Last week I and another teacher at our school began the first week of Advent Club. Called “Die Hoffnung von Weihnachten: an unsere Mitmenschen denken” (“The Hope of Christmas: Thinking of Others”), this project is an attempt at combining several things: Godly Play, art and social projects with children. Over the next four weeks, we will be discussing with 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders what hope is and how we can share it with other people. Our pedagogical goals are to encourage social responsibility, kindness and tolerance through the lens of the biblical Christmas story. We will also being doing two social projects with the children. Hope is a very abstract concept for young elementary school children and the task has proved challenging!
From the beginning of our first session, it was clear to the other teacher and me that what we were offering was very different from what the children expected. Most Advent Clubs center around Christmas crafts and various traditions surrounding the holiday. After asking the children what they most liked about Christmas (almost all answered “presents”), we dived right into the Christmas story that you can see below.
The Godly Play story tells the Christmas story from the perspective of the four Advent Sundays and their meanings. At the end, I lit the Christ candle and explained to the children that this candle represents hope and light coming into the darkness. Although we can blow the candle out and the physical light disappears, there is a light that doesn’t have to go away. This light, the hope that God gave us through the birth of Jesus, is something that we can keep with us the whole year and share with others. I went on to say that God gave us hope in the form of a small, helpless baby rather than sending a great man with an army or riches. Like many things in life, God starts with small steps. We encouraged the children that although they are young, they still have an important role and can give hope to others. As with the Easter Club that I did with the children in the spring, I noticed that the kids who had not experienced this meditative, quiet sort of storytelling, had a difficult time paying attention at first.
Afterwards, we talked to the children about how we would be putting into practice the things we were hearing by helping put on a Christmas party in another part of the city. (We’ll be working with a group that runs an after-school program for children in a lower income, inner city part of Berlin.) Though some of the children seemed to respond, most of the children seemed to be asking themselves what all of this had to do with Christmas.
Then, the children were able to choose between playing with the story or doing an art project in order to process their thoughts. I value this part of Godly Play so much, because children like adults are so often bombarded with information and not given the chance to think through it.
The art project we did comes from one of my favorite blogs. “That Artist Woman”. Gail Bartel is an art teacher in Canada and she inspires me with her work. We did her project, “Nativity Silhouette”, which you can find here:
I added a slight twist to the project by asking the children to depict their favorite part of the Christmas story. Several of them depicted the Three Wise Men as well as the Holy Family.
To end our time, we drank hot cocoa and ate Christmas cookies together. Stay tuned for Week 2!