Activity time: 12 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Clear glass jar or vase
- Copies of Handout 1, I Make a Difference for all participants
- Small notebooks, approximately two by three inches, for any newcomers
- Markers and stick-on gems or other stickers for children who are new to the Gems of Goodness project
- Copies of the Session 2, Leader Resource 2, Gems of Goodness Letter to Parents for all participants
- A colorful cloth
- Moral Compass poster
Preparation for Activity
- Copy the handout, I Make a Difference, for all participants. Write each child's name on an I Make a Difference handout ahead of time.
- If you are introducing the Gems of Goodness activity for the first time, review Session 2, Activity 8, Introduction to the Gems of Goodness project. Note: The introduction to this activity has an estimated time of 10 minutes.
- Post the Moral Compass poster where you can reach it and children can see it. If you are introducing the Moral Compass poster in this session, see Session 2, Conscience: Hearing the Inner Voice for an explanation of how to use the poster as a teaching tool (Session 2, Introduction and Session 2, Activity 2, Introducing the Moral Compass) and instructions for making it (Session 2, Leader Resource, Moral Compass Poster).
- Place the colorful cloth on a table where all the children can see and reach it at one time.
- Spread out the mosaic gemstones on the cloth.
- Place the clear glass jar or vase on the cloth.
- Place the I Make a Difference handouts, pens and markers within your reach.
Description of Activity
Gather the children around the table where you have placed the cloth, the jar or vase, and the gemstones. Show the children the I Make a Difference handouts. Tell them that today you are going to do the Gems of Goodness activity in a slightly different way. You may say:
Today our topic will be taking responsibility and making a difference. To get us started, I invite you to put a gem of goodness in the jar today for some of the ways you take responsibility and make a difference at home, at school and here at our congregation. After you have all done that, you may share one or two additional acts of goodness from your notebooks, if you wish. And then we will look at acts of goodness and responsibility and making a difference a bit more, using the handouts I have brought.
Invite volunteers to stand up and share about a way that they take responsibility and make a difference. After they have shared, allow them to put a gem into the glass jar or vase. Prompt by suggesting some ways the children already make a difference at home, such as being responsible with chores, recycling trash, helping to take care of younger siblings or grandparents, cleaning up after themselves so that others don't have to, caring for a pet. You can also suggest that they probably have responsibilities at school, such as being a line leader, picking up at the end of the day, or other tasks the teacher suggests or that make other people's jobs easier. Suggest that the children make a difference with their friends if they share and offer kindness, stand up for another child who is being bullied, or work together on a sports team or in a musical band. Some children probably make a difference for people they don't even know, too, such as by collecting money for UNICEF at Halloween or participating in a bake sale to raise money for an organization or cause they care about. You can even remind them that they make a difference at your congregation, such as by helping with clean-up at the end of each Moral Tales session and perhaps in other ways that you can name from other times you have been together.
As the children share, write on their individual handouts a few words about the way or ways each child takes responsibility and makes a difference. Read aloud what you are writing, so children begin to hear you articulate that they already do make a difference in many aspects of their lives. This will prepare them to feel empowered to think of new ways to make a difference, later in the session and in their lives. In Activity 5 you will come back to the handout and fill out the bottom sections for each child. Some helpful hints to keep the Gems of Goodness process going:
Invite volunteers to stand up, and tell the group about an act of goodness they engaged in (or witnessed, if you have offered this option), and place the gem in the glass jar or vase.
Indicate the Moral Compass poster. Mention the virtues that the group has explored in previous sessions. Suggest that the children try to think of some acts of goodness related to these virtues, as they share their gems of goodness.
Encourage newcomers to join the sharing once they've had a chance to see what the other children are doing.
Use these guidelines to organize the sharing:
- One gem per act of goodness. However, anyone can put in more than one gem to represent more than one act of goodness.
- To stay within the allotted time frame for this activity, encourage children to share their act of goodness in one or two brief sentences. On occasion a child can seek permission to tell a longer story.
- If children are putting multiple gems in the jar and the activity is taking too much time, you might want to tell them to add a gem for up to three acts of goodness, but choose only one of the actions to share with the group.
It is very important to avoid judging participants, either with criticism or praise. Avoid phrases like, "Great job!" or "You're fantastic!" which might encourage the children to compete to share the "best" act of goodness or to perceive that different acts of goodness have greater or lesser value.
Instead, listen carefully to what the children tell you. Help them identify the virtues their acts of goodness represent. When appropriate, indicate a word or phrase on the Moral Compass poster that fits the act of goodness. This will help the children learn to recognize a variety of virtues in a variety of forms.
After each sharing, you may say something like, "Thank you for sharing," followed by a summarizing sentence such as:
- It sounds like that took courage.
- Sharing with a friend is generosity.
- Sounds like you worked really hard on that. That's called persistence.
- Telling the truth is being honest.
Your specific responses to the acts of goodness children share will help them feel pride, a sense of accomplishment, and their own empowerment as agents of justice and goodness.
If children are not volunteering, call out various types of acts of goodness, and invite children to come up if they experienced that particular kind of goodness. You may call out:
- Helping someone.
- Sharing with someone.
- Standing up for someone who was being treated meanly.
- Telling the truth when it would have been easier not to.
- Including someone rather than leaving them out.
- Being patient with a sibling or another younger child.
- Taking care of a pet.
- Working really hard at something.
- Thanking an adult or another child who helped me.
- Cleaning up a mess I made.
When the sharing is finished, remind the children to take home their notebooks and continue to keep track of their acts of goodness. Collect all participants' handouts.
If you are planning to do so, remind the children that they may mark their achievement with a special celebration when the group has filled the glass jar or otherwise reached an established goal. If the group is approaching the goal, you may wish to brainstorm with them about the celebration. Suggestions might include having a special treat for a snack, or ending early to do physical games outside.
Whatever way you choose to mark the jar being filled, once it has been filled you may empty it and start over again.
Including All Participants
If any participants are not mobile, you or another child can accommodate by passing the jar. If a child is not verbal, you may wish to invite a participant to choose another child, or a co-leader, to read their acts of goodness from their notebook and place a gemstone in the jar.
NOTE: The Gems of Goodness for this session has been adapted especially to focus on the theme of responsibility. The work children do with handouts in the Gems of Goodness activity is continued in Activity 5, If I Had a Magic Wand and may be extended further with the long-term Faith in Action project that begins in this session, Responsibility Steps. You may also wish to look at Alternate Activity 3: All My Friends and Neighbors Make a Difference, if you think your students need to be more physically active.