As our church year comes to a close, I want to take this time to review our time in Soulful Exploration and share the scope & sequence for RE programming in 2017-2018. I am so very thankful to all of our volunteers who helped our program run smoothly this year. It is not an easy feat to transition the management of a religious education program, but our many volunteers were accommodating, helpful, and supportive in this year of transition. In all we had at least 40 volunteers contribute to child and youth RE this year. Parents, please take some time in the next few weeks to thank your child’s teacher/facilitator and the REALL committee.
If you have a Sunday or two free this summer (June 18-August 20), the Super Summer Sundays for K-5th grade needs teachers to lead these fun sessions with light stories introducing UU concepts and fun activities, games and songs. Kara Marler (a UU young adult and former WUUC youth) is home for the summer and will be coordinator for the program! Sign up to be a summer teacher online or on Sunday at the REALL table in the foyer.
We are recruiting teachers for the fall now too. You can express your interest in any of the classes below by signing up at:
Below you will find four sections;
- Overview of Soulful Exploration at WUUC
- A breakdown of each program outlining:
- The specific objective of the program
- A review of this past year’s program
- Next year’s plans
- Hopes for the future
A full review of this document will hopefully provide you with a clear picture of the vision of our RE program for children and youth at WUUC. This information, as usual, will be available throughout the year on our website under Soulful Exploration and in the weekly blogs. In this document and on the website, you can look ahead and keep track of what your child should be learning through their progression in our program. The curriculum will shift often, but the learning objectives remain the same every year for each age range.
Overview of Soulful Exploration for Children and Youth at WUUC:
It is the goal of faith development programming in Preschool-12th grade to provide children and youth with skills to thrive in the world as compassionate, ethical, and responsible Unitarian Universalists. Methods for coping and resiliency offered in religious education at WUUC are justice-oriented, rooted in Unitarian Universalist sources, guided by our 7 principles, contemplative, experiential, and compassionate.
More importantly, it is my hope that in the future, we are able to equip parents to be the primary religious educators of their children. Our thematic ministry has the potential to encourage multi-generational conversations around the “big questions” in life. Parent support groups help parents navigate the complexities of raising children in the 21st century. Worship and transition programming provides opportunities for our families to connect to mystery and the sacredness in life. This all requires continued active participation in our program as volunteers, attending family chapels, providing constructive feedback, and helping us shape child and youth ministry in our church with your love and support.
In our Nursery through 5th grade program, we view spirituality as an integral part of a child’s exploration and discovery. We strive to create an environment that nurtures that discovery through story, art, music, games and sharing. We honor various learning styles and build our sacred time together with thoughtful consideration for each child’s differences.
In our Youth Groups (Jr. and Sr. Youth) we focus on 8 strands of development: leadership, connection across ages, spiritual development, beloved community, justice making, pastoral care, faith exploration, and identity formation.
Senior Youth (YRUU)
Learning Objective: The goal of our senior youth program is to aide our youth’s navigation of the later years of the “synthetic-conventional” stages of faith development. This is the age where youth begin to integrate faith into their daily lives and claim identity as a Unitarian Universalist. Praxis is the methodology underpinning this program; learning, acting, reflecting. The social justice aspect of our faith is emphasized in this age range.
2016-2017: This year our High School youth group tried a new social justice-oriented project-based curriculum. They researched topics to explore, decided as a community to study gender inequality, developed a thesis, and conducted research to examine gender inequality in our local community. The project results, as well as many fun experiments, will be presented at the Youth Social Justice Assembly on June 11th at 11:45 to 1:15 in the Sanctuary. Please show up to support our youth, childcare and a light lunch will be provided.
- Continue our project-based curriculum with a new social justice focus, possibly around Black lives or transgender rights.
- Integrate more spiritual practice and ritual in each of our meetings.
- Participate in the Full Community Service as worship leaders/helpers each month.
Hopes for the future:
- Extend the Senior Youth experience beyond Sunday morning.
- Host youth worship events and retreats for WUUC youth and the larger community.
- Create a youth community room that is utilized throughout the week by our youth.
Jr Youth (JRUU)
Scope: Addressing the early “synthetic-conventional” faith development stage for ages 13-18, where the youth begins to see from other’s perspectives. Our program serves two needs in the development stage: to introduce world religions and world faiths in conversation with Unitarian Universalism and teach social justice through the skill of empathy building for those less fortunate and/or socially marginalized. World religions allows our youth to differentiate Unitarian Universalism from other faiths, begin to claim their own religious identity (whether it is Unitarian Universalist or some other faith), and become well-versed in respectful interfaith dialogue. Our social justice studies prepares our youth to be responsible citizens who care for their neighbors and the world.
2016-2017: Neighboring Faiths
This year our youth studied the Neighboring Faiths curriculum of the UUA. On Sundays they discussed the various faiths that we might encounter as world citizens. They discussed the tenets of these faiths and developed respectful dialogue skills in relationship to these faiths. On select days they visited faith houses of the traditions that they studied and experienced worship from the perspective of the other’s faith. They returned to their classrooms to reflect on this learning and contextualize their learning in the framework of Unitarian Universalist faith.
2017-2018: Social Justice (tentative)
- Learn about major social justice movements in the US and engage in social actions that are in line with other Unitarian Universalist efforts.
