Monday, November 25, 2013

Godly Play: The Prophets

On Sunday, I told the children the story called "The Prophets". This is an enrichment story for children who are familiar with the core stories in the Godly Play curriculum. They should definitely be familiar with "Exile and Return" before they hear this story or it won't make much sense to them. 

"The Prophets", like "Exile and Return", is an important story to tell before Advent. "Exile" gives the historical context in which the Jewish people understood the concept of a Messiah. And in the Advent story, we explain that on the first Sunday of Advent we remember the prophets. 

"The Prophets" focuses on who a prophet might be and what she or he does. It also gives an overview of the Old Testament prophets, focusing on Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the 12 minor prophets. 

Even though the kids today were familiar with Exile, they still had a hard time following the parts of the story dealing with the history of the Southern Kingdom, because the Godly Play story is told in segments explaining each prophet rather than chronologically. So, Jeremiah and Ezekiel were contemporaries, but the children had a hard time understanding this, because the story talks about the three Isaiahs first, then about Jeremiah and then Ezekiel. I basically had to tell the story twice, because right in the middle, everyone said, "I don't understand what's going on!" (The children were also generally pretty tired and antsy today, so I'm sure that played a part as well.)

One child also had a good laugh about Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones, envisioning zombies walking back to Jerusalem. During the Wondering, they voiced that their favorite thing about the prophets was that they came so close to God and God came so close to them that they understood what God wanted them to say or do. This led to a discussion about how prophets sometimes have to say things that other people don't want to hear. 

I like that this stories emphasizes that both little girls and little boys can grow up to be prophets. It also states that there are still prophets today. The last Wondering question is, "Do you think we have all the prophets we need?" One of the children today thought that we needed more of them. 

In our Response Time, one little girl recreated the map she had seen and drew the exiles being led away from Jerusalem. She also unrolled the Jeremiah scroll and began copying the verse in it. She intended to write verses from the other scrolls, but we didn't have enough time. 

An older boy started drawing Zeus and Ares from Greek mythology. This is the sort of thing that would have caused me to freak out years ago. I would have thought, "Is he confusing the real God with the myths? Is the angry image of Zeus what he thinks God is really like?" But having been taught by my GP experience not to make assumptions about what a child might be thinking, I gently asked what he was drawing. He had been learning about the myths in school and said, "I am so glad that God gives us a choice whether to worship him or not." 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Art Project: Nativity in a Box

Advent Club at our school starts tomorrow, and here is a sneak preview of one of our art projects. I find that children love to explore the story of Christ's birth by making and playing with their own nativity sets, so I can up with this idea of a portable set that they can take with them wherever they want to play. 

For this project you will need:
- 6 wooden peg figures of any size (mine are 3 1/2 cm - really small!)
- a box that they will all fit into
- felt scraps
- glue & scissors
- paint (I used blue and gold) & paintbrushes
- a sharpie or permanent marker (for drawing the faces)
- nature material (acorn caps, bark, pods, twigs or whatever you happen to have on hand)
- paper scraps for the star
- half of a walnut or almond shell
- a tiny bit of beeswax (for Baby Jesus' head)

Here are the plain peg dolls and cardboard box:

First, I glued strips of felt onto the peg figures and trimmed the bottoms to fit the figures.

Then, I drew eyes and hair on the figures as well as a beard for Joseph. I glued acorn caps onto the 3 Wise Men, and felt shawls onto Mary and the shepherd. I then glued a tiny bit of string onto the shepherd's headwear. I also attached a small twig for his shepherd's staff using glue (seen in the picture above).

Next, I painted the box blue on the inside to represent the sky, and the lid of the box gold. 

To make the stable I glued pieces of bark onto the bottom of the box. The "roof" is actually not glued - it is two pieces of bark that I glued together and lodged into the sides. I also cut a Star of Bethlehem out of gold paper and attached it above the stable.

Baby Jesus is made from a small piece of white felt and a ball of beeswax glued into a walnut shell. Half of an almond shell works just as well for the manger. 

The finishing touch was a Christmas star that I glued onto the lid of the box.

To avoid this project simply being a copied craft, I would give the children options to make it more open-ended by:

1) providing more colors of felt than shown in the picture
2) letting them put their own decoration on the lid
3) encouraging them to use whatever nature materials they want to decorate the inside of the box 
4) encourage them to think of a way to make an animal to go in their box out of paper or the nature materials.

