Saturday, October 11, 2014

Stealing What Should Belong Only To God: Adam & Eve, Prometheus and Frankenstein

This lesson focuses on the creation myths of Christianity and Greek Mythology, and attempts to find parallels that explicate and illuminate the Biblical creation story, and the story of the fall.  I'm also going to try to work in some references to, and discussion of, Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus, by Mary Shelley, relying on my old friends at Shmoop to tie it together somehow.

First, we'll read the 2nd and 3rd chapters of Genesis out loud.  I'm going to use The Message translation for this, because it's more story-like and accessible and less remote sounding. We did read these chapters earlier, with the names lesson in our first week, but what the heck. As I've mentioned, not every kid is there every week, so no harm no foul, right?  

At this point I'm going to try to steer the discussion towards The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.   Without belaboring it too much I'll try to get in the notion that some things are rather ambiguous, in terms of being good or evil, and that it can be burdensome to figure that out.  Maybe that's what God was trying to avoid?  He didn't want Adam and Eve to worry so much, to be weighed down with the issues of figuring things out - he'd be in charge of that!  The example I'm going to use of an ambiguous thing is Fire, which is obviously hugely useful, but can also be destructive and dangerous as per this video of a forest fire in Greece.  Greece, btw, is how I'm going to segue to the Myth of Prometheus, and after showing the forest fire video, I'm going to show the Prometheus animation from above, with a brief introduction of the notion that the Prometheus story is the Greek myths' version of the creation story.


So at this point, after we've watched the Prometheus video, I'm going to introduce the activity for the day, which is candlemaking.  Candlemaking certainly introduces us to the benign side of fire, producing illumination and a moderate amount of heat, without much destruction (usually, but these are middle schoolers, so be careful!).

I'm using granulated wax, wicks and votive holders I purchased from Hobby Lobby and Michael's.  I chose the colors because Fall, and also the red and gold are firelike, especially when combined in layers, as I plan to do.

Making the candles is pretty basic - I just have them place a wick in the votive (probably smart to glue gun it to the bottom, and then fill in layers of wax (with spoons), until the votive is full, at which point we trim the wick.  I should have put more in the first layer, and less in the succeeding ones, but that's why you make a sample/test/prototype, I guess.  Still looks pretty good!

Here's what it looks like when lit.  As the wax gets hot it melts and stabilizes a bit.  

While we are doing this, I will bring up what I'm going to introduce as a modern creation myth, which also has cautionary elements about the dangers of usurping the role of God.  I'm going to ask them to guess what I could be referring to (some of them are pretty smart), and then show the trailer from the original Boris Karloff 1931 Frankenstein.

After watching this preview, I'm going to talk briefly about Mary Shelley's original version Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus, using Shmoop as my guide.  There are many thoughtful and insightful point to be made, and I'll keep talking, raising and discussing them until the class time runs out (after about 40 minutes or so, total).

Questions I hope to get raised and discussed include:

  • Why did God create human beings and what did he expect from them.  Like Prometheus, whose name literally means "Sees the Future," God is all knowing, so he must have realized what would happen with the tree.  So what was the point?
  • Are these stories about humans "usurping" the knowledge or power that only God should have?  Is God jealous, like Zeus?  Or protective?
  • Are there cautions for scientists in the Biblical and Greek stories?  In Frankenstein?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Learning Names - Artist Tiles Activity

This is an activity that goes along with the "Learning Names" lesson of the Rite 13 curriculum which is popular in a lot of Episcopal churches.  This is obviously for one of the first weeks of the church school year, and it's my way of getting the kids to talk about their names and learn each other's, while creating a name card which we then put on our bulletin board display, where it will stay up for the rest of the year.

Here's a picture of all the supplies I used, along with the samples I created using my own name (and you will see here that I am most definitively NOT artistic, but I haven't let that stop me from having fun with it):  

Basically what I've done is take either a black or white sheet from one of the "Artist Tiles" books of what looks like heavy card stock to me, that I purchased earlier today at Michael's.  They are both Strathmore products, and I think are pretty widely available either at Michael's or Amazon.  I also bought a few gel pens, including white (for the black tiles), and some medium fine point drawing pens, for the white.  I also bought gold and silver for both tiles, as well as some blue color family Faber Castell markers, just because I thought they looked cool.  I also bought stick on letters in black and white glitter, and plain white, in case there were kids who didn't feel like free-handing it.  

The basic idea is that the kids will write or sticker their name on the tile/paper square, and then embellish it with Christian symbols.  This accomplishes several of my goals for this project:

  1. Everybody kind of pays attention to everyone's name while we're doing this, and they hopefully learn and remember them that way.
  2. We look at and talk about some Christian symbols as they doodle decorate.  I just downloaded some symbols from a Google image search for "Christian Symbols."  Some of these will be familiar to the kids (like, the cross?), some not so much, like the ChiRo, or the Alpha and Omega.  So, a good way to talk about them, too.  This picture gives an idea of what I downloaded for them to copy.  
  3. We'll be doing something with our hands while we talk about the symbols, their names (are they named after someone in their family, do they know what their name means, is it a Bible name, that sort of thing).  So much less awkward talking while doing something - this is a key element of my pedagogy, lol, always have a lot going on (I usually have music playing while we're doing all this, too, unless we're watching a video.  I have a Chris Tomlin station on Spotify that I usually play.)
Anyhoo, here's a closer look at what my samples look like.  I know, I know, they're not the great - but that way they don't intimidate the kids, lol (can I rationalize or what!).  

Doodling around the images, like I started to do in the center image, is fun and kind of cool, it's just for embellishment.  Here's a blog post I like on how to doodle that is fun and helpful, from a cool art techniques blog, Sparkle Tart, by Kate Palmer, an Australian creative art blogger.  Doodling is like a thing now, especially on Tumblr and Pinterest, so your kids might be familiar with it.  If not - here's their chance!   Here's an instructive video on "Doodling - How to Get Started," from Art ala Carte on YouTube.  Kinda long for Sunday School, I haven't showed this yet, but I might tomorrow, while they've getting started.

Okay, that's it, thanks for stopping by, hope someone finds this helpful!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Welcome - More to Come, I Promise!

Image by Twitter user @Chiaroscuroflux
We Are stardust, we are golden
We are million year old carbon
So in light of that, hopefully you can be patient a few days longer while I get some content together. Meanwhile, the Learning Objectives, Materials and Resources Page is a good place to start, if you're looking for big themes and some helpful ideas for tools, sources and suggestions on where to start.  

And here are some links to sites I've found super helpful in putting together my lessons:  Shmoop is an education site - it describes itself as a "rollicking homework help, teacher resources, and online test prep. Homework help lovingly written by PhD students from Stanford, Harvard, Berkeley."  I do a fair amount of literary stuff, especially poetry in the great Anglican tradition (like John Donne, and George Herbert), and Shmoop is an awesome resource, funny and insightful.

The Saint Nicholas Center has a lot of fascinating material on this mysterious and influential bishop.  A great way to transition from childhood to a more mature understanding.

Sometimes I get good ideas from, especially their columnists, like Anne Lamott, for example.

Donald Miller is kind of a hero of mine, and his Storylineblog is always awesome.