Sunday, November 29, 2015

Unto us a Child is Born

The weekend of First Advent is always a bit of a whirlwind for our family, because we usually celebrate American Thanksgiving on the Friday or Saturday before and then turn around on Sunday to re-decorate for Advent. Remembering all the things we are thankful for is actually a great prelude to Advent, but I have to mentally switch gears fast to begin some of our Advent traditions.  I don't stress out if I don't have everything out for the first Sunday of Advent (I never do!), but I do try to have our Advent candles and one Advent calendar ready to go. 

After our Thanksgiving celebration on Friday, I ended up with a cold on Saturday and had to cancel some plans outside of the house. That turned out to be a blessing, because the children and I put together our Advent candles. 

We made four Advent candles out of beeswax plates and decided to place a Christmas candle in the center, which we've never done before. It will be nice to have a special candle to light on Christmas Eve. 


If you have read my blog before, you will probably recognize the Advent calendar below. My children are now 9 and 12 years old and have sadly out-grown some of their other Advent calendars, but they still treasure this one. 

Each year I set it up a little differently. This time, I used my purple and white underlay (from the Godly Play story "Faces of Easter") to distinguish the journey from the arrival. The 24 stones and seashells representing each day are from a very special family vacation that we were able to enjoy earlier in the year. 

The prophets point the shepherd and the sheep in the direction of Bethlehem. Usually it's the Three Kings making the journey here, but we used the shepherds this time.

Mary, Joseph and the little donkey await the baby who will appear on Christmas Eve. 

On each Sunday of Advent, we have a simple family tradition. We gather at the table and light the appropriate Advent candle and read a passage of Scripture having to do with the theme of that Sunday. Today, we focused on one of  prophets, who showed the people long ago, as well as us now, the way to Bethlehem. We turned out all the lights and I read Isaiah 9:2 about the people who've walked in darkness seeing a great light. Then, my daughter lit the first candle. We wondered together about how darkness can be a metaphor for separation from God. 

Then, we copied Isaiah 9:6 into our prayer journals. (My kids really don't like to sit still unless they are doing something, so the writing keeps them engaged!) 

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Then, we wondered together about which name of Jesus we liked best in this passage and why. Afterwards, my husband had us listen to the part of Handel's Messiah, where the choir sings this verse. 

I hope that your First Advent was peaceful and joyful, but even if it wasn't, you can still make the journey to Bethlehem this year. And you can take comfort in knowing that it most certainly wasn't peaceful for Mary Joseph so many years ago.

Happy First Advent!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Getting Ready

My dear friend and co-teacher in the Godly Play after-school clubs, Melinda, recently told me a story about a recent visit to another church. At the end of the regular service, the pastor quickly transitioned things into a communion service without giving her much time to switch gears and get ready for it. As a result, she felt a bit rushed and jolted. I laughed and said, "It's Godly Play! We've spent the last 6 years teaching children to 'get ready', so they can fully experience what God has for them. It's in your blood now!"

Next week, she and I will begin "getting ready" to experience the mystery of Christmas with a group of 14 children at Advent Club. And this week, we've been getting us and everything else ready for the after-school club to begin. : )

I don't think I'll ever get tired of accompanying children on their Advent journey. I need to see things through their eyes and hear with their ears as much as they need to see and hear what I have to show them. Hand-in-hand we come closer to the mystery of the living God being born into our world as baby. 

With the backdrop of the recent events in Paris and the many homeless families from Syria seeking refuge in our city, we need more than ever to come close to this mystery and be saturated with hope and love. 

May your Advent wherever you are be blessed! 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Spring Godly Play Club Week 3

Unsere 3. Woche zusammen fing mit einer Frage an: "Was ist das allerbeste Geschenk, das du mal bekommen hast?" This week we began with a question: "What is the best present you've ever been given?"

"Mein Roller".  "My scooter".
"Meine Barbie". "My Barbie".
"Mein Leben". "My life".
"Meine Freunde". "My friends".