They can put any scene that they want inside and certainly don't have to make a stable if they don't want to!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Why can't you find Godly Play stories on the internet?

People ask me a lot if they can download the Godly Play stories, or if they can take the Core Training on-line. That's a reasonable question, because you can find or learn most anything on-line these days. But the only story that you will find on the net is the Parable of the Good Shepherd. And while there are a few You Tube demonstrational videos of stories out there, it is not possible to be certified as a storyteller on-line. 

Why? Well, here are a few reasons . . . 

1. Godly Play is an art form as well as religious education, and it is best learned from someone live and in person. Because GP started as a grass-roots movement in the States, the only quality-control out there is good training. The best way to begin is to get a book and start experimenting. Then, find a Core Training to attend on one of the Godly Play websites. 

2. We invest time and money into the things we value. Godly Play is less likely to be a fad that we throw aside when something new comes along if we have spent the money to buy the books and actually read them. Attending a training requires financial sacrifices and possibly taking time off from work as well, so it is not something that you just do on the fly.: )

3. Safety reasons. In order to safeguard children, Godly Play wants to know the people who are being certified as storytellers. We wouldn't want someone with dubious intentions to use Godly Play for their own purposes to the detriment of children. (I know of at least one case in Europe where a person attended a training and the trainers had serious concerns that the person should not be working with children. The trainers then got in touch with the local church that the person was from and shared their observations.)

This is not an exhaustive (or official) list of reasons, but just a few off the top of my head. Feel free to add more in the comments if you think of something!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Advent is coming!

Advent is just around the corner, so I'd like to share some ideas from the past couple of years with you.

The top of my list is the Godly Play Advent story. You can tell it in one setting or split it up into 5 parts.  For children under 5 years of age, I would definitely tell it in more than one sitting. Also, if you don't have time to learn a long story, telling it this way avoids stress. The English version is in  Godly Play Vol.3: 20 Core Presentations for Winter and the German one is in Godly Play 03: Gleichnisse und Weihnachtszeit.

There is also the enrichment story, "The Mystery of Christmas" about some of the lesser told parts of the Christmas story this year as well.  It features Giotto paintings and can be found in both of the above mentioned books as well. This story is better suited to children 5 and up.

A fun family tradition is our Nature Advent Calendar

If you are looking for art projects, there is the Nature Nativity

Stacking Christmas Trees for the little ones

and, if it's cold enough,  Ice Ornaments.

And if that's not enough ideas for you, please check out the Advent Link-Up party from last year:

Sunday, November 17, 2013

How to hold the People of God figures

It's the subtle things in Godly Play that bring emotion and artistry into the story. One small thing that makes a difference is how we hold the People of God figures when telling the Sacred Stories. Beginners  often grab the figures by the head to move them through the desert. (I did this for a long time as well and there are probably embarrassing videos of me out there telling stories with the 'head-grip'.) Unfortunately, this can give the non-verbal impression that God is a puppeteer who drags us along. Holding the figures in a more respectful way communicates something altogether different. 

Holding onto the arms or somewhere below the shoulders is a good way to do it. Sometimes, it requires more jostling to move the figures in the right direction, but it is more graceful in the long run.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

In the spirit of St. Martin and upcoming Advent . . .

My on-line friend, Caro at Naturkinder, posted yesterday that her family is making a donation to an organization that is helping provide relief for the victims of the typhoon in the Philipines. She remarks that this is what St. Martin's Day is all about: sharing what we have with those in need. And even if we don't think that we have a lot, it all adds up. 

I thought it was such a great idea that I have proposed this to my family as well. We'd like to give as a part of observing Advent, especially since much of the media attention will have dwindled by then, but resources will still be needed.

