Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Spirituality and the Arts in Children's Programming: A Resource for Religious Educators

Chapter 2: Ways to Help Children Find and Make Meaning

There are many ways to set up lessons to encourage connections between children's inner experience and arts activities. These are some general guidelines.

Always begin with a practice which helps the children to center and get ready for the experience they are about to have. If you begin your classes with a set ritual each week, you could include a guided meditation, a song, a movement, or meditative drawing in sand.

Introduce the arts element with as little instruction as possible. Ideally there will be a variety of materials or choices for the children within the activity. For example, you could use a movement game where the children make their own movements and have others copy them, or the children could paint to music. You can facilitate a combination of activities for older children, but keep to one simple activity each session for younger children. Try to have a different arts modality each time the group meets, and encourage multiple styles of learning in the other parts of the session as well.

Have children share as they wish what they discovered during the process. Model supportive behavior and positive talk, or have children walk around in a circle and look at what was made. Incorporate individual children's work into a group process to bring all of the work together into a whole.

Talking about the lesson should be the last step, where children can say what they think about the activity. Let them respond to what they have done and say how they feel about it. Keep any questions you have as open-ended as possible so that children can respond with their own experience. Remember to let children to decide if they are ready to speak, and allow them to pass if they wish. As the children get more comfortable with the process, you can open it up for other kinds of responses such as spontaneous songs or movements or suggestions for other kinds of activities. This process is not about production, but about experience.

Below are some specific examples of connecting an art form to a particular topic. More examples will be discussed in the next section on practical tips.