Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Progressive Educational Roots of Godly Play: Montessori, Cavalletti, Berryman

One thing that Godly Play Germany excels at is providing continuing education for its teachers. Last week, I attended our annual Germany-wide Networking Day in Hildesheim, Germany where our theme was "The Progressive Educational Roots of Godly Play: Montessori, Cavalleti and Berryman". Here we compared and contrasted Godly Play with the basics of Montessori education and the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, from which Godly Play developed. We asked ourselves how these traditions influenced Godly Play and what inspiration we can gain from both to further our Godly Play practice. Guest speakers included experts from each of the three traditions. 

The 1000-year-old St. Michael's  Church and Monastery in Hildesheim, Germany where our conference took place.
The absolute highlight for me was getting to experience lessons from Catechesis of the Good Shepherd firsthand. Benedikta Wunder and Deborah Presser-Velder, who head the German arm of CoGS (Katechese des Guten Hirtens), came to set up an atrium for us and present lessons. Although I have learned much from my on-line friends, Cheryl, Leslie and Storyteller, about CoGS, I still was unclear on how everything worked logistically in an atrium. (I don't have any pictures for you, because the two ladies asked us respectfully not to post pictures of the CoGS materials on the internet.) 

I was struck by how present the Bible is in the CoGS lessons, and also by the more direct teaching style. In Godly Play, we speak of the Bible, but it is not often presented or seen in the presentations. 

It was also interesting to see the emphasis on biblical geography in CoGS. Cavaletti believed that the person of Jesus should be rooted in geography in history, so that the children learn to distinguish Jesus from other figures in fairy tales or myths. A very smart idea indeed. 

In another highly interesting workshop, we got to experience the three traditions in "trialogue", that is a Montessori Practical Life presentation, the Parable of the Great Pearl from CoGS, and the Parable of the Great Pearl from GP were all presented one after another. (Although the Montessori tradition has "cosmic stories", the text of which has strong similarities with the GP creation story, these are rarely told in Germany.) We were then able to immediately see similarities and differences. 

All three traditions have these concepts in common (not an exhaustive list): respect for the child, periods of deep concentration, meaningful work, mentoring / accompanying the child, helping the child to help him/herself, presentations, freedom of movement and choice. 

Montessori did not have time to specifically develop a concept for religious education, so this was left to her followers, of whom Sophia Cavalletti and Jerome Berryman are the third and fourth generation. 

CoGS and Godly Play also have much in common. The curriculum is very similar, and the parable materials are both 2-D, although the CoGS figures are upright rather than laying down as in GP. Both are tactile and use creativity as a means of expressing spiritual thoughts.

Where the two differ (again, not an exhaustive list):
- Whereas CoGS is faithful to the idea of meaningful work for the children (Montessori argued that the children's work was their play) , GP takes that one step further and emphasizes imaginative play as a means to discovering God
- The Bible is much more present in CoGS lesson. Children are quoted scripture and the physical Bible is seen in the lessons.
- Biblical geography is taught directly in CoGS, whereas it is indirect in GP.
- Children have more choices to express creativity in a GP room with a wider range of artistic supplies. 
- CoGS lessons are often presented to smaller groups of children, whereas the entire group hears a presentation in GP. 
- GP lessons are based on scripts, whereas CoGS Catechists write their own albums. (I was told that these are looked over by a trainer, though, to make sure they are theologically correct.)
- CoGS requires 2 weeks of intensive daily training for each atrium level. The GP Core Training courses last 3-4 days, depending on the country in which the training takes place. 
- Singing is incorporated into the CoGS lessons, whereas music is much-debated theme in GP.

At the end of the conference, I had an even deeper respect for Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and was challenged to take some of its principles with me in order to enrich my GP practice. And I was convinced more than ever that Montessori principles are for every child. 

What an amazing thing that these three groups could come together at a conference without any sense of competition and learn from one another! I will be pondering the things I observed and experienced here for some time to come.

