First Day School in a Box or Bag
By Mary Snyder ( www.discoveringourfaith.com )
First Day School is a very important ingredient in the health and growth of meetings. However, many meetings have a variety of ages, irregular attendance, sometimes no children at all, and no space to call their own.
With the FGC "new meetings program", Quaker Quest, and FWCC’s meeting building comes a basic question -- how might preparation for welcoming children and their parents be integrated into the overall effort of meeting building. One answer over the years has been “First Day School in a Box or Bag.” The easiest way to do this is to outfit a box or bag with a few basic stories and art materials which invite children to respond to the stories.
Resources for the box
Art Materials including:
A variety of paper including lined paper
Crayons and markers
It is important that art materials be attractive. Dry markers and hard clay are discouraging. Incorporating a variety of media such as different types of clay is important since some people are embarrassed regarding their drawing skills.
Try to display art materials in the box or bag so that children can return the materials to a place in the box.
It is also important that any children’s program be linked with the adult program. If you have a meetinghouse, display the artwork and leave it out. And/or ask the children to talk about what they have done with the adults at the rise of meeting.
Books and stories in the box
I like to start with the George Fox lesson plan from Opening Doors to Quaker Religious Education. This lesson plan can be found in Discovering our Faith Through Story and Play: Quakers I on this website.
The following books help prepare children and their parents for worship:
Quaker Meeting and Me: A guide for children to Quaker meeting for worship
by Rebecca Price and members of the Quaker Life staff team.
Zoe Goes to Meeting , Pictures by David Barlow, Story by Juliet Batten.
We’re Going To Meeting for Worship by Abby Hadley
Have enough copies of the above stories so that you will send one copy home with the family to keep.
In First Day School, ask the children, “What is your favorite part of the story?” Then, show them the art supplies in the bag. Which art supplies do you like best? Is there something from the story that you would like to work out in art? Whether your meeting is programmed or unprogramed, it is nice to end by sitting quietly together as a group.
When the family comes a second time, be prepared to move into Benjamin the Meeting House Mouse if you wish to communicate something about Friend’s ways.
Or, continue with one of the following books which may help children and their parents talk about God:
God Is Like…Three Parables for Little Children by Julie Walters
God’s Paintbrush by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso
Old Turtle by Douglas Wood
What Is God? By Etan Boritzer
God Is…A Curriculum For K Through Adult. By the PYM RE Executive Concerns Group (can be downloaded from http://www.pym.org/publications/pym-curricula/
You may want to ask a fairly new family to look over Discovering Our Faith Through Story and Play, a collection of foundational stories found at www.discoveringourfaith.com . I have had homeschoolers work these stories into their curriculum. Sometimes creative families have worked out dramatic ways to tell one of the stories to others. (This involves the parents in learning about early Friends.)
Other curricula which works well out of a bag:
Sparkling Still! available from Friends General Conference.
The PYM Obadiah series (books available from Quakerbooks.org.
Dr. Suess series (can be downloaded free from the PYM web site below)
A number of other excellent materials can be purchased or downloaded free from the PYM web site: http://www.pym.org/publications/pym-curricula/
Notes: Used out of print books are currently available from Amazon.
Encourage new parent attenders to attend a Faith & Play workshop where they will learn a technique for using Bible stories with children. See the Friends General Conference (FGC) website for current Faith & Play offerings. Another approach to the Bible is to invite children to participate in discovering our faith through worship sharing.
Last Updated: 04/19/2016