Here are some links to disaster-relief funds if you would like to share your resources as well:

World Food Programme

Salvation Army

Philipine Red Cross

And if you're in Germany, here are the links from Caro:

SOS Kinderdörfer
Konto 2222200000
GLS Bank
BLZ 43060967
Verwendungszweck "Nothilfe Philippinen"
Konto 300 000
Bank für Sozialwirtschaft
BLZ 370 205 00
Stichwort "Taifun"
Caritas international
Konto 202
Bank für Sozialwirtschaft Karlsruhe
BLZ 660 205 00
Stichwort: "Nothilfe Taifun"
Deutsches Rotes Kreuz (DRK)
Konto 414141
Bank für Sozialwirtschaft
BLZ 370 205 00

Thanks, Caro, for the wonderful idea!!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Deutsches Historisches Museum (German History Museum)

A few weekends ago on a rainy Saturday, we spontaneously decided to go to the German History Museum here in Berlin. Although we have lived here for ages, we had somehow never made it there. Much to our surprise there was a festival going on that weekend.

And we got to play dress-up - something you never get too old for . . . 

Never mind that all of our costumes are from different time periods . . . 

The collection of knights and medieval artifacts paint a vivid picture of what life is Germany was really like at that time. It definitely rivals the exhibition at the Tower of London, and may even be better!

We were lucky enough to take part in a children's tour about the knights and their times. 

I even learned a few things from Laura, our amazing tour guide. For instance, there is a saying in German, "Du hast Schwein gehabt!" - "You've just got a pig!" - which means you had good luck. I've always wondered why in the world pigs meant good luck in the German-speaking world, whereas it means anything but in the English-speaking world. Well, the answer lies in the medieval knights' tournaments. The knight in very last place would receive a pig as a consolation prize, which meant that he and his family would have something to eat in the winter. Who knew? 

After the tour, each child got to hold a real knight's sword and feel how heavy it was. 

And after the tour, my oldest sat drawing the knights and taking it all in. 

If you're ever in Berlin, don't miss this museum! In German and English, it's a great place for the whole family.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Martinsbrötchen (St. Martin's Rolls)

Every November 11 (and a few days before and after) in Berlin, you see scores of children with beautiful hand-made lanterns parading around in the darkness singing songs about St. Martin of Tours. (If you are unfamiliar with St. Martin's story, see here.) It's a simple holiday celebrating kindness that takes place right after the autumn days begin to grow shorter.

There are many traditions surrounding St. Martin's Day, but one of my favorites are the Martinsbrötchen (St. Martin's rolls). These are sweet rolls that you break in half and share with a friend in remembrance of Martin sharing his cloak with the poor, freezing man. 

We baked some for the first time this year using this recipe. The ingredient that makes it taste so good is a very thick type of sour cream called "Quark". If you don't have quark on hand, you could probably substitute creme fraiche. 

Although my son is too old for the lanterns and parades, he still was excited about making the sweet rolls, as was my daughter. She and I then took them to the Martin's parade to share with friends. 

Many blessings to you and your family on this special day!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Godly Play: The Ten Best Ways to Live

This autumn, I have been telling all of the core Old Testament stories and adding a few enrichment stories at our Sunday brunches. Today we heard "The Ten Best Ways to Live", the Godly Play story about the 10 Commandments, one of the core stories. Im Herbst habe ich beim "Brunch mit Wort zum Sonntag" all die Kerngeschichten vom Alten Testament mit ein paar Vertiefungsgeschichten erzählt. Heute haben wir "Die zehn besten Wege zum Leben", eine Kerngeschichte in Godly Play über die 10 Gebote, gehört.

In case you are not familiar with the materials, they include the desert bag, wooden People of God figures, Mount Sinai and a heart-shaped box containing the 10 best ways and Jesus' summary of them in the New Testament (all pictured above). Das Material für die Geschichte besteht aus dem Wüstensack, Volk-Gottes Figuren aus Holz, den Berg Sinai, und einem herzformigen Schachtel mit den zehn besten Wegen und Jesu Zusammenfassung drin (siehe Foto oben).

They say that a child needs to hear a core story at least three times in order to begin to truly understand it. Each child today had heard this story 2-4 times, and I noticed a marked difference in their responses. There are also two versions of the story, a short one and a longer one. This was the first time that any of them had heard the longer version. Man sagt, dass ein Kind eine Kerngeschichte 3 Mal hören müsste um sie wirklich verstehen zu können. Jedes anwesende Kind beim Brunch hatte sie schon 2-4 mal erlebt und ich sah eine definitive Vertiefung in der Kreativphase. Es gibt auch 2 Variante von der Geschichte - eine kurze und eine längere - und ich habe heute zum ersten mal die längere Version erzählt.

