Thursday, October 31, 2013

Godly Play with Seniors

My family has developed a relationship with a Senior Citizen's Home in our area through our work with Serve the City. On Sunday, I'll be sharing the Parable of the Good Shepherd with the residents as the "sermon" at their church service.

Although I have told GP stories in many settings, this will be my first experience with seniors. Jerome Berryman, the creator of Godly Play, says that his concept is for children from ages "3 to 99", and there are other storytellers who have used it with seniors on a regular basis.

The opportunity arose when I was talking to the Senior Home's ergotherapist about Susan Dyer's blog, The Moveable Alphabet, and how Susan's Montessori work with seniors in Alaska has fascinated me. I also saw a lot of parallels between the work I do with children and the Senior Home's work with their residents. Then, the ergotherapist asked me if I had ever heard of Godly Play . . . !

In planning out the service together, the ergotherapist helped me realize that I would have to adjust a few things for my audience. For one thing, many of the seniors have failing eyesight and my normal wood figures would be too small. So, I decided to photocopy and enlarge them, and then mount them on cardboard.

You can see the difference in the size of my cardboard figure on the left and the normal-sized wooden figure on the right.

I had to make sure they would still fit in the parable box, though!

Then, of course, I had to buy a giant-sized piece of felt for the underlay and then a larger lake, sheep stall and dangerous places. If you're wondering how I'll fit the giant underlay in the parable box, I won't  be able to. Because of the eyesight issues, I'll also be telling the story at a table. 

Another thing is that I will be wearing a lapel mic, since impaired hearing is also an issue with the residents. I'll have to remember not to breathe heavy during pauses in the story!

I'll be very interested to see what the seniors think and how they react to this unusual "sermon"!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Learning the story by heart

Last week, I was privileged to lead a Godly Play seminar for 25 teachers from St. Clara Catholic Church's three preschools in Neu-Kölln. We spent some time at the beginning talking about the theology and educational philosophy behind Godly Play. Then, I shared "The Great Family" with  a Response Time. 

Afterwards during a question and answer session, the parish priest asked if I had any tips for learning the texts of the stories. What a great question! I had never given much thought to it before, so his question prompted me to think more about it.

In Godly Play, we encourage the storytellers to learn the texts by heart. For one thing, it would be really difficult to move the figures around the felt or sand if you had to constantly look at a script to know where you are. Also, a very important part of the pedagogy is that the storyteller always has her focus on the materials. If she doesn't, then it breaks the concentration of the whole group. And lastly, the stories "flow" from a deeper emotional level within when we tell them from memory rather than from a piece of paper. 

So how do we learn them, especially the longer texts? I think there are many ways. It certainly helps if you have already read the stories in the Bible and are familiar with them. I tend to read through the entire script out loud once to get the big picture. Then, I learn smaller sections at a time. (Since I tell stories in three different languages, this method really helps me.) Also, the figures themselves provide visual prompts for me, so that I know which part of the text comes next. On the average, I have to practice a new story at least 3 times from start to finish, before I can tell it freely from memory. 

But once I have already told a story, it is much easier to prepare it the next time, even if it is 6 months or a whole year later. And once you've told a story several times, you can "wing it" if you have to. This I also discovered during the Response Time at St. Clara when several of the teachers wanted to hear the Parable of the Sower.: )  

Some of the preschool teachers' work in the Response Time.

What about you? How do you learn the texts for Godly Play stories?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Godly Play: Exodus

Looking through my archives, I was shocked that I'd never written about this story before. "Exodus" is one of the core stories in Godly Play that you tell year after year. Even in middle and  late childhood when many enrichment stories have been added, the children continue to hear this story.

The materials for "Exodus" include the desert bag (or box), two pieces of blue felt, people of God figures, and "Matzah-like" unleavened bread. (If you are Jewish and reading this, please forgive me for not having real Matzah in my basket!)

"Exodus" continues the theme of "hide-and-seek" found in the story of Abraham and Sarah. Where is God when his people are suffering as slaves in Egypt? 

The desert is also a character in its own right in these stories. Many important and even wonderful things happen there. But we don't choose to go there on our own. We only go through the desert when we have to. So the desert is both a physical place and an existential one. 

Gestures, like words, are used sparingly in Godly Play. Below is one of the most famous gestures in the Old Testament stories. 

