Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Circle of Trees: A Multigenerational Program about Nourishing Deep Connections with Nature

Program Structure

Part of Circle of Trees

One goal of Circle of Trees is to help participants to slow down, go deeper, and truly experience a connection to trees and all of earth. The program begins with some lighthearted learning about trees—how they are structured, what they contribute to life on our planet—then moves into appreciation for these providers of life. A ritual helps participants see into the essence of trees and nature, to sense what it feels like to be a tree or another being, and ultimately to experience empathy for trees and other beings; approaches that tend toward the spiritual, rather than the intellectual, foster deeper connection. The program incorporates movement, story learning, meditation, and taking action.

Ideally, the entire program occurs outdoors in the presence of trees. If this is not feasible, find ways to be outside at least some of the time. Workshop 8 should definitely be done outside; if it is raining, wear raincoats and boots and forge ahead. If the weather really is too wild to gather the group outside, reschedule for another day.

Core workshops are designed to be 60 minutes, but consider allotting at least 90 minutes for each workshop so you can include the Alternate Activities. You might also consider plan time for participants share a meal or snack either before or after each workshop, to help form and foster inter-generational relationships.

While each workshop can be done independently, it is preferable to complete all workshops in the order presented. If possible, combine Workshops 6 and 7 into a two-and-a-half-hour block so the group can experience the ritual, Council Among the Trees, fully and without interruption.

The first workshop invites participants to get to know each other, while they learn about and connect with trees in a concrete, scientific, fun way. Workshops 2 and 3 actively explore the very real benefits trees provide to humans and all life on our planet. In Workshop 4, participants share the special trees in their lives and develop and express appreciation for these trees and trees in general. In Workshop 5, participants learn about climate change, discuss how trees fit into that global challenge, and develop ways to protect and help trees. In Workshops 6 and 7, participants create a ritual that fosters deep connection and empathy with trees, nature, and all life on earth. In the final workshop, participants go outside for a walk in the woods, literally immersed in the trees, with the hope of forging an authentic, lasting connection with these spirit- and earth-enhancing forms of life.


A quote introduces each workshop. Co-leaders may wish to discuss the quote as part of their workshop preparation. Exploring a quote together can help you each feel grounded in the ideas and activities you will present and can help you get "on the same page" for co-leading. You may read the quote aloud to your group as an entry point to the workshop. The quotes are also included in the Taking It Home handout you will provide at each workshop's Closing.


The Introduction gives an overview of the workshop concepts and explains how you can use the activities to teach the concepts.


The Goals are the desired participant outcomes for the workshop. Reviewing the goals will help you connect the workshop's content and methodologies with the four strands of the Tapestry of Faith religious education programs: ethical, spiritual, Unitarian Universalist identity, and faith development. As you plan each workshop, apply your knowledge of the group, the time and space you have available, and your own strengths and interests as a leader to determine the most important and achievable goals for the workshop.

Learning Objectives

The Learning Objectives are specific participant outcomes that the workshop activities are designed to facilitate—what a participant will learn, become, or be able to do as a result of the learning activities. It may be helpful to think of learning objectives as the building blocks with which the program's larger, "big picture" goals are achieved.


The Workshop-at-a-Glance table lists the workshop activities in a suggested order and provides an estimated time for completing each activity to conduct a 60-minute workshop. The table includes all the core activities from the workshop Opening through the Closing, plus any Faith in Action activities for the workshop.

Note: In some cases you can lead a Faith in Action activity in an extended (more than 60-minute) workshop, that is, provide it as you would an Alternate Activity. However, for most Faith in Action activities, you will need to make special arrangements for participants, other congregants, and sometimes members of the wider community to undertake activities outside the group's regular meeting time.

Spiritual Preparation

Each workshop provides a spiritual exercise that leaders may use to prepare themselves for facilitating the workshop. Taking time to center yourself within the workshop's purpose and content will support and free you to be present with the group. The exercise will guide you to call forth your own life experiences, beliefs, and spirituality and relate these to the workshop you are about to lead. Take advantage of these exercises as a way to grow, in faith, as a leader.

Workshop Plan

The workshop plan describes every element of the workshop in the sequence established in the Workshop-at-a-Glance table. Additionally, the workshop plan presents any extension activities, a Taking It Home section, and a Resources section, which includes all the stories, handouts, and other resources you need to lead the workshop activities. The Find Out More section suggests additional sources to help you, the leader, further explore the workshop topics.

If you are reading Circle of Trees online, you can move as you wish among a workshop's elements—Opening, Closing, Faith in Action, Activity 4, Resources, etc. Each element occupies its own webpage, and you can click on "Print This Page" at any time. If you prefer to have Circle of Trees on your own computer, click on "Download Entire Program" or "Download Workshop"; this will give you a user-friendly document to customize as you wish, using your own word-processing program.

