Introducing Theme-Based Workshops

REcooking_croppedREady for Change!

It is no secret that we are gearing up for some big adjustments in the coming months (years) as we begin to implement the capital improvements that so many of you contributed toward. It’s incredibly exciting, and while the space constraints will present some real challenges, to our RE program in particular, this need to pull back will also offer an unusual opportunity for our community to think about our priorities and to intentionally realize a new version of ourselves.

That doesn’t happen often. I am really excited for it. However, this is not a one person job!

This blog post is a first step to a plan that is unfolding in a newly formed RE Transition team. To begin, I want to start to inform folks about a new design for our elementary RE program. It will be helpful if you can read this with some thoughts in mind:

How will this new design help parents to make connections with their children in their day to day lives? 

How will this program help us to provide opportunities for self-exploration, collaboration, and joy both for our children and for our RE volunteers?

How will this new program help to build connections across generations and across different groups within our south Church community?

What questions are raised for me? 

Why are we making this change to our program?

  • Believe it or not, Parents are the primary religious educators for their children. Theme based ministry will, I believe, offer families more clarity in how to bridge ideas that come up at church, with their lives at home. The simple point that parents are reflecting on a theme in worship upstairs, while their children explore the same idea downstairs, seems to suggest a natural conversation.
  • Theme based ministry will allow our congregation to share in a more dynamic way. Similarly to the above point, by sharing in a month long conversation throughout our congregation, we are optimizing opportunities to engage in dialogue with one another around that idea.
  • Recruitment can be done throughout the year, and volunteers can move in and out of the program a bit more easily, based on their availability. We will still need to enlist folks to help out a few months in advance of a given theme, but unlike the current RE program model, this plan will allow that recruitment to happen year round instead of all at once during the summer months.
  • Workshops will allow us to be more creative about our use of classroom spaces during capital improvements
  • This method encourages engagement and creative thinking on the part of our volunteers, our parents, and our kids! 

Theme Based Workshops: What are they?

  1. Workshop Rotation is a model of Religious Education in which the children experience the monthly theme through a variety of learning styles, by “rotating” each week to a different workshop in a different space.
  2. Who leads the workshops? Workshops are led by members of the congregation who have an interest or passion for a particular subject. Ex: nature, art, cooking, gardening, creative writing, games, yoga, meditation, science…
    • Built in to this program are monthly parent and volunteer gatherings that will provide opportunities for participants to reflects in an adult space, and collaborate around workshop ideas. I will share more about this later, but it is going to be really great!  You’ll want to be there!
  3. What will the workshops look like?
    • Shorter term, more intensive volunteer opportunities: Workshop leaders will commit to a workshop for an average of 3 consecutive weeks.
      • This will allow us to engage a wider pool of talents in our community, who have specific gifts to share and are able to volunteer for a maneageable chunk of time
      • This will also answer the desire for many of our volunteers to have some opportunities to make deeper connections with other adult volunteers and with our children
      • Some workshop leaders may choose to lead only one or two workshops during the year, others may take on more.
      • There will continue to be a need for consistent long-term volunteers to help facilitate from week to week, for roaming supervisors, and also for less committed classroom assistants and subs to help cover holes. A place for every type of volunteer!
    • Workshops will aim to offer activities that appeal to a variety of learning styles:
      • Unlike the program we have been using in the past few years, this new methodology is less dependent on grade leveled classrooms. The hope is that by offering a variety of workshops on most Sundays, children can better select offerings that fit their learning style. On any given week there might be an art based workshop running along with a music program.
      • Other ideas in the works include opportunities to spend a morning on the kitchen minstry team, (maybe making a recipe for social hour?),  attend worship in the balcony with some focussed activities and the use of worship journals, older elementary kids serving as ushers or even walking workshops that bring us out into our community on a more regular basis. (can you see how this will afford creative use of space?!)
    • Themes will be introduced in depth during the children’s chapel gatherings on the first Sunday of each month, and will also be held up for families through my RE blog.
      • Short gatherings at the start of each Sunday will determine who goes where.. workshops may repeat or may be new from week to week within the framework of the theme.
  4. What ages will be doing Workshop Rotation? Currently First grade through 6th grade will be exploring Workshop Rotation on a weekly basis. Pre K-Kinder will continue with Spirit Play, High School and Middle School will participate at times and in ways as appropriate.
  5. Will students have “homerooms”? No. When the children arrive they will report to the Ladies parlor, where they’ll meet their teachers. They’ll gather in a large group for a short introduction, the classes will then go to their specified workshops for the morning. That’s where parents/guardians will pick them up. Charts of who is where will be posted in the social hall to assist parents with pick-up. Our plan is to allow children to self-select as we begin this program, we may adjust this plan as the needs arise.
  6. On what will the content of the workshops be based?  The “core” of the workshops will be the monthly themes and said theme’s accompanying story. Click here for more information on theme-based workshop rotation from the UUA. http://www.uua.org/re/themes/help-theme-based-ministry/rotation-model
    • As we get comfortable with the use of themes throughout the program, additional opportunities will emerge. We may build in additional connections to the 7 core UU principles and 6 sources of Unitarian Universalism. Having an overlying social justice lens, or community goal may also emerge. There are so many ways that we can grow into this model!

What are the 2016-17 Themes: 

  • September: Covenant  — a natural fit, as we do this every September with our kids!
  • October: Healing  — imagine a workshop on processing grief, or a group of kids making cards for our pastoral associates to send to members of our church who are experiencing illness or grief
  • November: Story — who wants to lead a writers workshop? or to share a story with our kids, build props, and perform it in worship at the end of the month!
  • December: Presence — It’s a quick month, but we could spend our class time in a meditation or yoga workshop!  What ideas come up for you!?
  •  January: Prophecy
  • February: Identity
  • March: Risk
  • April: Transformation
  • May: Embodiment
  • June: Zest 

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