Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Exploring Our Values Through Poetry: A Program for High School Youth

Program Structure

All fifteen workshops in Poetry have the same structure. Between an opening and a closing ritual, participants engage in up to four activities. Most workshops revolve thematically around one or more central poems, which participants hear and explore in one of the activities. Each poem illustrates a particular aspect of the workshop's larger theme.

Every workshop offers a Faith in Action activity. While these activities are optional, Faith in Action is an important element of the overall Tapestry of Faith curriculum series. Some Faith in Action activities can be completed in one meeting; others are longer term and require the involvement of congregants or community members outside your group.

All workshops offer alternate activities. Depending on your time and interests, you may choose to replace one or more of the workshop's core activities with an alternate activity or add an alternate activity to your workshop. You may also find the alternate activities useful for gatherings outside of the program, such as family retreats, intergenerational dinners, or other events during which some interesting programming is needed.

As you design your program, decide whether the group needs extra meetings to incorporate additional activities or to complete a long-term Faith in Action project. Long-term Faith in Action projects usually require meetings outside your regular meeting time and/or at another location. Before you commit to an extended program, make sure you obtain the support of your congregational leadership and the youths' families.


A quote introduces the subject of each workshop. You may decide to read the quote aloud to your group as an entry point into the workshop.

Co-leaders may like to discuss the quote as part of their preparation for a workshop. Exploring a quote together can help you each feel grounded in the ideas and activities you will present and can help a team of leaders "get on the same page." The quote is also included in the Taking It Home section for families to consider.


The Introduction gives an overview of the workshop concepts and explains how you can use the activities to teach the concepts. The Introduction also describes the workshop's thematic connection with the other workshops in the program.


The Goals section provides general workshop 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 a workshop, apply your knowledge of the group of youth, 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 and the activities that will serve them best.

Learning Objectives

The Learning Objectives section describes specific participant outcomes that the workshop activities are designed to facilitate. They describe 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 larger, "big-picture" goals of the Poetry program are achieved. If you deem particular learning objectives especially important, make sure you select the workshop activities that address the outcomes of those objectives.


The Workshop-at-a-Glance table lists the workshop activities in a suggested order and provides the estimated amount of time required to complete each activity within an overall sixty-minute timeframe. The table includes all of the core activities, from the Opening through the Closing. The table also shows the Faith in Action activity provided for the workshop; note that you will need additional time outside the basic sixty-minute workshop to complete the Faith in Action activity. (We will say more about this in a moment.)

Workshop-at-a-Glance is a guide for your planning. From the Workshop-at-a-Glance table and the alternate activities, choose which elements to use and how to combine these to best suit the group, the meeting space, and the amount of time you have.

Keep in mind that many variables inform the actual completion time for an activity. For example, whole-group discussions will take longer in a large group than in a small group. Similarly, while six teams can plan their skits as quickly as two teams can, your group will need more time to watch all six skits than to watch two. Remember to consider the time you will need to relocate participants to another area of your meeting room and the time you will need if you wish to include cleanup in an art activity.

The time estimates for Faith in Action activities include only the work the group will do when you meet. Leader planning and preparation are not included. For most Faith in Action activities, you will need to make special arrangements for participants, their families, 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 teachers may use to prepare themselves for leading the workshop. Taking five or ten minutes to center yourself within the workshop's purpose and content will support and free you to be present with the participants and focus on providing the best possible learning experience. 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 spiritually as a leader.

Workshop Plan

The workshop plan presents every element of the workshop in detail and in the sequence established in the Workshop-at-a-Glance table. Additionally, the workshop plan presents alternate activities, a Taking It Home section with extension activities for families, and a Resources section. The Resources section includes all the poems, handouts, and other materials you need to lead all of the workshop activities. The Resources section also suggests additional sources that will help you, the leader, further explore the workshop topics.