Each workshop comprises the following elements:

Welcoming and Entering: An optional activity you can provide in situations where members of the group "straggle in" as much as 15 minutes before the workshop start time.

Opening: Workshops begin with chalice lighting and an opening ritual. The Opening is a time for centering, both for individuals and the group. Also, repeating the opening ritual before each workshop helps participants build a common faith language vocabulary and faith ritual experience Take the liberty you need to shape an opening ritual that suits your group, works within your space limitations, and reflects the culture and practices of your congregation.

Activities: Up to five activities form the core content of each workshop. In each workshop, one activity focuses the group's attention on a story that illuminates the workshop theme. Presenting activities in the sequence suggested will help you provide a coherent learning experience. In general, workshops are structured to activate participant's interest in and prior knowledge of the main topic, then offer hands-on engagement with the topic, and finally provide opportunities to process and apply new observations and knowledge. The suggested sequence alternates listening and talking, sitting still and moving about, and individual exploration and team or whole-group exploration, in order to provide variation that will help keep participants engaged.

Materials for Activity: Provided for each activity, this checklist tells you the supplies you will need.

Preparation for Activity: Review the bulleted preparation "to do" list for each activity at least one week before a workshop. This list describes all the advance work you need to do for the activity.

Description of Activity: This section provides detailed directions for implementing the activity. For many activities, the description includes a rationale that links the activity thematically to the rest of the workshop and to the entire program. Read the activity descriptions carefully during your planning process so that you understand each activity and its purpose. Later, when you are leading the group, use the description as a step-by-step how-to manual.

Including All Participants: Your planning process should always include adaptation to include all participants. For certain activities, the Including All Participants section suggests specific modifications to make the activity manageable for people of all ages and ability levels.

Faith in Action: An important component of the program, Faith in Action activities give participants practice at being Unitarian Universalists in the world. When you lead a Faith in Action project, you create an opportunity for participants to experience the active expression of faith values.

By design, Faith in Action activities engage leaders, participants, other congregants and sometimes members of the wider community, usually outside the group's regular meeting time and place. Faith in Action projects often require special arrangements to be made in advance. Like the core and alternate activities, Faith in Action activities include a materials checklist, a list of preparations you must make ahead of time, and a detailed description of the activity.

Most workshops either introduce a new Faith in Action activity or describe a step the group will take in a long-term Faith in Action activity. However, when you get to a particular workshop, the group may not be ready for a new Faith in Action activity, or, may be "on hold" midway through a long-term Faith in Action project, perhaps waiting for supplies to arrive or for an environmental organization to schedule time to visit your program. It is perfectly fine for the Faith in Action component of Circle of Trees to deviate from the suggested timetable!

Plan well, but remain flexible. Be aware that inclement weather, the last-minute cancellation of a scheduled visitor, or other surprises may bump a planned Faith in Action activity to a later workshop.

Note: Faith in Action activities can also be used independently from the Circle of Trees program for a wide age-span of children or for multigenerational service projects. If your congregation is participating in the UUA's Green Sanctuary Program, you may want to include the Green Sanctuary committee or team in helping to plan and carry out the Faith in Action activities.

Closing: The Closing signals the end of the group's time together. As you plan each workshop, allow plenty of time for your Closing and avoid rushing through it. Shape a closing ritual that fits the group and your congregation's culture and practices.

Leader Reflection and Planning: This section provides guidance, often in the form of questions, to help co-leaders process the workshop after it is concluded and use their reflections to shape future workshops. Be sure to share pertinent information with the religious educator. The UUA also appreciates feedback on Tapestry of Faith programs.

Taking It Home: Taking It Home resources for each workshop are designed to extend each participant's experience and connect families with the workshop content. Download the Taking It Home section and adapt it to reflect the actual activities of your workshop. You can print and photocopy the Taking It Home section for participants to bring home, send it to the group via email, or post it on your congregation's website (or perhaps do all three!).

Resources: Here you will find the full text of stories, artwork, handouts, and all the other resources you need to lead every element of the workshop.

Under "Stories," you will find the full text of the workshop's central story and any other stories you will need for workshop activities.

Under "Handouts," you will find any material that needs to be printed and photocopied for participants to use in the workshop.

Under "Leader Resources," you will find all remaining components you need to lead the workshop activities. These may include a recipe, a puzzle for you to print and cut into pieces, or an illustration you will show the group, which you can print as a hard copy or display on a computer as a PowerPoint slide.

Under the heading "Find Out More," you will find book and video titles, website URLs, and other selected resources to further explore the workshop topics.