"And God came so close to Moses, and Moses came so close to God, that he knew how to take the people through the water to freedom."

"Now all of the people were free on the other side. They were so happy they just had give to thanks to God, and Miriam led the dancing!"

One child drew the picture below with chalk pastels on sand paper during the Response Time. She explained that the people of God are coming through the waters at the bottom of the picture, and that Pharoah (the figure at the top) is pursuing them with his horses and chariot. It's so rare that a child draws something related to what they have just heard, that I had to share it. Obviously, she needed to think about it more. 

Linked to Montessori Monday at Living Montessori Now

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Learning to Fly: Core Training in Minsk

Some of you may remember that I attended a course last December to become an accredited Godly Play Trainer. I also wrote at the time that learning to be a trainer would be a process and a journey - just like everything else in life. (And yes, the title of this post is both a metaphor for this journey and an allusion to the Pink Floyd song!)

I got my feet wet a week and a half ago in Minsk, Belarus helping train 10 new storytellers from Minsk, Moscow and Central Asia. My colleague, Heidi from Wittenberg, and I co-led the training after months of preparation. Not only was this our first time to lead a training since becoming certified, but we had to do it all in Russian! That aspect made it more fun, but way more challenging as well. 

Core Trainings are really meant for people who have read the books, have a basic understanding of GP, and been practicing on their own for a while. In fact, in the UK and Germany, it is required to attend a "Taster Day" where you get introduced to the basics, before you can attend a core training. And one of the reasons that this training was so successful was that our dear friend, Helen Spencer, from Teach Beyond, had already laid a foundation with this group of women by having taught several workshops over the course of the last two years. And almost all of them have been using Godly Play regularly in their work with children. 

Heidi, my Co-Trainer, and I

Heidi and I arrived in Minsk in the evening, grabbed something quickly to eat, and started the training a half hour later! After a "getting acquainted" round, Heidi spoke about creating sacred space for children and the set-up of a Godly Play room. But a GP Core Training is not about sitting around and listening to lots of theory - it's very practical and hands-on. So as our first assignment for the ladies, we put all of the story materials in the middle of the floor and asked them to arrange them in the correct places in the room.

Here I am teaching on the elements of a Godly Play session using a visual aid that I learned from Rebecca Nye at my Trainers' Training.

In between the theory, Heidi, Helen and I presented stories from each genre. Here Helen presents the Parable of the Great Pearl. Nastya, who is sitting beside her and translating, organized the logistics of the training for us. 

Then, it was time for the participants to get to work! They each picked a story and then had about an hour to prepare. Afterward each presented her story to the larger group with a "Wondering" session at the end. 

Here Irena presents the Parable of the Good Shepherd. 

Sveta's presentation of the Baptism story was one of the most beautiful renderings of that story that I have ever seen!

This is Asmic from Amazing and Amusing presenting the "Circle of the Church Year". This is one of the hardest stories to do at a training, because the text is long and the wooden blocks can be awkward to handle the first time. But Asmic managed to tell the whole story by heart and with grace!

When Tanya got ready to prepare "The Holy Family", we realized that I had forgotten the wooden Risen Jesus/Cross in Germany! So we quickly improvised and made a 3-D one using paper and wooden corks. 

Tanya also did a great job with her story and we all got a lesson in preparing materials in the process!

There were gifts, storyteller certificates and many wonderful memories at the end! 

I will always remember this stop on my journey with Godly Play, and pray that God would bring long-lasting fruit in the lives of many children through our work! 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Off to Minsk!

Today, I'm flying to Minsk, Belarus to co-lead a Godly Play Core Training with Heidi, my colleague from Wittenberg! We will both be leading for the first time in Russian, so we would appreciate your thoughts and prayers.

We are very excited about connecting with the ladies there and supporting them on their Godly Play journey. I'll give you an update when I return!

All Saints' Orthodox Church in Minsk
Royalty Free Stock Photo courtesy of 123RF

Monday, October 14, 2013

More Autumn Fun: Leaves and Chestnuts

After gathering some leaves in the park, we just had to make crayon rubbings with them to explore the patterns.

This year, we experimented with baking parchment (Backpapier) as the foundation. We put the leaves underneath the paper with the vein side up and used Stockmar block beeswax crayons to make the rubbings. 