For more history on how GP developed, see Jerome Berryman's book, The Spiritual Guidance of Children: Montessori, Godly Play and the Future.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Easter Club 2014 Week 1/ Oster AG Woche 1

Am 17.3 fing die OsterAG 2014 mit 15 SchülerInnen aus der lokalen Grundschule an. In dieser AG verwenden wir die Prinzipien und Strukur der Religionspädagogik namens Godly Play. Das Ziel der Montessori-orientierter Pädagogik ist  - nach dem Motto "Hilf mir selbst zu tun"  - Kindern zu ermöglichen selbst ihre Spiritualität in der christlichen Tradition und eine Sprache dafür zu entwickeln.  On March 17, we kicked off this year's Easter Club with 15 children from our local elementary school. If you are new to this blog, we incorporate the principles and structure of Godly Play, a Montessori-based concept of Christian education for children. In Godly Play, we "help children to help themselves" in discovering a relationship with God and developing a language to express spiritual experiences and thoughts. 

Die gemeinsame Zeit fing mit einer Geschichte an. "Das Geheimnis von Ostern" erzählt, warum man Zeit braucht um sich an so groß ein Geheimnis wie Ostern zu nähern. We began our time together with a story called "The Mystery of Easter", which helps children understand why there are six weeks of preparation before Easter.

Unten habe ich eine Tüte mit der liturgischen Farbe, und drin gibt es Puzzleteile. Die Kinder helfen mir herauszufinden, was das mag sein. (Warum ich die Hand über meinen Mund habe, keine Ahnung . . . !) Here I have a bag with the liturgical color of the season, and in it are puzzle pieces. The children are helping me figure out what these strangely shaped pieces could be. (Why I have my hand over my mouth, I have no idea . . . !)

Ah, es ist ein Kreuz. Aus 6 Puzzleteilen. Ein Teil für jede Woche. Das sind mehr Wochen als beim Advent. Vielleicht ist Ostern noch ein größeres Geheimnis als Weihnachten? Ah, it's a cross. A cross with six pieces. A puzzle piece for each week. That's more weeks of preparation than for Christmas. Maybe Easter is an even bigger mystery than Christmas?

Schaut, das Kreuz ist zweifarben. Lila ist eine ernste, etwa traurige Farbe. Und weiss ist die Farbe der purer Freude. Vielleicht ist das so, weil Ostern beides hat: eine traurige Seite und eine andere Seite voll mit Freude.  Look, the cross has two colors. Purple is a serious, even sad color. And white is the color of joy. Maybe that's because Easter has both a serious, sad side to it, but also one of pure joy. 

Kinder finden diese Geschichte toll, einmal wegen der geheimvolle Puzzleteile, und auch weil sie erzählt, was sie schon intuitiv über Ostern spüren. Es gibt eine tragische Seite in Jesu Kreuzigung, aber die Auferstehung stellt alles auf den Kopf und bringt Freude.  The kids always love this story, because of the mysterious puzzle pieces, and because it articulates what many of them sense in Easter already. There is a profoundly tragic side of Easter in Jesus' crucifixion, but the resurrection turns everything on its head and fills us with joy. 

Nach der Geschichte wurden die Kinder zu einer Kreativphase eingeladen. Hier konnten sie Aktivitäten aussuchen, die ihnen helfen ihre Gedanken weiter zu verarbeiten. Obwohl ihre Kunstwerk mag nicht mit dem ersten Blick "geistlich" aussehen, drücken Kinder ihre Erfahrungen mit Gott anders als Erwachsene aus. After the story, the children are invited to a Response Time in which they are able to choose activities that help them make meaning out the words they have heard or out of some other spiritual experience that they have had. Their creations may not appear "spiritual" to us at the first glance, but children process their experiences differently than adults do. 

Hier erzählte und illustrierte ein Kind die eigene Geschichte mit Wasser vermalbare Stifte. Here a child illustrates and tells his own story at a table with water soluble crayons. 

