Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Building Bridges: A World Religions Program for 8th-9th Grades

Alternate Activity 2: Tree of Life

Activity time: 30 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Leader Resource 4, Celtic Tree Art
  • Art paper and other materials, such as pencils and color pencils, markers, and pastels
  • Newsprint, markers, and tape

Preparation for Activity

  • Prepare work tables for participants to use the art materials you have provided.
  • Post a sheet of blank newsprint.

Description of Activity

Participants explore the meanings and images of trees in religions.

Draw a simple outline of a tree on newsprint. Ask the group to name what you drew. When they answer "a tree," ask if anyone would like to guess why you drew a tree. If they do not guess, tell them it is to start a discussion about the prominence of trees in religion.

See if the group can name any trees from religions. They might mention the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden, a common image in Judaism and Christianity; the sacred groves of Shintoism; Jesus' crucifixion on a cross made of wood (and he was the son of a carpenter or woodworker); Buddha's enlightenment which occurred under the Bodhi tree. Note that Christianity received the tradition of the Christmas tree from the Pagan Celtic religion.

Say that the Pagan Celtic religion also has an image called "the Tree of Life." Show Leader Resource 4, Celtic Tree Art. Explain:

The roots represent the Otherworld, which is where the dead and unborn dwell. The trunk is our mortal world, while the branches are the heavens or a universe of mighty gods. In the Celtic tree, the branches and roots are connected. The tree symbolizes strength, longevity and wisdom. It depicted the connections between earth, the spirit world, and the universe. The tree of life also symbolized the endurance of time.

Point out that "the tree of life" is a term used outside the religious world, too. Science uses the term to talk about evolution. Can the youth think of other things trees symbolize?

Invite participants to use the art materials to create a tree that is special to them. It can be symbolic or representational. Maybe it is the tree that housed their first tree house?

When ten minutes are left, ask youth to finish their drawings and help clean-up. Invite volunteers to share their trees.