The goal of religious education at UUSGS is to raise healthy, balanced, thoughtful young people who can articulate their own beliefs, while respecting others. Programming is designed to awaken in children a religious curiosity and a foundation of moral and relational behavior that will carry into adulthood. To that end, we have developed a model – Head, Heart & Hands – that builds off of our monthly worship themes in age-appropriate ways. Our goal is to provide the structure and support to encourage families to continue conversations at home.
Imagine: sharing some important experiences with your child in worship… then exploring a common topic in age-appropriate ways (adults, too!)… then finding some renewal for yourself… and then having an opportunity later to share and reflect as a family. That’s the model. Sounds pretty good, right?!
Here are some details about the Head, Heart & Hands approach…
HEAD, HEART & HANDS
Programming for children is designed to provide a holistic experience from the time that children arrive until they leave.
HEAD: Time for All Ages ~ Food for Thought
Children able to sit and listen with their family are encouraged to attend the beginning of each worship service. This portion of the service offers them a chance to participate in music and community covenanting, reflection and the practice of giving to others. Children then are invited forward for “A Time for All Ages” and share in a lesson or faith concept in the form of a story. Immediately following the story, children recess to Children’s Chapel.
HEART: Children’s Chapel ~ Coming Together
Led by staff, children practice a simple weekly ritual of coming together, lighting a chalice, sharing joys and sorrows, a holding moment of silence, and a sending forth.
HANDS: Reflection ~ Making it Our Own
Building on “A Time for All Ages” children are split into age-/need-based groups and led by staff and congregational volunteers to process the Time for All Ages story through group discussion and sharing. Vocabulary or additional information may be presented by the leaders. Then, using age appropriate mediums and activities, children are given hands-on opportunities to reflect and further explore the topic.
During our “Hands” reflection and activity time we often separate into the following age/need-based groups:
Chalice Children: An Introduction to Spiritual Exploration (Preschoolers)
This group is based on the philosophy that a child’s spiritual development is related to their own direct experiences. Children will explore and discover things about themselves and their community and about listening and sharing with each other. Free play is seen as valuable exploration and children will be given the option to engage in the free play centers or projects offered in the child care space.
Spirit Play: A Search for Meaning (Pre-K – 2nd/ 3rd Grade)
This group strives to provide modeling of authentic religious questioning, the freedom to search for one’s own meaning, and perhaps most importantly, is emotionally provocative. Spirit Play, through storytelling and wondering, can bring to the surface many feelings and allows for the processing of those feelings. Teachers help children in thinking about their own answers to the existential questions: Where did we come from? What are we doing here? How do we choose to live our lives? What happens when we die? The curriculum encourages independent thinking through wondering questions, creates community of children in classroom of mixed ages, develops an underlying sense of the spiritual and the mystery of life, and helps children to process the Time for All Ages stories from many faiths and cultures.
Elementary: Building Blocks of Faith (2nd/ 3rd – 5th/ 6th grade)
In this group students will begin to fill their spiritual tool boxes with the language and experiences to develop and articulate a strong personal faith identity. Students will explore ethics and values, communication and right relationship, and the “big questions” in historical and contemporary contexts, with emphasis on the importance of human and natural connections, both locally and in the greater world. Creative expression and hands-on learning play a crucial role in the process.
Middle School: Spiritual Journey (5th/ 6th – 8th grade)
This group serves students as the gateway for an emboldened spiritual search and clearer understanding of faith and community. Students will use the tools they have acquired through RE and their life experiences to begin defining, claiming and practicing their faith. Students are given opportunities to develop connections and relationships, experience worship and ritual, broaden their understanding of humanity and social justice, and to make intentional choices that will shape their “story” and who they want to be.
Walk and Talk: Alternative Learning (2nd – 9th grade)
We recognize that traditional class structures and environments don’t fit the learning needs of every child. This group is for those students who function best while moving or engaging in more physical activities. Discussions and reflections for this group will be happen in the context of engaging in outdoor hikes and activities, playing physical non-competitive games and structured movement practices.