Diese Kinder malten Steine mit permanenten Filzstiften. These children are decorating rocks with permanent markers. 

An diesem Tisch bastelten die Kinder Ostergrußkarten. Es gab auch eine Tabelle mit historischen christlichen Symbolen und ihre Bedeutungen, falls die Kinder sie in ihren Designs einbeziehen wollten. At this table, the children are making Easter cards. I made a table with historical Christian symbols and what they mean, in case the children wanted to ponder some of these symbols.

Bei dieser Station konnten die Kinder ein Modell von Jerusalem mit Bauklötzen bauen. Es gab eine Karte dazu mit der aüßeren Mauer der Stadt und den unterschiedlichen Orten, wo Jesus in der Passionswoche anwesend war. Here the children could build a model of Jerusalem with wooden blocks. We provided them with a map that also has the various places that Jesus visited during his last week. 

Eine Jesus-Figur und Ostereier waren auch mit dabei. Jedes Ei hatte eine Nummer darauf, die zu einem Ort auf der Landkarte passte. Und in jedem Ei gab es noch einen kleinen Gegenstand, der etwas vom Ort and Jesu erzählte. Damit konnten die Kinder die Passionswoche selber entdecken. A figure of Jesus and Easter eggs were also provided. A number on each egg corresponded to a place on the map. Inside the egg was a small object that told something about that place. For example, a chalice was inside the egg that corresponded to the Upper Room where the Last Supper took place.

Und letztens haben wir Papierblumen gebastelt um Gottes Schöpfung im Frühling zu feiern. Die Blumen werden wir an einem Zweig kleben, damit man die fertige "Strauß" in eine Vase stellen kann. And finally to celebrate God's renewal of creation each spring, we starting making paper flowers to glue onto a branch. You can see my sample in the middle of the table in a vase. 

Der erste Schritt war das Papier zu bemalen, um nächste Woche die Blumen zu basteln. The first step was to make our own paper, from which to sculpt the flowers. 

Es war eine wunderschöne Art zum Osterfest vorzubereiten! Woche 2 kommt bald! 
It was a wonderful way to prepare for Easter! 
Stay tuned for Week 2!

See here for:
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Gift of Childhood

 “The passage from nothing to the complex body of the fully grown individual is one of the constant miracles of life. If we are not struck by the greatness of this miracle, it can only be for one reason, that it occurs so often under our eyes in the experience of everyday life.” (J.S. Huxley, The Stream of Life, 1926) 

In the quote above, Huxley comments on the creation of a baby in utero and his/her subsequent childhood and development into an adult. I immediately thought of the  Godly Play Creation story where the storyteller begins by asking the listeners about the greatest gift they have ever received. The story then unfolds by explaining that some gifts are so big and so amazing that we hardly recognize them as gifts anymore. The sun, the stars, dry land, the ocean, etc. are all larger-than-life gifts that we take for granted.

When I read this quote on Montessori Teacher Training,  I was  struck by the similarity in thought. The fact that a baby develops into a toddler, then into a child, followed by a teenager, and finally into a full-grown individual, is indeed nothing short of a miracle. But because we see it everyday, we tend to forget how truly remarkable this process is. 

Let's take a step back on this Lenten day and think about our own childhoods, recalling both the pleasure and the pain, and the gift of the children who are now in our lives. Let's thank God for the gift of childhood and be dazzled by the Maker's creative process in the children around us.

Friday, March 14, 2014

In our sketchbooks . . .

Almost everyone in our family has been sick with the flu this week. To entertain ourselves, we've made a lot of art.

My 10-year-old has been reading the Harry Potter books and sketched this collage after finishing up The Order of the Phoenix:

He draws collages quite often and did another that Marvel fans out there will recognize.: )

My daughter loves to paint and experimented with printmaking after getting some ideas in an art book. 