- Continue with our Simpsons curriculum around social justice
- Once monthly we will participate in the Full Community service.
- Middle School Our Whole Lives sexuality education classes
Hopes for the Future:
- Encourage more interaction between our Jr. and Sr. Youth through an occasional combined youth worship experience
- Hold coming of age intensives/retreats for 8th-10th grade
- Host a Jr. Youth “CON” at WUUC
- Have our Jr. Youth participate in more District and Regional Events
2018: Elementary-2nd-5th Grades
Scope: Addresses the needs of children in the mythic-literal stage of development, where children learn virtues and values through story, myth, ritual, and play. Our Elementary age classroom introduces the rituals and worship of Unitarian Universalism, tells moral tales that capture the heart of Unitarian Universalist ethics, and engage in embodied learning practices to integrate those learnings through various learning styles.
In our elementary program at WUUC we believe strongly that we shouldn’t duplicate the traditional classroom that many of our children participate in during the week. We believe that church is the place where learning happens through the religious experience of worshiping and exploring in community. Knowing that in the mythic-literal stage of development children in this age range often mimic the morality that adults value, to encourage wholesome development, it is important to shy away from indoctrination of values and encourage self-exploration of each child’s own morality and values.
2016-2017: Spirit Jam
(Kindergarten-5th Grades) This year in Spirit Jam we explored the monthly themes that our adult worship is based upon in hopes of encouraging communication between parents and their children about the “big questions” in life. In each class we opened with a meaningful worship, sharing our joys and concerns, music, and getting to know each other. We continued our sessions with a story or moral lesson around our theme of the month and closed with embodied learning activities in age-specific groups. Guests from within our community often presented activities such as yoga, gardening, visual arts, dance, music, and etc.
2017-2018: Spirit School
(In 2017 this group will include 2nd-5th Grades only) Next year in Spirit School we will return to the roots of the Sunday School movement. Robert Raikes and Thomas Stock first established a Sunday school for the poor and orphaned in Gloucester in 1780 with the intention of providing literacy classes to youth who were often forced to work for their survival and lacking basic education or a path out of poverty. In the 21st century, there has been a call for our churches to again fill the void of public education. The arts are poorly funded and being removed from our children’s curriculum in school.
We believe in the power of the fine arts to inspire creativity, change lives, and to help our children embody the best of our values. We will begin with our opening worship and continue with a brief reflection on the month’s theme. We will continue each week with a hands-on creative art activity. 5th Sundays will be reserved for an in-house or wider-community public service activity.
September 10th will be our kick-off family chapel. Parents please join us for a fabulous multi-generational worship experience.
- Introduce meditation and contemplative practices through an embodied learning curriculum
- Provide regular family worship experience for this age range
- Begin a parenting support group for this specific age-range
2018: Spirit Play (Preschool-1st Grades)
Scope: In the intuitive projective age range our children are operating in their particular worlds of experience where the lines between fantasy and reality are blurred, in this stage of development, there is much creative space for imaginative play and exploration. At WUUC, our goals in our programming are to foster an awareness of the “other” and to help children navigate new realizations about “mystery”, questions about “god/God,” and cope with the reality of death and dying. Our program at WUUC lovingly guides our children through this stage through mythical tales, stories about our faith, and poignant lessons on the reality of life. It is in this classroom that our children become most familiar with Unitarian Universalist history and theology.
2016-2017: Me and My World
(Preschool) We engaged in the Me and My World curriculum, guiding our children through an awareness of self to the realization that there is a world beyond our senses. Each lesson progressively advanced our children with love and mindfulness through seeing themselves clearly and safely exploring other people and the nature that surrounds them.
2017-2018: Spirit Play
(Next year, this group will include Preschool-1st Grade in one cohort.) Spirit Play is our new curriculum for Preschool-1st grade. Each week children enter this specialized classroom for a montessori-like experience of Sunday School. Lessons begin with a “unique” and scripted story-telling of either the lives and works of Unitarian Universalists, the seven principles, the six sources, or holy days. These stories come with props that are kept in story baskets on child accessible low shelving. Children then have an opportunity to engage in individual artistic or creative play of their choosing in the classroom. Each story told throughout the year will be made available so that children can choose to utilize the story baskets to retell the stories of our faith, the child’s ability to make a story their own reinforces learning.
I would like to include a testimonial about Spirit Play here:
The children quickly step into the routine of being greeted by the doorkeeper and entering the classroom in anticipation of their time together. The sacred space that has been created allows for creative wondering and an opportunity to explore the stories personally through re-telling or through art materials provided. The materials allow the children to remember and connect to the stories and to independently work with them. It is exciting to see a four year old take their mat and the story basket of the morning and tell the story in their own way or to see a five year old interpret the story through painting or clay work.
The children are learning about our Unitarian Universalist principles and values at an age-appropriate level. Their own ideas are encouraged and valued at the same time. They are learning that asking the big questions about life and death is natural and important. The children are engaged and the parents are happy that they are so enthused about going to their morning classes. We have had no problem getting people to volunteer as storytellers and doorkeepers because it has been so rewarding.
-Lynn Sabourin, UU Religious Educator
- Expand our Spirit Play story set
- Acquire more self-exploration learning tools and art supplies
- Recruit more volunteers for Spirit Play instruction and material construction