Saturday, January 5, 2013

Exodus playset, our winter Bible curriculum and Godly Play

We started back to "kitchen school" this week.  That meant a new "season" in our Bible study as well.  As we journeyed through the Lenten season up to Easter last year (in an intentional manner for the first time), I knew this year I wanted to add some elements.  Foremost--I wanted Quinn to know the Exodus story so she could begin to understand the concept of a sin sacrifice and what it means when we call Jesus "Lamb of God."  So many things about Jesus' sacrifice were just too hard to explain to her without the piece of the Exodus story, Passover, and an understanding of the element of sacrifice.  And thus we begin!  We started off this week in Exodus 1. 
I structure my Bible lessons along the concept of Godly Play (google it if you aren't'll be impressed!).  Basically this means I have prepared some manipulatives ahead of time to represent the story elements--manipulatives meant for the children to handle and hold and play with.  At the beginning of the week we locate the Bible story (talking a little bit about where in the Bible it's located...concept of Old/New Testament, what the name of the particular book means, etc.)  Then I read the story and we act it out with the figures.  I typically use the International Children's Bible, which is not a paraphrase, though we often "revisit" stories in our picture Bibles again throughout the week.  Then the manipulatives are left out to be played with.  This allows further processing of the story and gives the children a chance to interact with the characters and explore the setting.  So here's an example from this week:

Exodus 1: 8-22Let me introduce some of the characters:

The midwives Shiphrah and Puah (Q LOVES the name Puah because it sounds like poop....that's the life of working with preschoolers!)

And a baby they delivered (BUT DID NOT THROW IN THE RIVER!):

He's made from a wooden bead wrapped in a piece of white scrap cloth and lots of hot glue.

A pyramid--bricks made by the Israelites:

Israelite slaves working in the field:

Being watched over by the Egyptian slavemaster:

Egyptian Slavemaster and his whip (made from a piece of scrapwood with a tiny hole drilled inside and some wired twine stuck through the hole):

The scene: (notice Pharaoh in the background in the turquoise)

The field is a piece of felt that I sewed lines down to make rows.  The river is a piece of blue scrap fabric.

Field worker with his hoe--made from a small dowel and a piece of scrapwood and some woodglue.  My kids love the two little hoes--I've found kids really go gaga for the little accessories--they love having the people use them!
And the lineup--Israelite men: 
Midwives and baby

Q setting up the scene.  Pyramid building promotes great math skills.  Moving around and balancing the figures encourages her fine motor skills.  As she plays on her own the characters encourage dramatic play.  Acting out and extending the story read from the Bible builds on listening comprehension, story elements and emerging literacy skills (we talked about how Exodus sounds like it starts with an X and the E is silent.)  Love that Godly play also fosters so many other learning opportunities naturally and gently. 

You can see that we keep the materials on a nice wooden tray.  It then goes on the shelf in the playroom when not being used.  The kids are allowed to take it down to play whenever they want to.  We cleaned off the top of an end table for play one time, but have also used it at the kitchen table and on the couch.  I may let Q take the materials to her room for Quiet Time one day, as well. 

I always make my materials from stuff we have around the house.  When I knew this story was coming up I started keeping my eyes open for items to use.  I found some wooden dowels in Matt's shop of different sizes as well as a piece of trim he'd cut and routed a curve on--it would make a great brick!  All of these pieces could be bought at Home Depot very cheaply....or you could use clothespins, wooden peg dolls, sticks from outside, toilet paper tubes, etc.  I always try to challenge myself to not buy anything for these projects!  Makes it fun for myself to have to be creative and resourceful!

Here I am using my favorite tool to cut the "bricks" for the pyramid from a piece of trim.

The smallest dowel was cut into two pieces for hoes.
I cut two small pieces of scrapwood for the other piece of the hoe--drilled into that piece partway with a drillbit the same sizes as the dowel (but not all the way through!) and then applied some woodglue.  You could also make it out of cardboard, a pencil, etc.....

For the people I just cut segments of this bigger dowel.

Once I had all my pieces cut I used a sanding block to smooth down rough edges.  Then I headed up to my studio and pulled out my fabric scrap box and my ribbon scrap box and plugged in the gluegun.  I went to town dressing the little figures. I  googled Egyptian pharaoh Halloween costumes to get ideas on how to dress my Egyptian figures.  :)

I like to leave the faces blank on my characters.  This allows more room to use them for different scenarios.   And keeps things simple.

I love the concept of Godly Play because it is based on developmental theory (and rooted in Montessori education) of how toddlers and preschoolers learn best.  They learn by touching and doing and PLAYING!  Not by a color sheet, not by watching a Bible story cartoon, and not by making a loosely-related craft.  Not saying any of those things are wrong, but they aren't the best way to engage and reach young children.  I've had great success using this method with older infants, toddlers and preschoolers.  Unscientifically speaking, just based on my own observation I've been really impressed by how much more the children retain and can explain at a later time, and I've also seen lots of extension taking place.  And though, initially, prep time can be a little extensive, the materials can be collected and used again and again (the Israelites will be used for the rest of the Exodus story....later on they might become the people Jesus is teaching in the crowd or the church in Ephesus or even Noah's sons.....).  Children also respond so well to simple manipulatives, so you don't have to go to great lengths to provide play objects.  One of the most popular manipulatives I've ever used was packing peanut "sheep."  The kids loved those little sheep and played with them like crazy!!
Another think I love about Gody Play and teaching Scripture this way is that it can be used with a variety of ages.  My son listened/watched intently as we acted out the story, and he will love carrying around the pieces, playing with the pyramid blocks, and probably knocking down our scenes (Baby Godzilla) as the we play together.

We'll be expanding on the story each week, so stay tuned!!!
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