This is the printing block that she made out of string, which is an artistic work in its own right.

She also branched out to chalk pastels. I love the vibrant color and subtle shading in this picture.

As for me, I have been looking for ways to artistically explore Lent. The mythological bird, the phoenix, that rises out of its own ashes, was a symbol that early Christians often used for the death and resurrection of Christ. I find it useful in contemplating how beauty can rise above and arise out of  something that is otherwise incomprehensible. 

This month's Sketchbook Challenge is to sketch with warm or cool colors, so I chose a warm palette for  two of these sketches. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Model of Jerusalem with wooden blocks

Several years ago, I read on Living Montessori Now about how Deb had her children in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd build a model of Jerusalem with wooden blocks. I've always wanted to try this idea, but never quite got around to it. In planning the Easter Club this year, I decided to finally buckle down and make the materials in German to do it. 

In Easter Club, I always try to have stations where the children can discover parts of the Easter story on their own. I also like to find new ways to use materials that I already have, so I combined the idea of building Jerusalem with Resurrection Eggs to tell the events of Jesus' last week, death and resurrection. 

The children are given a map of Jerusalem with numbered places such as the Temple, the Garden of Gethsemane, etc. An instruction sheet tells them to build the outer wall of the city first. 

Then, there is a basket with Easter eggs. Each egg has a number on it that corresponds to a place on the map of Jerusalem. Inside the egg is a slip of paper and a small object that explains what happened at that corresponding place on the map. The children are instructed to lay the object at that place. There is also a wooden Jesus figure to move from place to place. 

For example, location #1 is the Temple where Jesus taught daily in the few days before the Last Supper. The object inside the egg is a wooden incense altar from the Temple.

A set of praying hands go by the Garden of Gethsemane along with some trees.

A communion chalice goes by the Upper Room where the Last Supper was celebrated, and silver coins by the House of Caiaphas.

When everything is laid out, the set-up looks like this:

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Side-by-side: Jonah & Jesus

This morning at our church's brunch, I tried something new for our Godly Play lesson with the children. I told two stories "side-by-side". You hear this term a lot in GP circles, but there isn't much literature on how to do it. I actually had to ask a colleague, Markus from Gott im Spiel, about how exactly to do it. 

Basically, you tell two stories, one after the other. Although you can do a separate Wondering time after each story, most of the time you do one Wondering session after both stories have been told. You ask the usual questions for whatever genre(s) you are dealing with, and then a special question: "Is there something in this story that can help us understand the other story better?"

The stories that I chose were "Jonah" from the official Godly Play "canon" and a story in Godly Play-style, "Jesus Calms the Storm", written by some religious educators in Germany, among them, the above-mentioned Markus.

"Jonah" and "Jesus Calms the Storm" side-by-side

I hit upon the idea to tell the two stories side-by-side, because the authors made this suggestion for older children in their liner notes. I had already been in limbo about what story to tell, since I will only see some of these children one time before Easter. And I didn't want to tell "The Mystery of Easter", because some of them will hear it in Easter Club next week. I love to tell Jonah before or during Lent, because it deals with the theme of repentance. But I also think hearing stories about the life of Jesus is important as well. The "side-by-side" option solved my dilemma.

End scene of "Jonah"

End scene of "Jesus Calms the Storm"
All the children present had heard the Godly Play version of "Jonah" at least once before, and some 2-3 times. And most of them were familiar with "Jesus Calms the Storm" from children's Bibles. There was only one child that I was not completely sure about, but everyone ended up completely engrossed in both stories. 

I chose to ask at the end of the first story, "What did you like best?" before beginning the second story. And then I repeated this question at the end of the second story. 

Then, I asked, "Is there something in 'Jonah' that helps us understand the second story better?" There, I was met mostly with confused stares - much different from silent wondering! An older child said, "Well, I can tell you how Jonah and Jesus are different . . . " and proceeded to talk about how Jonah wasn't exactly a "tip-top prophet" and how Jesus in contrast was obedient to God, the Father. 

