fine-point permanent markers to share
  • Optional: Trays or bowls to hold beads on work tables
  • Optional: Quiet background music and a music player

Preparation for Activity

  • Obtain plain, wooden beads at an arts and crafts store. American Woodcrafters Supply Company is an online source. Plan for each participant to use 10-20 beads.
  • Set materials on work tables.
  • Optional: Choose quiet background music to play while youth work.

Description of Activity

Invite participants to narrow today's Big Question from "How did life begin?" to "How did my own life begin?" Say, in your own words:

It is easy for most of us to find out about events 12 or 13 years ago, just before we were born. But the trails that led to each of us being born go back way beyond our parents. Science now believes life on Earth can be traced back about 14 billion years. That is a long, long time. If every year equaled one inch and you drew a line showing 14 billion of them, the line would go around the Equator almost nine times.

Invite the youth to string together beads to represent some of the really big events leading up to their own lives. The first event at one end will be the Big Bang. At the other end will be today. In between they might place beads to represent events in their family history before their lifetime, their ethnic group's history, their community history, U.S. history, human history or the history of the world. Suggest they might include great-grandparents having babies, then their grandparents having babies and then their own birth. What else? That is up to them, and everybody can do it differently.

Show the beading supplies to the group. Tell them they may include as many important events as they like, and they can use the paper and pencils to keep track of what they are doing. They may write dates of events and any other details they wish on their beads, then string them together in sequence.

Play quiet background music if you like as youth do their beading. When they have finished or time is running out, invite them tie off the laces to hold the beads in place, then share what they have done.

Invite youth to imagine how long their strings of beads would be if they showed all the important events between the Big Bang and their own births. Point out that if the beads each stood for one century, they would still each need 140 million of them. Ask youth to imagine how large their own life of, say, 100 years compares to 14 billion years. When the moment is up, ask how that idea makes them feel.