Before You Start
As soon as your program has been scheduled, prepare a calendar with the dates for each session. The more co-leaders and parent volunteers a program includes, the more useful a calendar will be. Post the calendar in your shared meeting space, and duplicate it for each adult participant.
Use the calendar as a "to do" list. Once you know which activities you will include in each session, go carefully through the activities' materials and preparation sections. Put advance preparations on the calendar and, if possible, assign them.
Plan to obtain any materials which your religious education program does not keep at hand in your supply closets, particularly those which may be a little difficult to find or you will need to collect in quantity. For example, in one session, each participant will need a cardboard shoebox to make a take-home story theater.
For sessions with activities that need assistance from others in the congregation or community, write reminders to contact these people well in advance and to confirm their engagement shortly before the session date.
Your communication to parents and families can powerfully boost the impact of Moral Tales. Note on your calendar when you will download, customize, and distribute the Taking It Home handouts provided for each session. If the group will go off-site for a Faith in Action activity or take a walk beyond the grounds of your congregational meeting place, mark on the calendar the dates you need to create, distribute, and collect permission forms. Mark dates to email or hand out reminders or requests to parents.
If someone on your leadership team has the expertise to create a shared, electronic calendar, take advantage! Designate one person to keep the calendar up to date. If different leaders will lead different Moral Tales sessions, make sure to assign responsibilities as appropriate for distributing permission forms, requests for volunteers, and other communications to parents. Note these tasks and who will execute them on the calendar.
Make nametags for participants and leaders before the first session. Keep extra materials to make additional nametags for newcomers or guests.
To lead a session, you will need to download, customize, and print out materials from the Tapestry of Faith website. These materials may include story scripts, handouts, the Taking It Home handout for parents, and Leader Resources such as arts and crafts templates, discussion questions, recipes, or scenarios to use in role plays. Do this before the day of your session, to give yourself time to familiarize yourself with the materials and use them to prepare for the session.
The Moral Compass Poster
Second and third graders are beginning to expand their awareness out into the larger community and world. They will relate to the idea of taking a journey in Moral Tales, using a moral compass to guide them toward goodness and justice. They can understand, and will explore in this program, the concept that each of us has a moral compass inside us which serves as a guide, pointing us toward the many directions or virtues that promote goodness and justice.
Having an actual "Moral Compass" to use in your meeting space strengthens this metaphor, making it visible, tangible and familiar for the children. You can make a Moral Compass poster that is as elaborate or simple as you wish. Find directions and a template in Session 2, Leader Resources.
As Moral Tales progresses, you will write or post a new concept or virtue on the Moral Compass poster during each session, each time offering participants a new tool to use, or direction to go, in search of goodness and justice. In the sessions, you are directed to display the Moral Compass poster at particular times. Of course, you may use it whenever and however you wish. The compass is designed to accommodate all the concepts as you will be teaching in Moral Tales as well as other concepts you may like to teach the group. Feel free to add ways to go toward goodness and justice that you do not find in this curriculum but believe are important. Use the Moral Compass poster to remind children of their learning in previous sessions and help them develop fluency in the vocabulary associated with Moral Tales. The Moral Compass poster can be used anytime you wish to refer back to a previous session or put a new concept in context for the group to deepen their understanding.
Finally, Session 16 offers two culminating activities that work with the Moral Compass poster. Both are presented as alternate activities. Alternate Activity 2 is a game called, "What Would UU Do?" which guides you to utilizes the compass to review and solve dilemmas. In Alternative Activity 3: Compass Making, the children assemble their own small versions of the Moral Compass to take home as a reminder of all they have learned and to signify that their journeys are continuing.
Gems of Goodness Project
The Gems of Goodness Project begins in Session 2 and continues with a five-minute activity in every subsequent session. In Session 2 you will find a full introduction to the project (Session 2, Activity 8) and a letter to parents (Session 2, Leader Resource 2).
To prepare for the Gems of Goodness project, purchase plastic gemstones either at a craft store or online. You will also need to purchase or find a narrow clear glass or plastic jar, and a small notebook for each child. Copies of the letter to parents will also need to be printed in advance.
If you plan to include the Alternate Activity 5, Gems of Goodness Cooperative Treasure Hunt, in Session 2 as part of Introducing the Gems of Goodness Project, you will need to arrive early to hide the gemstones around the meeting space.
The idea of providing children with pipe cleaners or other quiet, manipulable objects to use during sedentary, listening-oriented group activities comes from a recommendation of Sally Patton, author and advocate for children with special needs. It is a simple, inexpensive way to include and welcome children who find it difficult to sit still or who learn better while moving. In Moral Tales, this idea is expanded to a basket of "fidget objects" that you can put together if you think children in the group can use it. A full discussion of fidget objects and guidance for using them appears in every session's Resource section.
Children who may especially benefit from access to fidget objects include kinesthetic learners, children diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, and children who simply tend to be physically restless or highly social during religious school. Get to know the particular children in Moral Tales before incorporating fidget objects into your planning. You can decide whether you wish to make fidget objects available for the duration of a session or to limit accessibility, bringing the basket out only for storytelling or other activities that require children to sit still for a prolonged period of time. There are quite a few stories and listening-based activities in this curriculum that involve, indeed require, children's full engagement and active participation. At these times, it may be best not to introduce fidget objects unless there is a child who cannot attend otherwise.
Story Basket and Centering
The story Basket is described in the Activities section of this Introduction and in Session 1 (Activity 3, Introduction of story Basket and Centering). You are guided in each session to use the story Basket, filled with objects related to the story, to focus the children's attention and build curiosity about the story. You will want to use a fairly large basket that can accommodate objects of different sizes and shapes.
The story Basket should also have room for at least one sound-making instrument, such as a chime, a rain stick, a bell, or a small drum. You may wish to have both a soft and a loud sound instrument. A calming sound that lingers and fades is part of the centering activity that transitions the group from exploring the story Basket to listening to or participating in your storytelling. At other times, you will need a sound-making instrument to start and stop the action during a game.
Requirements for Your Meeting Space
Work with your religious education team and congregational leaders to ensure that the program has an adequate meeting space. Multiple activities occur in each session: lighting the chalice, sitting in a circle for a story or sharing, stand-up role plays, group games, and hands-on projects for which children need to sit together at tables and share arts and crafts materials. The ideal meeting space for this program is spacious, with multiple areas including a carpeted space for storytelling, another floor space large enough for cooperative, group games and child-size tables and chairs.
Within the meeting space, decide where you will gather the group for opening and closing rituals, storytelling, and Gems of Goodness. Decide where you will display and, if necessary, store between sessions the Moral Compass poster. You will need a wall space or a sturdy easel where you can post newsprint and write on it.