Following this child's cue, we then discussed what the two stories had in common and then how they were different. This seemed to helped the others break down my previous question into smaller bite-sized chunks that was easier to talk about. 

As many of you know, children usually do not create art about stories that they have just heard, when given the choice. Most of the time, they return to a story that they have heard the week before or some time earlier. So, I was rather surprised when two of the children made artwork directly relating to the two stories I told today. One girl drew a picture of the ship carrying Jonah and the big fish that swallowed him. 

Another boy made the wool picture below of Jesus in the boat speaking to the wind and waves. 

All in all, the "side-by-side" storytelling was a good experience, and I will definitely do it again. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Creation Story with Seniors

On Friday, my daughter and I made our way to the Senior Center after I picked her up from school to share a Godly Play story with some of the residents. Many of you know that I have recently told Godly Play stories to these seniors as a part of a larger worship service. This marked my first time to share a story in a smaller group without enlarging the materials. I prepared the Creation story, because I thought it went well with the season here in Berlin transitioning to Berlin. I also thought the Seniors would be able to easily see the wooden boards with each day of creation on them.

I have wanted to try the smaller group setting from the beginning, but the staff at the Senior Center felt it better to try the stories out first as part of a worship service, because the Lutheran liturgy is familiar to them. The liturgy gave them a point of reference to try something new.

In the meantime, I've been blessed to correspond with Lois Howard, a Godly Play trainer in the States, who has worked with Alzheimer's patients for 25 years. Following her advice, I did something that is usually a no-no for GP storytellers: I looked the five ladies in the eye as I told the story. This made all the difference in the world! Lois explained that she learned this after having told a story and looking up to find everyone asleep.: )  The ladies were so engaged this time and really participated in the Wondering like never before.

The Creation story begins with the question, "What is the best gift that you have ever received?" I was struck that not one of the women mentioned "things". Instead, two of the women answered, "My children," right away. I realized that one of the gifts that Seniors give us is to gently remind us of the things that are most important in life. 

During the Wondering, the questions about which day you like the best or which one is the most important brought up some long forgotten memories. One woman said that the board with the animals reminded her of the turtles that her sons kept as pets when they were little. She proceeded to tell us about how turtles are faster than one would think and how they escaped and ran away one day. 

One lady was not able to speak very clearly, so I could not understand her German at all. The ergotherapist was fortunately there to help "translate" her words, so I could understand. She liked the day with the sun, moon and stars the best and added that human life would not be possible without the sun. 

The whole session lasted for over an hour until it was time for the residents to go to their evening meal. I had never seem them chat this long or this lively before, so I was excited. It also added a lovely dynamic having my 8-year-old there. There was both the wisdom of the very young and the very aged. A veritable feast of the mind and heart.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Some thoughts on fasting and children

Fasting during Lent can be a great way to make more room for God in our lives. I say "can be", because Lenten fasting can quickly become just another meaningless ritual or a rule that one has to follow. I confess that my first Lenten fast took place when I was in college, and I did it mainly to lose weight!!  So how do we teach our kids about fasting in a non-legalistic way? How do we follow the Montessori principle of "helping the child to help him/herself" in drawing closer to God and the great mystery of Easter?  

(Before I go further, I want to clarify what I mean by "fasting". Historical church traditions define this as abstaining from a particular foodstuff such as meat or butter, or eating one modest meal instead of three full ones on a particular fasting day such as Good Friday. Other modern interpretations include abstaining from an activity, such as Facebook or computer time. I am, however, most definitely NOT referring to the practice of abstaining from food altogether or only drinking water for one or more days. This is dangerous for a child's developing body and I would not recommend this under any circumstances. I would not even allow teenagers to do this, having seen how quickly fasting can enable eating disorders.)

