Advent Club - Week 2
“The Hope of Christmas: Thinking of Others” (“Die Hoffnung von Weihnachten: an unsere Mitmenschen denken”) is the theme of this year’s Advent Club at our school, and our goal is to awaken and encourage kindness, tolerance and social responsibility in our first, second and third graders through the biblical Christmas story.
As I mentioned in the last post, things got off to a rocky start in the first week. One reason was that this Advent Club was very different from what the children expected. Rather than just doing a lot of fun, seasonal things, we were challenging the children to think beyond themselves and to try and put an abstract concept – hope – into concrete terms. Another reason is that children who are not familiar with the quiet, meditative nature of Godly Play often need time to become accustomed to it.
Week 2 proved to be an interesting development! In order to help the children grapple with the concept of doing something for others without necessarily expecting something in return, my colleague and I introduced a game called “Weihnachtshandschlag Fangen” (Christmas Handshake Tag). At the beginning of the game, each child gets three pieces of candy. One child is “it” and tries to tag the other children. When a child is tagged, he or she has to remain still until freed by another child. The other children who have not been tagged can free a tagged child by shaking his hand, saying “Merry Christmas”, and giving the him a piece of candy. The idea for this wonderful game came from this website:
I added the part of giving the children a piece of candy to make it a little more challenging not to just think of themselves.
Here is my colleague passing out the candy:
Here is a boy freeing a girl:
Children, of course, learn by playing and the point of this game was to put them in a situation where they had to give away something they really wanted to keep for themselves. The kids loved the game and would have kept playing the whole time if we had let them. Afterwards, we asked the children why they thought we had played this game. A third grader hit the nail on the head, “We had to work together in order to keep the game going.” What a great metaphor for life, I thought.
Next we sat down together to hear another story. I reminded the children of the Godly Play Advent story and how God had given us hope in the form of a small, helpless baby rather than a grand king with a great army. Then, I explained that Jesus did not remain a baby, but became a grown man who, in turn, gave us many gifts. And one of these gifts was the parables. Then we moved into the story of The Good Samaritan.
Here is a picture of the materials I used:
For many of the children, this was a brand new story. The children were absolutely outraged when the priest and the Levite refused to help the wounded man and voiced their protests loudly. They were then visibly relieved when the Samaritan finally helped the man. During the Ergründungsgespräch (Wondering Phase) at the end, the children were really putting two and two together. We asked them if why they thought that the priest and Levite didn’t help the man. They replied, “Maybe they were afraid” and “Maybe they were in a hurry”. My colleague and I were able to point out that helping someone often costs us something such as time or overcoming our own fears. I had been concerned beforehand that the children might wonder why in the world I was telling this story and what it had to with Christmas, but here again the children were on track. The answer came, “Because it is about helping people”.
Next we brainstormed with the children what we are going to do next week when we have our first social project together. And then we worked more on our art project from last week and finished with hot cocoa and cookies.
Two more weeks to go! And hopefully, this will prove to be an Advent that the children never forget.