The crayon appears pastel-like on the parchment paper. 

Our refridgerator is now nicely decorated!

We have also been crocheting! After my daughter learned to finger crochet recently, it inspired me to pull out my crochet hooks. I found a great on-line pattern for acorns at Squirrel Picnic and made these guys below. (You may remember my acorn obsession!) 

Both kids also wanted to learn to crochet, so I have been teaching them as well. So far, they get really tired after about 10 minutes, so we'll see if they continue with it.: ) But at any rate, it is great for their fine motor skills and developing the ability to learn something new and follow instructions. 

I also made this acorn necklace below using the same pattern but with embroidery skein.

What kind of autumn activities have you been up to?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Saturday Shout Outs!

It's time for Saturday Shout Outs! again, in which I pass on some articles that got my attention this week. 

by Art of Education
This is an interesting article about getting students to observe before they start drawing - to draw what is really there and not just what they think they see. My favorite part is the use of the biology skeleton that most schools have hanging around somewhere.

Salz (Salt)
by Naturkinder
A science experiment leads to art. How cool is that?

How to make a Senet Board
by Adventures in Mommydom
This is a fun way to explore Ancient Egypt. Here Tisha reconstructs a board game with her children that the ancient Egyptians played.

Would Maria Montessori have approved? 
Technology for Montessori Teachers
by The Father Life
I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the ideas in this article, since I am definitely for limiting technology with children. But there are some interesting ideas here to ponder.

by Playfull Theology
Do we enter into the full story of the Old Testament or do we treat it like a cafeteria, picking and choosing? Or like a TV series where we can miss an episode or two? A question that concerns me for the children I teach, especially since we can't meet weekly to build continuity.

How about you? What caught your eye this week? Leave a link in the comments so we can all enjoy it.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Godly Play After-School Clubs

I recently gave a my blog a small make-over by adjusting the template widths so that I my pictures can be larger without bleeding into the side bar. When I first started this blog, I couldn't read any HTML and was fairly clueless about any of the technical things. It's been a fun journey discovering little by little the mechanics behind blogging.

You may have noticed that I also redid the header buttons to make it easier to find things. (Archiving is really important after you have been blogging a while, so that people can locate what you've written about.) If you click on the "After-School Clubs" button, you can find links to all of the Advent, Easter, and theme-based Godly Play clubs that we have put together since 2010. 

Maybe you will find some fresh inspiration here! 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Art Project: Peace Tree

Here is a step-by-step look at the Peace Tree project from our after-club club, "Me + You = We?", that focused on tolerance and peace-making from a biblical perspective. Hands and trees (specifically planting trees) have been symbols of peace for generations, so I chose to combine them in this project. Also, I love the suggestion that peace grows organically. 

This is also great project if you have limited time. Or if you want something that is less messy, since the watercolor pencils give the effect of paint without actually having liquid paints.

For this project you"ll need:

- large, thick white paper
- colored construction or collage papers
- hand patterns (Mine are made out of foam rubber.)
- watercolor pencils (I used Stabilo Woodies.)
- regular pencils
- paint brushes 
- water
- scissors
- glue

Step 1: Draw a tree with the watercolor pencils.

Step 2: "Paint" the lines of the watercolor pencils with brushes and clear water. This produces a light, airy effect.

Step 3: Trace and cut out hands in different colors using the collage papers.

Step 4: Glue the hands / collage pieces onto the tree. 

When making my example above, I purposely drew a very simple tree, so that the children would use their own ideas rather than simply copying mine.

Here are some of the results of the student work:

The two children who worked on this picture together drew symbols of the Trinity onto their tree.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Playful Parables

People often expect faith and religion to be heavy and serious. Sometimes it is, but you can always bring a sense of humor into it. (I personally believe that God laughs a whole lot more than we realize!) The parables are a great way to bring the "play" into Godly Play. 

The parables are a genre in Godly Play intended to ignite creativity and help us think out-of-the-box. There is a sort of Wondering at the beginning of each parable that provides lots of opportunities for play. The storyteller pulls something out of the box and invites the listeners to imagine what it could be. Then, the storyteller often acts out whatever the listener has named.

Here, during the Parable of the Good Samaritan, I took the brown underlay out of the golden box and asked what it could be. One child said, "A shawl!", so I put it around my head as a chorus of giggles broke out.