Meine Freundin, Jessica, war zu Besuch und erzählte uns die Geschichte. Sie sagte, dass manche Gottes Geschenke so groß sind, dass wir sie kaum wahrnehmen können. Oft müssen wir einen Schritt zurück machen oder sogar bis an den Anfang gehen um sie richtig zu sehen . . . Dinge wie z.B. Licht, Wasser und grünende, wachsende Lebewesen. My friend, Jessica, came to tell the story this week. She explained that some of God's gifts are so big that we have to take a step back or even go back to the beginning to notice them. Things like light, water and green, growing things.

Nachdem wir die Schöpfungsgeschichte vom 1.Mose Kapital 1 hörten, stellte Jessica den Kindern ein paar Fragen. After the children heard the Creation Story from Genesis 1, we asked them some more questions. 

Welcher Tag gefällt dir am besten? "Der Tag, an dem Gott die Menschen und Tiere schenkte." 
Which day do you like best? "The day where people and animals were created."

Welcher Tag ist der wichtigste? "Der Tag, wo wir Wasser bekamen, weil ohne Wasser können wir nicht leben." 
Which day is the most important? "Where water was created, because we couldn't live without it."

Welcher Tag erzählt etwas von dir? "Der Tag, an dem es Fische gibt, weil mein Goldfisch hat Babys bekommen!"
Which day tells something about you? "The day on which animals in water were created, because it reminds me of my goldfish who had babies."

Welcher Tag könnte man weglassen und trotzdem alles haben, was wir brauchen? "Den Ruhetag!"
Which day could we leave out? "The day of rest!"

Wir haben diese Woche eine neue Station: das Stempeln mit frischen Blättern. This week we added a new station for  Response Time, printing with spring leaves.

Wir haben die Kindern gebeten sich vorzustellen, was die Blätter-Stempeln sein könnten. Im Bild unten malte das Kind Feuer, eine Tür, und einen Igel mit einem Apfel auf dem Rücken! We encouraged the children to imagine what the leaf prints could be. In the picture below, the child drew fire, a door, and a hedgehog carrying an apple! 

Die Pfingstgeschichte von der vorherigen Woche kam in manchen Kunstwerken vor. Unten sieht man Jesus bei der Himmelfahrt und das Feuer von Pfingsten. The Pentecost story from last week was present in many of the children's artwork this week. Here we see Jesus' ascension and the imagery of fire from the day of Pentecost.

Hier sehen wir wieder Feuer in diesem Blätter-Bild. 
Again we see fire in this child's leaf painting.

Die Sonne macht einen Kopfstand!
On another note, here we have the sun doing a headstand!

Noch ein wunderschöner Vogel mit Nest.
Another beautiful bird and nest.

Ein Kind guckt die Schöpfungsgeschichte näher an.
Here a child takes a closer look at the Creation Story.

Es gab Brownies und gelbe Paprika zum Fest!
We feasted on brownies and yellow peppers at the end.

Wir hatten so eine tolle Zeit zusammen gehabt!
We had so much fun in this club that we were sad to see it come to an end!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Spring Godly Play Club Week 2

Diese Woche wollten wir Pfingsten, den Geburtstag der Kirche, ein bisschen 'reinfeiern, da wir uns nach dem Feiertag nicht mehr treffen werden. Obwohl Pfingsten ein offizieller Feiertag ist, wissen viele Berliner ganz wenig vom Hintergrund der Pfingstgeschichte; deshalb wollten wir mit den Kindern in die Geschichte eintauchen. Since our Godly Play Club will come to an end before Pentecost Sunday, so we decided to go ahead and start thinking about this story today. Pentecost is a much over-looked holiday, and many people here in Berlin are unfamiliar with its background, although we get two free days off from school.