As one of the options for the Response Time, I made blank booklets with the words from the story "Love God, Love People, God loves us" on the cover. I told the children that they could draw or write about one of the 10 best ways that they liked best or found particularly important on this particular day. I was delighted when a second grader took one and wrote two full pages with pictures about several of the commandments. Eins von den Möglichkeiten in der Kreativphase war eine leere Heft mit den Worten "Liebe Gott, Liebe die Menschen, Gott liebt uns" darauf. Da könnten die Kinder etwas schreiben oder malen zu einem Weg, der für sie besonders wichtig war. Eine 2.Klässlerin nahm die Heft sofort und schrieb 2 ganze Seiten und fügte Bilder hinzu.

We talk a lot in Godly Play about how children have profound theological moments in their play and one of these moments happened today. A girl in the fourth grade chose to play with the 10 Best Ways during the Response Time. She re-enacted the story and then diverged into her own imaginative play. She mentioned that the people of God were cold in the desert, because it was nighttime. Then she turned over Mount Sinai and placed the figures inside, "because God wants them to be warm." Wir reden viel in Godly Play-Kreisen darüber, wie Kinder manchmal auf tiefsinnige theologische Gedanken während des Spiels kommen. Heute gab es so einen Moment. Eine 4.Klässlerin nahm den Wüstensack und die heutige Geschichte und fing an sie nachzuspielen. Danach, wo sie in die eigene Geschichte ging, sagte sie, dass es dem Volk Gottes nachts in der Wüste kalt war. Dann drehte sie den Berg Sinai um und steckte die Menschen drin, "weil Gott möchte, dass es ihnen warm wird".

Then she took the part of the heart that says, "God loves us", and placed it very intentionally over the people in the "cave" and added, "God's love keeps us safe". What a powerful picture of God's love and care! Dann nahm sie den Holzteil mit "Gott liebt uns" darauf und bedeckte die Menschen in dem Berg bewusst damit. Dann sagte sie, "Gottes Liebe schützt uns". Was für ein beindruckendes Bild von Gottes Geborgenheit! 

Here's a closer look at my "shelves" and "classroom" and what's in it. Hier ist noch ein Blick von unseren "Regalen" im Godly Play "Raum" und was da steht.

Because my classroom is also my kitchen, I integrated my nature table into the Response Time activities. Here the children could make a work of art out of nature materials. Da mein Godly Play "Raum" bei den Brunches auch meine Küche ist, kann ich den Jahreszeittisch in der Kreativphase intergrieren. Die Kinder konnten ein Kunstwerk vom Naturmaterial machen.

In addition to the story shelves, our art materials included watercolor crayons, markers, colored pencils, the 10 Best Ways booklets, and wool for making wool pictures. Neben den Geschichten gab es auch Kunstmaterial zur Verfügung: Wasser vermalbare Wachsstifte, Filzstifte, Buntstifte, die "10 besten Wege" Heft, und Wolle für Wollebilder auf Jutstoff. 

It was a most lovely and  rewarding Sunday. Hope yours was, too! Es war ein sehr schöner und reicher Sonntag! Ich hoffe, deins war auch so toll!

Linked to Montessori Monday at Living Montessori Now

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Sketchy Sunday + New Drawing Inspiration

We're back at Sketchy Sunday this week, a bi-weekly sketching challenge from the Artsy Ants

We're a couple of weeks behind, so I'm just now posting the previous theme of "Sit".

My 7-year-old daughter joined in with this drawing inspired by one of the "American Girl" books that we have been reading.

This week's theme is "See". Babies are hard to draw, because their proportions are so different, but I'm getting better at it. : )

On another note, I've been working through Drawing the Head and Figure by Jack Hamm. Hamm was a cartoonist and graphic artist in the 1950's and 60's, so many of his models look like old MGM screen stars, but the technical advice is incredible. I later found out that he also studied theology at my alma mater, Baylor University.

I've spent a lot of time practicing facial features, as you can see.

And I have been playing with Zentangles as well. A very fun and meditative way to relax after a long day. I did this one using a template from Erin at The Bright Owl.

If you've been creative this week, leave a link in the comments or join us at the Artsy Ants!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Looking for the "play" in the story

When I first began telling Godly Play stories, I would often tell them too "straight". What I mean is that I would be so focused on the text and the deeper meaning in the story that I would accidentally leave the "play" out of Godly Play.

