QREC Conversation Circle Summary
QUAKER Curricula for ages 4 ‚Äì 9
September 18 and 20, 2018
- Melinda Wenner Bradley, West Chester MM, PhYM
- Anne Collins, Stillwater OK MM, SCYM
- Marjorie Isaacs, Community FM, Cincinnati, OVYM
Melinda Wenner Bradley
West Chester PA MM, PYM
Stillwater OK MM, SCYM
Buckingham MM, PhYM
Madison WI MM, NYM
Cambridge MM, NEYM
Schoodic ME MM, NEYM
Community Friends MM, OVYM
Clerk of FGC Publications, BYM
Cambridge MM, NEYM
Introduction: Ages 4 through 9 are crucial years for faith formation. Whether you are new or seasoned in Friends religious education, prepare to learn and share your questions, experience and inspiration in this conversation with authors of three valued Quaker religious education resources for this age group.
- How can we help children explore the experience of holy mystery and wonder?
- How can we share Friends faith and practice in a manner that speaks to children?
- How can we help children and families feel integral to the community of Friends?
Sparkling Still is a core Quaker curriculum for young children. Developed by an FGC working group, Anne Collins, Beth Collea, Sally Farneth, Susan Hopkins and Erika Mittag, it is a new approach to two previous editions of the Sparklers curriculum. Written with a busy new First Day School teacher in mind, Sparkling Still includes elements of teacher training and streamlines the lesson-planning process with a template and guidance.
Topics include sense of self, family and community, the natural world, the Bible and Quakerism, worship, celebrations, empowerment, and Quaker testimonies, as well as guidance on hard issues like grief, divorce, extreme weather, violence, and incarceration of family.
Anne led a tour of the FGC Sparkling Still website which offers a wealth of Quaker RE resources for pre-school and elementary age children such as:
- An extensive booklist, searchable in this online library of story books suitable for Sparkling Still lessons: https://www.fgcquaker.org/deepen/religious-education/sparkling-still/sparkling-still-librarything-collection
- A companion piece describes how to choose books for First Day School: http://fgcquaker.org/sites/default/files/attachments/Choosing%20Books%20for%20First%20Day%20School.pdf
Finding the Light in You: Bright Silent Worship with Young Friends. Author Marjorie Isaacs walked Friends through this handbook that uses guided imagery to bridge adult silent worship and child-sized conversations with the Inner Light of God. Available for purchase through Quaker Books: https://quakerbooks.org/collections/the-gift-of-spiritual-deepening/products/finding-the-light-in-you
Melinda Wenner Bradley
Faith & Play‚Ñ¢ (https://www.fgcquaker.org/faith-and-play) is a Montessori-inspired resource that helps children find words and images for the experiences of mystery and wonder in their lives. A Quaker sister to the Godly Play¬Æ (www.godlyplayfoundation.org) collection of Bible stories, Faith & Play‚Ñ¢ invites children to explore Quaker faith and practice. The Godly Play method resonates for Friends because of the emphasis on wonder and continuing revelation. The method has created for many Friends a way to come back to the Bible, to explore the stories without theological rigidity.
Faith & Play is intended as a companion to Godly Play, not a stand-alone curriculum. The stories about Quakers are not meant to be history lessons, rather stories of witness to inspire personal reflection. The ‚Äòwondering‚Äô in these lessons is practice in vocal ministry for children in the circle of their peers. Play, or art response, is children‚Äôs ‚Äòwork‚Äô in the Montessori sense. The method is best used with training, which is a consideration for Meetings seeking to use Godly Play/Faith & Play.
AC: Can QREC or the F&P working group provide materials? The way the stories are written and told using 3 dimensional materials, and the wondering are all critical. But the materials are stumbling blocks for some people. Can we get together and make materials?
MWB: In PhYM we did a material making day. It was fun and is recommended for places where there are several MM close to each other. Also,
- the F&P Group ( who author the stories and develop materials) tries to simplify materials.
- The revised edition (2018) has more templates and directions for making materials.
- There is a F&P Facebook page where Friends post short cuts in materials making.
- Friends can email firstname.lastname@example.org to ask about materials. We have some on hand.
GW: Can people train themselves in Godly Play or Faith & Play?
MWB: We encourage people to seek training when they can. I used GP before being trained, then went to a training and came back on fire with the vibrancy of this method and all the ‚Äúwhys‚Äù I now understood alongside the ‚Äúhows‚Äù of the method. I created a one pager for door persons to introduce the method to people who want to observe before taking training, or want to help, but can‚Äôt take the training.
Note: (Sita, you decide if this addendum is OK to add?) There will be a new Faith & Play website launched in 2019; until then, information about trainings is posted on the Faith & Play Facebook page and you can email the F&P gmail noted above.
SD: How can we share Faith & Play with families to help them appreciate the method?
MWB: Host a gathering for families, with food. Give a one-page handout to parents. ‚ÄúGodly Play in a nutshell.‚Äù Parents are often curious and may be more engaged if they know what their children are experiencing, so tell them a story. Put a one-sentence description in the FDS calendar.
SD: Consider the fluidity of age groups based on a given child‚Äôs stage of development. In Nashville we had three groups, Littles, Middle and Youth. Littles are pre-readers with a more concrete focus, Middles are at a point of engaging in a lesson that involves reading. Youth are at that turning point (about 5th grade) when skepticism emerges. We gave young Friends and their families the opportunity to choose their age group. We used Sparklers and a few GP/F&P stories with Littles. With Middles we used mostly F&P, though other lessons were interspersed. Youth focused on other things.
MI: The F&P materials are simple and invite handling, which is precious in this electronic age when children spend so much time on screens.
HH: How can we make these materials available to families at home?
MWB: Parents are their children‚Äôs first and most influential teachers. GP recently put out Stories of God at Home, with simple materials for home use to support parents as spiritual guides.
Using GP/F&P materials in intergenerational settings helps adults appreciate the method and knits the community together as a whole. In preparation, encourage adults to bring their whole selves to the story and the wondering.
Melinda Wenner Bradley is a teacher, writer and religious education consultant. After becoming a Godly Play¬Æ storyteller in 2005, she co-wrote Faith & Play:‚Ñ¢ Quaker Stories for Friends Trained in the Godly Play¬Æ Method. A Godly Play¬Æ Teacher Trainer, Melinda works with Quaker meetings and Friends schools, training them to use these resources. A co-founder of the Quaker Religious Education Collaborative, she serves Philadelphia Yearly Meeting as the Youth Engagement Coordinator.
Anne Collins A member of the Sparkling Still Working Group, Anne worships with the Stillwater Oklahoma Meeting, South Central Yearly Meeting. For decades she has been active in First Day School, children‚Äôs programming at yearly meeting annual sessions and Junior Gathering.
Marjorie Isaacs, Community Friends Meeting, Cincinnati, Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting, discovered bright silent worship when her daughter asked her to teach First Day School. With the children, she began worshipping silently using guided imagery and relaxation skills from her work as a psychologist. Years later, during silent worship, she was led to create a handbook to guide silent worship with young children.