Our church school’s curriculum for this year is using elements of music, art, writing, and drama in teaching the Bible. I was asked to conduct a class and develop a lesson plan around the Creation Story in Genesis. I hadn’t taught middle school kids in over 40 years and forgot how much fun they were. (After a few years teaching junior high, I transferred to the high school and spent most of my career with older students.) I’d forgotten how hilarious this middle school-age group can be.
We started by discussing the meaning of Genesis as “a beginning”. Today, we would center around when God created the animals. In my lesson plan, God interviews the creatures in heaven for jobs on earth. Each student was asked to choose an animal, describe what it would look like and what job it would have on earth. God was especially interested in how each animal would get along with the other inhabitants of the planet. The dialogue was quite animated. Those animals awaiting their interview session sat painting self-portraits on rocks. That didn’t stop them from jumping into the present conversation between interviewer and interviewee to give helpful suggestions. (If only we could all go to job interviews with a team of coaches!)
The sloth had decided he would sit in a tree observing the world and eating bugs. The hummingbird was going to help the bees pollinate. The unicorn would be using the special powers in the magical powder inside her horn to make life better for the humans on earth. (The interview was interrupted by a group discussion about what those specific magical powers might be and how they might help the environment.) When it was the baby eagle’s turn, he decided he would just be a baby bird and spend most of his time on earth learning to fly. Most of living is in the learning, we philosophized. Heads nodded in agreement over at the painting table.
Too soon, it was time to clean up. The unicorn commented that this would make a great play. I heartily concurred, emphasising the importance of gathering ideas before putting pen to paper. And suddenly, the possibility of being on stage, caused them all to morph into their animal personas. The baby eagle kept leaving the room, only to fly back in and fall over. I cautioned everyone to keep him away from the windows. They led him to the safety of the center of the room where he promptly collapsed in a feathery heap. Then, the sloth eased his body onto a chair and dug his claws into the upholstery to watch as the hummingbird flitted around chirping and the unicorn began an Irish step dance. The baby eagle continued to swoop in and out, inevitably falling on his face and having to be picked up.
It was time to go to Fellowship Hall for the coffee hour. I asked the class to review what they’d learned and everyone agreed they’d been too busy having fun and hadn’t learned a single thing. I knew this would go over big with their parents when they related the results of the morning’s Bible class with Mrs. Sweeney. I felt the need to clarify what we’d learned amidst all the frivolity. I reviewed the story of Genesis. I reiterated what they’d said they would do as animals to make the earth a better place and how they would help the humans on the planet. And then, I let them loose, requesting they help the baby eagle get down the stairs and safely back to his mother in one piece.They left their rocks behind to dry.
The following Sunday, I brought their stone art to church in my pocketbook. As I reached in to carefully retrieve each special creation, people in the pews were curious. Why was Clare going around church handing out rocks to children? Doesn’t she usually have fruit snacks, oyster crackers, cat treats, dog bones and gum in there? That bag looks heavy! Should we be worried?
But, some were not fazed at all. Clare dolling out rocks to children? Nothing strange about that.
Strange is relative. It has many meanings. Certainly, it may seem odd to some that an atheist would go to church or even use the Bible to teach children a lesson on living together in peace and harmony. At this age, very little ever really strikes me as odd and so, I guess that’s why I enjoy being surrounded by the exuberance and chaos imagination evokes in the young.
I’ll be in church tomorrow with my pocketbook full of goodies because Charley bought three large bags of candy for trick or treaters and no one showed up due to the fact we had a storm and were without power for the entire week. Sitting in the dark with three bags of candy bars is just not good for the soul to say nothing of the body.
Have a peaceful Sunday!