First of all, I think Lenten fasting has to be modeled by the parents and mentors in the child's life. Those parents and mentors need to do it joyfully and willingly, but at the same time completely honest about how difficult it can be. Also, they need to understand why we fast in the first place. 

Secondly, children need to be able to make some decisions for themselves about what and if they want to fast from something. In our family, the first few years, we told our children that we, the parents, were fasting from meat and sugar. (My husband is from Texas, so fasting from meat is a huge sacrifice!) We allowed our children to eat whatever they wanted at breakfast and school. (Cultural note: In Berlin, many people eat open-faced sandwiches with sliced meat or cheese for breakfast. My son has an aversion to cold, sliced cheese, so banning meat from the breakfast table would have taken away his ability to choose.) In the evenings, I simply made vegetarian meals, but since we had always had the principle in place that we eat whatever Mom & Dad cook, there was never any question about it. 

As my son got older, he started voluntarily fasting and could articulate why he was doing this. Last year, he fasted from sugar during the week. This year, he came up with another idea involving limiting a favorite activity during Lent. My daughter, who is younger,  has not yet expressed an interest in fasting on her own. But in giving them choices and allowing them freedom to choose to fast or not to fast, we are  hopefully encouraging a life long spiritual practice that will not turn into an empty ritual. 

This year's fasting will also involve lots of prayer for the situation between Russia and the Ukraine! Please read Asmic's thoughts on this here

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

We're not Catholic, but . . . .

We're not Catholic, but each year on Ash Wednesday, our family walks up the hill and around the corner to the Catholic church in our neighborhood to attend their afternoon worship service for schoolchildren. Since becoming a spiritual mentor for children, I have come to realize how important rituals and symbols are to them. Having a cross drawn with ash on their foreheads signals to my children that a special time of year has begun. A time that has a very serious side to it, but one that potentially ends with great joy. 

Blessings on your Lenten journey, however you choose to begin it!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Sneak Preview: Another Parable

Here are some materials that I have been working on for a new parable in "Godly Play style". (Please note that this parable is not officially a Godly Play story and not a part of Jerome Berryman's original work.) The story was written by some Godly Play teachers here in Germany and I'll be testing it out in the Easter Club. 

Any guesses as to which 
parable it could be?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

29 Faces Art Challenge Face #29

As promised, here it is . . .  

Face #29
. . . from my 8-year-old daughter. I just love the shawl and brooch that she thought up herself!

And here are a few photo montages of all our work.

From my son (age 10):

And from my daughter:

and my work:

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Ideas for Lent 2014

It's hard to believe that the Lenten season is almost up on us! Discovering and celebrating Lent with my own children and the children in my care has been an unbelievably joyful experience. For those of you who might be new to my blog, here is a list of ideas for observing Lent and where to find them.

Godly Play stories
The two most widely told Lenten stories are "The Mystery of Easter" (here and here), "The Faces of Easter" (here and here), and Jesus and the 12, although you can certainly tell other GP stories as well. See the Easter club entries here to see how I have woven in the stories from other genres in years past. (If you are new to the blog, I can't publish the actual text to the stories. They can be found in Godly Play: Volume 4.)

Devotional Activities

Lenten Prayer Pots

Stations of the Cross with Children 

Identifying with the Poor

Resurrection Eggs Idea 1

Resurrection Eggs Idea 2

Montessori Stations of the Cross Cards

Art Projects

Easter Grass in the Shape of a Cross

Nature Table

Nature Table 2011

Nature Table 2012

Social Projects
Visit a Senior Citizens' Center - Many people only visit Seniors at Christmas, but Lent is an excellent time to do this. See what our Easter Club did in this post. 

Holy Week
Crown of Thorns Bread

And if you need even more ideas, here is a Lenten Link-Up from 2012.

Easter Club will start on March 17. We have some new stories and activities planned, so please stay tuned!

I'll also be posting soon on Eastertide ideas, since many of you are already looking ahead to that season as well!