If you are reading this program online, you can move as you wish among a workshop's elements: Opening, Closing, Faith in Action, Activity 4, Resources, and so on. Each element occupies its own web page. You can click on "Print this Page" at any time. However, if you click on "Download Entire Program" or "Download Workshop" you'll have a user-friendly document on your computer that you can customize as you wish, using your own word processing program. Once you decide which activities you will use, format and print only the materials you need.

Opening: Each workshop begins with an opening ritual. As with many UU programs, an opening ritual can be a profound way to settle and gather the group and signal the intention to come together authentically and meaningfully.

An opening ritual is provided for you in each workshop. However, your group might wish to design a new Opening or to use one that is traditional for your congregation. Take the liberty you need to shape an opening ritual that suits the group, works within space limitations, and reflects the culture and practices of your congregation.

If your Opening or Closing involves lighting a chalice and your congregation cannot have open flames, or if you are concerned about safety, consider using an LED/battery-operated flaming chalice or a symbolic chalice. If your group plans to do a check-in as part of these workshops, build in an appropriate amount of additional time.

Activities: As many as four activities form the core content of each workshop. The variety of activities presented within each workshop addresses different learning styles you may find among participants.

Most workshops feature at least one activity that involves reading a poem. Many of these workshops include a short insight about the poem to help you in your exploration. In addition, workshops that have poems also feature two levels of inquiry:

Level One Questions, "What Do We Have Here?": Ask these questions to ensure that the group has a basic understanding of the poem, its general theme, message, and possible "plot." If you suspect that your group grasps the basics, move directly to the Level Two Questions.

Level Two Questions, "What's the Big Idea?": Proceed to these questions as soon as it is clear that your group has a fundamental understanding of the poem.

Most workshops also include a writing exercise.

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

Preparation for Activity: Review the bulleted "to-do" list for each activity at least one week ahead of a workshop. The list provides all the advance work you need to do for the activity, from locating recordings of poetry to preparing your room for a meditation.

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.

During your planning process, read the activity descriptions carefully 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: Adaptation to include all participants should always be part of your planning process. For certain activities, an Including All Participants section suggests specific modifications that will make the activity manageable and meaningful for youth with limitations of mobility, sight, hearing, or cognition.

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, their families, other congregants, and sometimes members of the wider community, often outside the group's regular meeting time and place. Faith in Action projects usually 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.

Before your first Poetry workshop, decide which Faith in Action activities you will do over the course of the program. As you plan each workshop, make sure you allocate the time you will need to move Faith in Action project(s) forward. Workshops that present Faith in Action activities also provide, when possible, estimates of how much time the group will need to complete this particular stage of the project.

Plan well, and 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 in ways that are independent of the Poetry program, such as for youth or multigenerational groups.

Closing: Each workshop includes a closing ritual. The Closing signals the end of the group's time together. As you plan each workshop, allow plenty of time for your Closing. Avoid rushing through it. Like the Opening, you have the freedom to use the closing ritual provided in the workshop or to design one that fits 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.

Taking It Home: Provided for each workshop, these resources are designed to help youth and their families extend the religious education experience. They may include games, conversation topics, ideas for incorporating Unitarian Universalist rituals into the home environment, and/or online sources for the workshop's themes. Download the Taking It Home section and adapt it to reflect the actual activities you have included in the workshop. You can print and photocopy the Taking It Home section for youth to bring home. You may also send it to all parents/caregivers as a group e-mail.

Alternate Activities: Most workshops feature one or more alternate activities. You can substitute these for core workshop activities or add them to the core activities. Sometimes the alternate activities are simpler than the core activities—useful if the group as a whole seems unready for the core activities or if the group includes youth with vast developmental differences. Materials checklists, preparation, and descriptions for alternate activities appear in the same format as they do in Openings, Closings, core activities, and Faith in Action activities.

Resources: In a workshop's Resources section you will find the poems, other handouts, and all other resources you will need to lead every element of the workshop.

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

Under the heading "Leader Resources," you will find all the components you need to lead the workshop activities.

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.