Welcome to the coloured glass classroom! We hope to provide you with lots of creative ideas and resource links to help you engage the young people in your religious and Christian education classes. This blog is sponsored by the Anglican Schools Commission of the Anglican Church Southern Queensland.

28 May 2020

My Favourite Pentecost Video Today

This just makes me smile - and I have been singing the song all morning!

For a bit more - there is always this video.
And for great resources, hop on to the Illustrated Ministry website.  A fabulous place to visit!

Lots of ideas and resources. 
So much to find on the website
For more wonderful resources, please visit the Strandz website. It is truly amazing - an absolute treasure trove of creative ideas -  and comes from our dear friends in New Zealand! You will find so much here!

On the Strandz website you will find stunning art work by  Reverend Andrea Lukin. So do have an explore of this website.
Enjoy all the teaching, learning and creative fun you can have using these resources. 

22 May 2020

Read It! Pray It! Write It! Draw It! Do It!




I first taught Religious Education at Garden House Preparatory School for Girls in London in the early 1980’s. I was teaching Middle School 1 – in those days that was about year 4. We had no computers, no videos, no internet and I had no resources for RE at all, except one class Bible. 

Nevertheless, the girls and I had a lovely time. I simply read a story each week – straight from the Bible. We chatted about it, rewrote the story in our journals and the girls illustrated their work. I can still remember how simply beautiful their work was. They took great care to write neatly and their artwork was divine! 

We would then do something on Assembly – again – another simple retelling of the story, a role play or a prayer. It was very simple, yet the girls were engaged, positive and we all really looked forward to the lesson.

So, when my dear husband bought me this beautiful, faith building, interactive journal to use with students, I thought you also needed to see it. It costs $16.99 at Koorong – but today it is 20% off – so a fabulous bargain! (And no – I don’t work for Koorong – I don’t even get a discount!!!)


In this beautifully bound book, you will find enough for a semester or more. It will help students to develop a reflective and thinking approach to their studies. Students may develop a lifetime habit that will bring comfort, joy and hope throughout their lives.



















I would so encourage you to have a look at this journal as something you could give to your students to guide them as they make choices about how they live their lives.
 I think this faith based journal is inspirational.
 Maybe this journal could transform your classes and the way you teach!

The pages I have included are all from "Read It! Pray It! Write it! Draw It! Do it! A Faith Building Interactive Journal for Kids, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission." 



21 May 2020

What does Ignatius of Loyola have to do with Inclusion in the Religious Education Classroom?


Having been a Special Needs teacher and a Learning Support teacher at different times, I know how challenging life can be for those of you who are catering for a wide range of needs in your classroom.

Here is something that might be of great help. Have a look at inclusionEd. https://www.inclusioned.edu.au/

Last week, I was so delighted to be able to attend – via Zoom – the launch of the new website – inclusionED


The launch featured an impressive line up of outstanding educators and those committed to seeing all students flourish.

  Hon. Dan Tehan MP, Federal Minister for Education
  Professor Robert van Barneveld, Autism CRC Chair
  Professor Suzanne Carrington, Autism CRC Program 2 School Years Director and Associate Dean (Research) in the Faculty of Education at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT)
  inclusionED research team: Associate Professor Michael Whelan, Dr Keely Harper-Hill and Dr Jeremy Kerr at QUT

  Trudy Bartlett, Senior Inclusion Coordinator at Marsden State High School

“inclusionED is an online professional learning community, co-designed with educators, for educators. It provides free evidence-based and research-informed teaching practices and tools to support diverse learners in inclusive classrooms.
In the average Australian classroom, at least three children have a learning difficulty or neurodevelopmental disability. The support and scaffolding these children receive during school can set the trajectory for the rest of their lives, but many teachers don't feel equipped to effectively support the learning of all students in their classrooms.”
“The teaching practices on inclusionED are underpinned by the principles of Universal Design for Learning. They don't provide a single one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customised for individualized learning. The platform also facilitates a national community of practice, enabling social sharing, comments and reviews of the experience implementing specific practices. During the co-design and development of inclusionED, educators reflected on the value of being part of an active, ongoing conversation to share good ideas that work in real classrooms.”

