The intention of our Storymakers curriculum is to provide children with Christian education experiences in which they are active participants or agents in learning about God and themselves through lives of discovery, prayer, and service. This curriculum strives to nurture these three components through connections to our practices of faith, what we believe, and who we are as the Congregation of Plymouth United Church of Christ.
We believe that each person is on a spiritual journey and that each of us is at a different stage of that journey. This curriculum commits to our learning the great stories of the Bible, ones we want every child, youth, and adult to know, in ways that reflect our approach to spirituality at Plymouth. The Bible is viewed as a testament for understanding God, but not doctrine. We seek an informed faith and welcome questions
We are a people of prayer, turning to God for strength, guidance, challenge, and comfort. Our Christian education program will nurture the practice of passionate prayer naming to God our greatest joys and concerns and attentiveness to God's spirit at work.
We believe that God calls us to be servants in the service of others. ‘To believe is to care; to care is to do.’ Children, youth, and adults through this curriculum will be offered opportunities to practice transformational service - changing others' lives changes ours too.
Seventy stories from the Old Testament and New Testament were selected for this curriculum that represent great stories of the Bible. The stories chosen fit some or all of the following criteria:
The story helps portray the intentional interconnectedness of the Old Testament or New Testament.
The story forms part of our ‘cultural canon’ of stories referenced beyond the church.
The story exists in conversation with other stories in scripture, such as the way Mary’s Song echoes Hannah’s Song.
The story develops an inclusive and expansive understanding of God’s people by telling of the experiences of women, outsiders, or moments when heroes act in unheroic or equivocal ways, including arrest and imprisonment.
The story focuses on key themes such as call, rivalry, and reconciliation.
These stories do not provide simple answers, but instead evoke wonder, awe, and questions.
The Storymakers curriculum is structured as spiral curriculum that promotes a progression of understanding starting with our youngest children (Bruner, 1960). Foundational knowledge, processes, and habits of mind are identified that will support children and youth in their comprehension and discussion of stories at increasing levels of complexity as they progress through the curriculum.
• Understand the Bible presents an Old Testament and New Testament comprised of books and verses.
• Understand what people do in stories is motivated by beliefs, desires, values, and intentionality. (Bruner, 1996)
• Recognize people view, interpret, and respond to stories differently.
• Understand that people change over time.
• Reflect on the enduring human concerns within the stories.
• Make meaning of stories through reader’s feelings, reactions, and judgments with the narrative rather than being led to a preconceived principle or generalization from a story (Short, 2011).
• Explore questions when we do not know the answers.
• Respond to the story in different ways to clarify understanding of the story.
• Connect Bibles stories to children’s personal stories.
Habits of Mind
• Reflect on your own thoughts as well as what others think.
• Learn about how we know what we know through inquiry learning.
• Develop the ability to imagine and evaluate new possibilities for interpreting and responding to Bible stories.
Ways of Learning
Our thoughts about ways for children and youth to learn about Bible stories led us to two convictions. First, we want to engage children as agents in their own spirituality. And second, we want people to deeply engage the stories themselves. We encourage members of our congregation to participate in building learning experiences for children and themselves through this curriculum.
The lesson structure of this curriculum mirrors the three-part division of our worship services: Opening Ourselves to God, Hearing God’s Word, Responding to God’s Word.
The curriculum lessons are designed, in the spirit of inclusiveness, using the three principles of Universal Design for Learning from the National Center on Universal Design for Learning (2014) as a guide.
Provide multiple means of representation - learners differ in the ways that they perceive and comprehend information that is presented to them.
Provide multiple means of action and expression - Learners differ in the ways that they can navigate a learning environment and express what they know.
Provide multiple means of engagement - Affect represents a crucial element to learning, and learners differ markedly in the ways in which they can be engaged or motivated to learn.
Children’s interaction with Bible stories is a key component of this curriculum. The lessons will provide ways to introduce the stories, share the stories, and respond to the stories.
Robert Coles wrote the following note about children’s response to the Bible in his book The Spiritual Lives of Children:
Perhaps it is not totally inappropriate that children be asked, now and then, to respond to the Bible as they will, out of their lives, out of their hearts. The Bible is not a theological text, a philosophical study, a write-up of a research project; it is a series of stories, of narratives, with moments, too, of lyrical poetry.” (p. 343).
Within this Storymakers curriculum we invite children to encounter Bible stories from a perspective that Sharon Short (2011), an online educator in Christian formation and ministry, described as “making meaning of stories”. Seeing children as agents of their own meaning making of story involves shifting our focus from “what do they need to learn about what the church says a story means ” to “how can we wonder and reflect together.” In finding one’s own meaning within these stories we move from learning content to nurturing sacred experience.
One way to make meanings of the stories is to ask different kinds of questions; open-hearted, open-minded, wonderment questions. We do our best teaching when we ask questions that we don’t know the answer for. Children’s responses to the stories that emphasize language and communication skills, personal biographies, and the arts (poetry, visual art, music, dance, drama, film) will also provide opportunities for meaning making (Cooper, 2003).
Each lesson within the curriculum includes an opening and closing prayer to foster children and youth growing into a life of passionate prayer. A variety of opportunities for prayer will be introduced to nurture the understanding of the existence of different forms of prayer and ways to pray. Children and youth will also have opportunities to practice transformational service through service projects incorporated in the curriculum at different points throughout the year.
Bruner, Jerome. (1996). The culture of education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Bruner, Jerome. (1960). The process of education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Cam, Philip. (2014). Philosophy for children, values education, and the inquiring society.
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Coles, Robert. (1990). The spiritual life of children. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Cooper, J. David. (2003). Literacy: Helping children construct meaning (5th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Marzano, Robert (1992). A different kind of classroom: Teaching with dimensions of learning.
Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
National Center on Universal Design for learning. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/whatisudl/3principles
Short, Sharon Warkentin. (2011). A case study of children’s responses to Bible stories. Christian Education Journal Series 3, 8(2), 306-325.