Unsere Erzählung handelte von Himmelfahrt und Pfingsten, als Gott den Heiligen Geist geschenkt hat und die weltweite Kirche "geboren" ist. Wenn ihr mehr über die Reaktionen der Kinder lesen möchte, dann schaut mal her. Our story focused on Jesus' ascension in to heaven and the Day of Pentecost when God gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit and the worldwide church was born. For more details on how I told the story and the children's responses, please see this post

Nach der Geshichte haben die Kinder Aktivitäten ausgesucht um weiter über die Geschichten der letzten 2 Wochen nachdenken zu können. Beim 1. Angebot konnten die Kinder Muffins verzieren zum Geburtstag der Kirche. (Wir haben sie nachher beim Fest aufgegessen!) After the story, the children began to choose activities to help them process what they have been hearing.  One activity involved decorating cupcakes to celebrate the church's "birthday". We then ate the cupcakes during our feast!

Andere Kinder malten weiter mit Ölkreide.
Several children drew pictures with oil pastels.

Wir haben auch weiter gemacht mit den Vögeln und Nestern aus Ton. At another station, the children worked on their birds and nests sculpted from clay. 

Andere Kinder haben an die Nähcollagen gearbeitet. 
We also continued our sewing collages.

Das letzte Angebot war mit dem Material von der Geschichte zu spielen. Dieser Junge kam auf ganz interessante Gedanken als er die Filzstreifen und Spielfiguren umgeordnet hat. And other children wanted to explore the story materials more in-depth.

Noch eine Woche!
One more week to go!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Experimenting with the Pentecost Story

Okay, Godly Play storytellers, see something strange in the picture above? 

"The Mystery of Pentecost" ("Das Geheimnis von Pfingsten" in German) is a story that I've written extensively about it on this blog in the past. First of all, the German version of the story is quite different from the original English version. Secondly, in my experience younger children or children who aren't very well acquainted with GP have verbally expressed their discontent with the use of the apostle's shields rather than real figures in the story. 

Jerome Berryman writes that his decision to use the apostles' shields instead of People of God figures is to give the story, which is by all accounts difficult to understand, a parable-like approach. I understand this and see the reasoning behind it, but I do question whether this is the best way for younger children or children new to GP to experience the story. I've also heard some of my other colleagues here in Germany express the same sentiment. 

When planning this year's Spring Godly Play Club, I knew that none of these children had heard this story (in Godly Play form) before, and only a third of the kids were familiar with GP at all. So I decided to experiment. I decided that I wanted to try telling the story with People of God figures rather than just the apostles' shields. However, I do think the apostles' symbols are important to see and know about, so I wondered if I could use both, unsure of whether or not the use of both would be distracting. 

The German version of this story starts out with Jesus' ascension rather than the Tower of Babel analogy. Jesus gathers with the disciples on the Mount of Olives. As I began to introduce the disciples, I told the children that each disciple had a shield with a special symbol on it that told us something about that disciple. I added that they could find out what the symbol meant during the Response Time with special control cards that explained the symbols. The children were very attentive and seemed to track with me rather than blurting out frustrated questions which had been my experience in the past. 

As I prepared the felt "house" that the disciples return to after Jesus' ascension, I added a Wondering question. I asked the children how they thought the disciples felt after seeing Jesus ascend into heaven. The children were responsive, and we talked about the possible reactions.  I think it was a good call to have this question in the middle, because the story is almost like two small stories within one, since our German version starts with Ascension.

There was more Wondering this time than any other time I can remember telling this story. That may just be because this group of kids is extremely verbal, but I think the combination of real figures and the apostles' shields helped the children to identify more with the story.

What was their favorite part? "When Jesus went up into heaven."  "When the apostles went out of the house and started telling people about God." "When they went into all the world to tell about Jesus."

In addition to the usual 4 Wondering questions in the Sacred Story genre, I also added this one: How do you imagine the Holy Spirit? One first grade girl answered, "I think he is like a bird flying in the wind, who helps people when they are in trouble."

This boy matched the shields to the control cards to find out about each apostle. Then, he began playing with the materials and rearranging them. I love this image that he created- it makes me think of the church as a house, a safe place where a family lives, which is what the church can be. 

Have you experimented with the Pentecost story? If so, how have you told it differently?