A Great Book to Read 

I would also recommend you take a look at book The Adaptive Teacher by John E. Barone and Charleen Katra.

This book is available to borrow from the Roscoe Library at St Francis Theological College at Milton. Eve James is the wonderful Library manager there and is most generous in her support of Anglican teachers, so do join the library at Milton. 


I am not sure of the statistics here in Brisbane but in the US, 26% of the population have a physical, intellectual, emotional or behavioural disability.   I would imagine that is reflected in Australian classrooms too. 

“Our gospel values call us to welcome and include all persons, especially those who are marginalized and vulnerable. The Gospels are filled with instances of Jesus encountering people who had disabilities. He intentionally chose to spend time with them, to be in their homes and to break bread with them (Barone and Katra, 2019).”

A Unit on St Ignatius Might be Just the Thing!

If you are seeking to encourage your students to be inclusive, why not teach a unit on Saints for People with Disabilities. There is a list of just such Saints in the book on page 171 of the book - The Adaptive Teacher! I would start with Saint Ignatius of Loyolaa Saint with a Disability caused by an Injury. This is a great story to share with your students. Saint Ignatius (1491-1556) was wounded by a cannon ball. With you students, you may wish to research this fascinating story of how St Ignatius founded the Jesuits and built the framework for Ignatian spirituality.

You will find plenty of great resources. Here are a few to get you started.
This video is from the Catholic Church.




This video - which really appeals to me - is the story of St Ignatius - told by an Olive! I thought it was hilarious - but I do have a bit of an unusual sense of humour!



Ignatian Prayer

After you have explored the life of St Ignatius, do take time to explore Ignatian Prayer.  Introduce your students to special practices such as The Daily Examen.
Ignatian prayer is imaginativereflective, and personalSt. Ignatius Loyola encouraged people to develop an intimate relationship with a God who loves them and desires the best for them.

Examen for Teens with Anxiety 

As we are all travelling through uncertain times as the COVID-19 Pandemic continues to impact upon our lives, it might be worthwhile reading this article on using the Examen with teens to help their anxiety.  Examen for Teens with Anxiety, by Stephanie Clouatare Davis, reminds us that the mental health of all students in our care is so important at the moment. Anxiety affects one in four teens. These statistics are quite worrying. Prayer and meditation are known to ease anxious minds.

I have copied a few sections – but do read the entire article to fully understand this practice.

Step by Step Guide


"The first step in the Examen is to become aware that the Holy Spirit is with us. Teens, especially those struggling with anxiety, are oftentimes unable to quiet their minds and be present to the existing moment.

The second step is gratitude. Ignatius invites us to savor the good that God has given us. The Examen begins with focusing on, relishing, and giving thanks for the many ways in which God is present in all things. Teenagers are people in transition. Their great metamorphosis often gives teens a feeling of quick movement and change. By pausing for gratitude, time slows and allows savoring of the changes of adolescence.

After naming moments of gratitude, review the last 24 hours, and notice where God was present. This practice encourages growth in understanding and awareness.
This step is the heart and soul of the Examen.

Continue reviewing the last 24 hours and notice the seeming lack of God’s presence. Noticing the places where God did not seem present in the last 24 hours is essential in deciding how to move forward into the next day. Were there moments in the last 24 hours that felt restless or tinged with anxiety? If so, when and where?

Awareness of these moments in which a teen might feel a decrease in faith, hope, and charity gives a name to the parts of her or his day that should be addressed. Can this situation be avoided or changed in the next 24 hours? Can a change in this situation shed light? Is this the place to request God’s grace and accompaniment? This can help young people avoid spiralling into negativity."



Your Class

May you find peace in your classroom as we remember that each person is a reflection of God's love and grace in our midst. We all have abilities and disabilities, just as we all have strengths and weaknesses - and as John E Barone and  Charleen Katra remind us, "We are more alike than we are different."




13 May 2020

Why we need to remember Florence Nightingale now!

The Lady with the Lamp and the Lady with the Logarithm!