Then, I took out the two black felt pieces that represent the mountains that the robbers hide behind in the story and asked what they could be. One child said that they were the blinders that you put around a horse's eyes to prevent them from looking to the side, so I, of course, pretended to be a horse and put them up to my eyes. Again, many giggles. After all, who expects their teacher to do something that silly? It all reminds me to not take life so seriously and have a little fun along the way. 

This playfulness sets the stage for being open to the parables themselves and whatever God might want to speak to us about them at that moment in our lives. Although most of us grow up hearing a certain "interpretation" of each parable, there are many levels of interpretation and meaning. If this were not so, Jesus would have given an official "answer" to each one. Instead, he bids us to come and play, seek, and find. 

Doesn't that sound inviting?

Linked to Montessori Monday at Living Montessori Now

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Saturday Shout Outs!

It's time for Saturday Shout Outs again where we share things that have inspired us this week! 

Here are some posts that I just had to share with you: 

at Mini Matisse
I've become quite a fan of Zentangles lately, so I was thrilled to see this post about doing them with kids.

by Deb at Living Montessori Now
Deb always has beautiful ideas and this inspires me to try and come up with a way to use water beads as a Response Time option in Godly Play.

by Leslie at Thoughts from the Sheepfold
Flower arranging as a Response Time option? Absolutely brilliant! I am excited that the Atrium year at Leslie's church is up and running again.

by Storyteller at Wonderful in an Easter Kind of Way
Here Storyteller reminds us of one of the foundational principles of being with children.

What about you? What has inspired you this week?

Friday, October 4, 2013

"ich + du = wir?" Week 3

Bei den ersten 2 Wochen der SchülerAG, "ich + du = wir?", haben wir eine Menge besprochen: wie wir andere Menschen betrachten, wie Gott sie anschaut, was wir bei Konflikten tun können, und wer unser Nächste sein könnte.  Aber wir wollten nicht nur darüber reden. . . . Kinder lernen in dem sie etwas tun, und wir wollten zusammen schauen, ob all diese Worte wirklich Sinn hatten. In the first two weeks of the "Me + You = We?" after-school club, we spent time in conversation about how we view other people, how God views people, what we can do in conflict situations, and who is really our neighbor. But we didn't just want to talk about these things . . . Children learn by doing and we wanted to test our words and put them into action.

Meine Co-Lehrerin, Melinda, und ich kannten einen Kinderclub in einem anderen Stadtteil von Berlin. Der Kinderclub macht eine tolle Arbeit in der Nachbarschaft durch Nachhilfe und Freizeitangeboten. Und wir dachten, dass ein Ausflug zu diesem Stadtteil, um Kinder dort kennenzulernen, wäre wertvoll für unsere AG-Kinder. Melinda, my co-teacher, and I have a great relationship with a children's club in another part of Berlin that offers tutoring and free-time activities to children in the surrounding neighborhood. So we decided to take a field trip to this area of town to learn more about interacting with people who may be different from us.

Diese Nachbarschaft ist leider bekannt in Berlin als "Sozialbrennpunkt". Das haben wir unseren Kindern natürlich nicht erzählt, sondern haben wir einfach gesagt, dass wir Kinder in einem Ort kennenlernen möchten. Außerdem haben wir erzählt, dass die Eltern von vielen Kindern dort aus anderen Ländern kommen.  This part of Berlin is in an "at-risk" area of Berlin where there are more crime and social problems than in our area. We didn't tell our children this, of course, but we did tell them that many of the children's parents come from other countries besides Germany.

Als Vorbereitung haben wir zusammen überlegt, wie wir Interesse an die Kindern dort zeigen könnten und was wir gemeinsam spielen könnten. Die Kinder kamen auf die Idee Fragen zu stellen, z.B. "Wie alt bist du?" oder "In welcher Klasse bist du?" Dann haben wir uns vorgestellt, wie wir die neuen Kinder zu spielen einladen. On the way, we brainstormed with our children ways that they could interact and show interest in the other children. They came up with questions, such as "How old are you?" and "What grade are you in?" Then, we talked about inviting the other children to play in our games.