Friday, May 8, 2015

Spring Godly Play Club 2015

So viele Kinder hatten Lust bei der OsterAG zu sein, dass wir eine Warteliste machen mussten - ein tolles Problem zu haben!  Daraus ist die FrühlingsAG entstanden.  So many children signed up for the Easter Club this year that we had to make a waiting list. What an awesome problem to have! As a result, we decided to offer a Spring Godly Play Club, which kicked off this week. 

Unsere erste Geschichte ging um das Gleichnis vom Senfsamen in dem Lukasevangelium. Our first story was the Parable of the Mustard Seed found in the Gospel of Luke.

Die Gleichnisse regen unsere Kreativität an und geben neue Perspektiven. Es macht mir viel Spass die Gleichnisse mit Kindern zu erzählen, weil Kinder so frische Einblicke darauf haben. Parables help our creativity to flow and God can use them to help us question our everyday situations and gain new perspective. I love telling the parables to children, because they have such fresh thoughts and insight into the metaphorical meanings.

Diese Gruppe von Kindern war besonders verbal, sodass unser Ergründungsgespräch nachher ziemlich spannend war. This was a very verbal group of children, so our Wondering conversation after the story was quite lively.

Nach der Geschichte und Ergründungsgespräch kommt die Kreativphase, die von der Montessori-Pädagogik inspiriert ist. Die Kinder dürfen Aktivitäten aussuchen, die ihnen helfen die Geschichte weiter zu entdecken. Sie dürfen sich auch zwischen den Angeboten frei bewegen. After the story comes a free Response Time inspired by the Montessori Method. During this time, the children can choose activities to help them explore the story further or perhaps explore some other topic on their hearts and minds.

Diese Kinder malen mit Öl- und Pastelkreiden. 
This group of children worked with oil and chalk pastels.

Andere Kinder gestalteten Vögel und Nester aus Ton. Nächste Woche werden wir die Vögel anmalen. Another group chose to make birds and bird nests out of clay. We'll paint the birds next week after the clay has dried.

Ein weiteres Angebot ging um "Nähcollagen" aus Filz und Jutestoff. At another station, the children could sew collages out of burlap and felt.

Auch konnten die Kinder eine eigene Geschichte ausdenken. And finally, the children could also make up their own story to tell.

Letztens feierten wir ein kleines Fest mit "Blondies" (Brownies mit hellem Teig), Paprika, und ein Gebet der Dankbarkeit für die schöne Zeit zusammen! Our time ended with a prayer of thankfulness and our "feast".  This week we had "blondies" and red pepper. 

Bis nächste Woche! 
See you next week!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Easter Club Week 4

Die Kirche sollte ein Ort sein, wo Leute aus unterschiedlichen Hintergründen einander begegnen. Deswegen öfter in den AGs suchen wir Möglichkeiten die Kinder mit unterschiedlichen Gruppen von Menschen in Kontakt zu bringen. Ideally church should be a place where people from all different walks of life come together. Because of this, we often seek to bring the children who participate in our Godly Play clubs in contact with different groups of people. 

In der letzten Woche freuten wir uns über einen Besuch von einer Alzheimer-Gesellschaft. Es gab einen Kennenlernenspiel gleich am Anfang zum Aufwärmen. In our last week, we were delighted to have a visit from an Alzheimer's Support Group. We played a game at the beginning to get to know each other a little. 

Danach zündeten wir die Christuskerze an, und wir hörten gemeinsam die Geschichte von Jesus und den Jüngern auf dem Weg nach Emmaus aus dem Lukasevagelium. Then, we lit our Christ candle together and heard the story of Jesus meeting the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.

Als nächstes bildeten wir Teams von Kindern und Senioren um Ostereier zu suchen! 
Afterwards we sorted ourselves into teams of seniors and children for an Easter egg hunt.

Auf die Plätze, fertig, los!
It was off to the races!

Die Kinder fanden  blitzschnell alles auf dem Boden, aber die Senioren waren schneller die Eier in ungewöhnlichen Orten zu finden. The children were quick to find everything on the ground, but the seniors helped to find the eggs in the not so obvious places! 

Wir haben eine sehr schöne Zeit zusammen erlebt! 
We had a lovely afternoon together and everyone benefited from the interaction!