Program Structure for Wonderful Welcome
All Wonderful Welcome sessions follow the same structure. Between an Opening and a Closing, activities guide participants to explore and experience an intangible gift and how we, as Unitarian Universalists, share that gift with others. The Wonder Box directly follows each Opening, and the Wonder Box Poster is used during each Closing. These rituals reinforce the theme of each session.
Each session also offers a Faith in Action activity, which is not included in the core 60-minute schedule. Nevertheless, Faith in Action is an important element of Tapestry of Faith curricula. You can incorporate Faith in Action into regular sessions if you have time, create additional sessions to conduct Faith in Action activities, or offer multigenerational Faith in Action opportunities to the whole congregation at alternative times.The time commitment for these activities varies greatly. Before you commit to a long-term Faith in Action project, be sure to obtain the support of congregational leadership and the children's families.
Every session has at least one alternate activity. You may add these to a session, or substitute one for a core activity if the alternate better fits your group or the time available. Feel free to use alternate activities outside of the Wonderful Welcome program for gatherings such as family retreats or intergenerational dinners when some interesting, thematic, child-friendly programming is needed.
A quote introduces the theme of each session. You may read a quote aloud to your group as an entry point to the session. However, the quotes are intended primarily for leaders and are not usually geared to children of this age. Co-leaders may like to reflect on a quote together to feel grounded in the session's ideas. Quotes are included in the Taking It Home section for families to consider.
The Introduction names the intangible gift and overall concepts of the session. It explains how the activities engage participants in exploring the session's ideas and indicates what to aim for and watch out for in planning and leading the session.
The Goals section provides 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.
The Learning Objectives specify intended outcomes for participants. As you plan a session, apply your knowledge of the group, the time available, your congregation's mission, and your own strengths as a leader to identify the most important and achievable learning objectives for the session. Then choose the activities that will best serve those aims.
The Session-at-a-Glance table lists the session's core activities in a suggested order for a 60-minute session and provides an estimated time for completing each activity. Note that you will need additional time to include a Faith in Action activity. The table also lists alternate activities with their estimated times. Alternate activities can be substituted for core activities, added to the core session if time allows, or used in alternative settings.
A short exercise focuses you on the session's intangible gift and helps connect the theme to your own life and Unitarian Universalist faith. Five or ten minutes of reflection on the session's purpose will deepen its meaning for you and free you to be present with the children in an authentic way. Recalling your own experiences, beliefs and spirituality will help you provide the best possible learning experience for the children while nurturing your own faith development.
The session plan presents every element of the session in detail in the sequence established in the Session-at-a-Glance table. The session plan includes a Taking It Home section for families. The Resources section includes all the stories, handouts, and other resources that support the session activities. The Find Out More section suggests additional sources to help leaders and families further explore the session topics. It can be useful to scan Find Out More before leading a session.
If you are reading Wonderful Welcome online, you can move among each session's elements — Opening, Closing, Faith in Action, Activity 4, Story, and so on — as each element occupies its own web page. You can click on "Print this Page" at any time.
If you click on "Download Entire Program" or "Download Workshop" you will have a user-friendly document on your computer that you can customize using your own word processing program. Once you decide which activities you will use, you can format and print only the materials you need.
Welcoming and Entering: This section provides suggestions for greeting, orienting and engaging children as they arrive individually. If the group arrives together — for example, from worship — the Welcoming and Entering suggestions may be unnecessary or may be incorporated into the Opening.
Opening: Each session begins with a chalice-lighting and opening words to center the group. Shape this ritual to reflect the culture and practices of your congregation. To ensure safety, use an LED/battery-operated flaming chalice or a symbolic chalice.
Activities: The sequence of activities is designed to activate prior knowledge, pique interest, engage children in experiential learning and help them integrate and apply their observations and new knowledge. The variety of core and alternate activities addresses different learning styles. Choose activities according to the learning styles, developmental readiness, energy level and other aspects of the group.
Materials for Activity: This checklist identifies the supplies you will need.
Preparation for Activity: Review the list for each activity at least one week before leading a session as it may contain advance work that cannot be done at the last minute, such as securing parental permissions. downloading leader resources, or practicing telling a story aloud.
Description of Activity: This section provides detailed directions for implementing the activity. Read the activity descriptions carefully during your planning process so that you understand each activity and its purpose. When you are leading the group, use the description as step-by-step instructions.
Including All Participants: Adapting to include all participants should always be part of your planning process. For some activities, this section provides 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 an opportunity to live out their Unitarian Universalist faith and values in the world. By design, Faith in Action activities can engage leaders, children, their families, other congregants, and sometimes members of the wider community, often outside the group's regular meeting time and place. As multigenerational opportunities, they provide a way for children to work and bond with, inspire and be inspired by, other members of the congregation. Take advantage of the expertise and interests of members of your congregation, and the opportunities for service and education in your community and through the Internet.
Taking It Home: This resource is designed to help families extend their children's religious education experiences. Taking It Home may include games, conversation topics, ideas for incorporating Unitarian Universalist rituals in the home, and book or online sources to explore session themes. Customize Taking It Home to reflect what the children experienced in the session. Print and photocopy it for the children to bring home, or send it to all parents/caregivers as a group email.
Alternate Activities: Most sessions offer alternate activities. You can substitute these for core session activities or add them to the core activities. Some alternate activities are simpler versions of a core activity; some require more time than a core activity; some are particularly suited to be inclusive of children with developmental or ability differences.
Resources: The Resources section includes the stories, handouts and other resources needed for the session.
Stories includes the full text of the session's central story and any other stories needed for session activities. Coloring sheets for stories in Wonderful Welcome can be downloaded individually or as a packet for the entire curriculum. Handouts are pages to print out and photocopy for participants to use in the session. Leader Resources include additional components to conduct session activities, such as a recipe, a template for a puzzle, or an illustration to show the group. Find Out More includes resources to explore the session topics further. These might include book or DVD titles, website URLs, audio links to music suggested for the session, or biographical information about Unitarians, Universalists or Unitarian Universalists. Review this section before leading the session.