Nach dem Ankommen genossen wir alle ein Snack zusammen. Die Kinder vom Club schenkten unseren Kindern handgemachte Grußkarten mit dem Namen von jedem unserer Kinder darauf.  Langsam kamen mehr und mehr Kinder vom Club und unsere Kinder machten Platz für sie und luden sie zu Sitzen ein, ohne dass wir Erwachsene etwas vorschlagen müssten.  After we arrived, we had a snack together with the children from the club. The children from the club presented our kids with handmade cards addressed personally to each of our kids. Our children seemed really touched by this. As more children from the club trickled in, our kids made space in the circle (without being prompted) and invited the new children to sit with them.

Danach gingen wir zum Spielplatz und spielten mit einem großen Fallschirm, den ihr im Bild oben sehen könnt. (Ich habe keine anderen Fotos, weil wir aus Sicherheitsgründen gebeten wurden, keine Fotos von den Kindern dort ins Net zu stellen.) Den Fallschirm haben alle gemocht! Die Spiele mit dem Fallschirm gingen darum, was wir Gemeinsames hatten, z.B. "Alle, die 7 Jahre alt sind, tauscht die Plätze!", und Zusammenarbeit um den Ball herauszukippen.  Then, we went to the playground together and played some parachute games, which you can see in the picture above. (I don't have many other pictures, because we have been asked not to post pictures of the children's club on the internet.) This was a hit with everyone. We played games that highlighted things we had in common, such as "Everyone who is 7 years old, trade places!" And we played games where we had to work together to get a ball to work its way around the parachute or flip the ball outside the parachute.

Dann gab's freies Spiel mit Hula-Hoop-Reifen, Springseile und Zirkuszeug. Die 2 Gruppen vermischten sich gut miteinander. Wir haben schnell festgestellt, dass die Kinderclub-Kinder viel besser mit der Springseile waren, und sie haben uns ein neues Spiel, "Die Uhr schlägt 12", beigebracht. This was followed by a time of unstructured play with hula hoops, jump rope, and circus apparatus. The two groups mixed well together (again without being prompted to do so). We discovered that the children at the club were a lot better at jump rope than we were, and they taught us a new jump rope game.

Leider kam die Zeit uns mit den neuen Freunden zu verabschieden viel zu schnell. Ein nette Junge von unserer Gruppe hat Geschenke mitgebracht und verteilte sie an die Kinder dort. Ein bisschen traurig und voll von Eindrücken machten wir uns auf dem Weg nach Hause. When it came time to say good-bye, one thoughtful boy from our group had brought candy to give the other children as a gift. Sad to leave our new friends, we left to catch the train home.

In der S-Bahn machten wir eine kleine Auswertung. Ich fragte die Kinder, ob sie Unterschiede mit den Kindern dort bemerkt haben. Sie sagten, dass viele Kinder dort sprachen andere Sprachen zu Hause, z.B. arabisch, und dass ihre Haut etwa dunkler war. Dann fragte ich, ob es dann Ähnlichkeiten zwischen ihnen und den Kindern dort gab. Sie beantworteten, dass alle gern gespielt haben und alle haben deutsch gesprochen. Als ich fragte, was sie am besten fanden, sagte ein Mädchen, "Dass wir zusammen waren." Andere mochten den Fallschirm und das Essen. Als letztes habe ich gefragt, was wir weglassen hätten, aber trotzdem alles für einen schönen Nachmittag hätten. Die einzige Antwort war, dass wir "die lange S-Bahn Fahrt" lassen hätten! On the train, we talked about our time together. We asked our children if they noticed any differences between the children at the club and themselves. They noticed that many of the children spoke other languages like Arabic at home, and that some of the children had darker skin. Then, we asked what was similar between the two groups. They answered that they all liked to play and that everyone's common language was German. When asked what they liked most about the day, one child answered, "That we were all together." Others liked the parachute game and eating together the best. When asked, what we could have left out and still have had everything we needed for a great afternoon, the only thing mentioned was "the long train ride". : )

Es war ein perfekter Tag! Beide Gruppen von Kindern haben Brücken an diesem besonderen Tag gebaut, und ich hoffe, dass sie es nie vergessen werden. I have to say that I couldn't have imagined a more perfect day. Both groups of kids built bridges on this special day, and I hope that they never forget it!

Click here for Week 1
Click here for Week 2