Over the years, I've learned from my German colleagues to always ask myself, "Where are the playful spots in this story?" Sometimes the script helps with this, but not always, so it is a good question to ask.

Take the Exodus story, for instance, that I told on Sunday. Children starving in a famine, slavery, the first-born sons of the Egyptians dying . . . hard to get more intense than that. But there is a point in the story, where the people of God are crossing through the open waters of the Red Sea, that the storyteller can be really playful in how he/she helps the wooden figures cross over to the other side. One figure can be really hesitant and then run like crazy across. Another can dance across. The next figure can look to the right, and then to the left and then behind and then hightail it to the other side. One can do cartwheels across. There are endless ways to get the 9 wooden figures across that will make everyone laugh, and bring a bit of lightness to an otherwise serious story. And most likely this play reflects the reality of the diversity of emotions which the real people in the story probably felt.

In almost every story, there are playful parts, so here are a few to give you some ideas:

  • In the parables, you can ham it up by actually acting out what the people think the felt underlays might be, i.e. pretending to eat the brown felt that looks like a chocolate bar or putting on the "shawl" that the green underlay looks like 
  • In "The Great Family" when Abraham and Sarah laugh at the idea of God giving them a son, you can have a real belly-laugh and use a particularly funny wooden figure for Isaac, whose name means "laughter"
  • You can even have some fun in the liturgical stories, like in "Circle of the Church Year" where the storyteller yells "Ouch, that's hot!" when touching the red block for Pentecost. The kids will either be astonished or crack up, but you can be sure they'll do the same thing every time they see the red block on the church calendar.
So if you are practicing a story and are not sure how to make it more playful, just keep "toying with it" until you find the playful spot.: )

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Godly Play with Seniors Part 2

Last week I shared with you that I was invited to do a Godly Play church service at a local Senior Center and posted some pictures of the special materials that I was making for it. The actual service was today and went well. I told the Parable of the Good Shepherd. 

Many things about this Godly Play session were different. First of all, the story and subsequent Wondering were in the context of a Lutheran liturgy and took the place of the "sermon". There was no Response Time, because it would be so foreign to the residents and require a lot more staff than the Center has on hand on Sundays. 

Secondly, we had to make quite a few logistical adjustments for the seniors the themselves. I told the story standing behind a table with larger-than-normal figures to compensate for failing eyesight. Next, a microphone was required, since many of the residents are also hard of hearing.  My husband saved the day there, finding a lapel mic for me to use. Otherwise, I would have had to hold a mic in one hand and somehow move the figures as well!

In a setting where everyone has good eyesight, the storyteller pulls each figure from the box and slowly shows it to the circle from left to right.  But although the residents sat in a semi-circle around the table and the parable figures were larger, the ergotherapist, Dörthe (who co-led the service with me), advised me to actually walk around the circle with each figure in order to give everyone a closer look. As you can imagine, this slowed the pace of the Parable down to give it an even more meditative feel. 

This turned out to be just what the residents needed, since several of them are in the later stages of dementia. Dörthe and the nurse on-duty both told me afterwards told me that everyone seemed attentive and fully there with the story. 

During the Wondering, there were few verbal expressions, but I could tell that there was some silent contemplation going on. However, when I asked if anyone had ever been lost before, one woman spoke of friends and relatives that were lost in World War II. Most of the residents were children during WWII and had their childhood stolen from them due to war. And many ended up in Berlin, because they lived in parts of Germany that were given to Poland and the Czech Republic after the war ended. As a result, their generation often finds it difficult to answer quickly. I will be curious to see if they express themselves more verbally after they have experienced Godly Play a few times. 

One of the enlarged figures.

During a feedback round afterwards with the staff, we realized that the table had been to high for everyone to have a good view. We decided that next time, we will either tell the story with me sitting on the floor or leave the table unfolded and stack two layers of tables on top of one another. This would creating a shelf that is lower than the unfolded table, but higher than the floor.

We are planning another Godly Play service for February and will probably tell the Parable of the Great Pearl. Dörthe thinks that this parable could be especially meaningful to the Seniors, since many of them have given up everything and wonder what they have received in return. 

If you have any thoughts or experiences doing Godly Play with Seniors, please share them in the comments!