The world remembered Florence Nightingale on 12 May, 2020, the 200th anniversary of  her birth. While many know about her contributions to nursing, some may not realise that she was an extraordinary social activist and the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society.

As we seek ways to inspire our students during this time of COVID-19, I find that true stories of heroes can be so powerful when used in the Religious Education classroom. The story of Florence Nightingale may engage the students on many levels. As part of your Religious Education curriculum, why not spend time with your students learning all you can about this remarkable person?

Here is a great way to start your lesson! A game.
Who Am I?

This activity is from the ABC. You can find it here

“I was born in 1820 into a wealthy and well-connected British family. As a child, my hobby was building statistical tables, in which I captured trends in the vegetable output from our garden.

At my request, I was tutored in mathematics for two hours every day. I became a maths tutor myself, before applying for a position as a Superintendent in the British military.

I was deployed to the battlefield, where I collected extensive data on soldier mortality rates. And this formed the basis of an 850 page report that I published in 1858. My report saved countless thousands of lives by prompting major reforms in hospital practice.
I helped to establish the International Statistical Congress and I served as a data consultant to the US Army in the American Civil War. I also invented the polar area diagram, and I pioneered the infographic.

I was elected to the Royal Statistical Society [and here’s a big clue…] I became the first female member at the age of just 38. I died a legend amongst statisticians at the age of ninety.

I am, of course, Florence Nightingale: mathematician.

Yes, Florence Nightingale — the Lady with the Lamp. She ought to be the Lady with the Logarithm. She saved far more lives by her grasp of numbers than by her gift for nursing. And she put data at the heart of healthcare as we know it today.”


Florence Nightingale was probably the first professional nurse to introduce good hygiene, such as washing hands! Very timely to talk about this!

She was also an exceptional mathematician and used data to bring about changes in health practices. Research her graphs, diagrams and infographics! There was no excel spreadsheet in those days!!!

Exploring her life with your class may provide you with many opportunities for discussions on a range of topics!

Videos and Resources


Lessons from Florence Nightingale

Coronavirus shows the value of data in stopping disease. Florence Nightingale understood this a long time ago

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQS-Zwsdc8k


What would Florence Nightingale say to us today? Reflection by the Bishop of London








Florence and Her Faith – a Research Task

Explore how Florence Nightingale was called to a life of service at the age of 17 and then single-handedly revolutionised the field of nursing.  https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-25/faith-behind-famous-florence-nightingale-christian-history.html

Florence was a very bright and critical thinker – especially about her faith.

“What is seldom talked about is Florence's faith. Apart from espousing a call from God, what evidence do we have that she had any Christian faith? It turns out that Florence was also quite a theologian with simple mystical bent. However, her theology was far from orthodox. Though brought up a Unitarian, she had adopted the Church of England, but eschewed both the Anglo-Catholic 'high church' and the Evangelical ‘low church'. Instead, she was firmly at home in the liberal wing of the Anglican church.”
“She believed that God was to be found in the heart of every person: 'Look for his thought, his feeling, his purpose; in a word, his spirit within you, without, behind you, before you. It is indeed omnipresent. Work your true work and you will find his presence in yourself'.”
Florence … “saw no point in prayer for things that could be achieved by human action (why pray for the plague to pass you by when you could build better sewers and clean water systems?)”

Learning Tasks – Ideas to Engage!

Florence Nightingale used her brilliant mathematical mind and her commitment to service to work for social justice and she changed the world and the profession of nursing.

What inspired Florence to carry out her work? What inspires you? Interview your parents or teachers and ask them what inspired them? Why did they choose their careers? Do they want to make a difference in the world? How would they like to change the world?

Make a list of all of Florence’s achievements – from nursing to maths.

How would you describe her character? Use events in her life as examples of her character. What were her strengths and what were her weaknesses? Consider the historical context and particularly the position of women at the time – which might make her achievements and choices all the more remarkable.

How has her work influenced our lives today? Literally – Florence insisted on hand washing! What would she be recommending to us now as we face COVID-19?

Research Task – What did Florence Nightingale do that was so extraordinary during the Crimean War? Find out about conditions during the Crimean War.

Research the PoemThe Nightingale’s Song to the Sick Soldier https://www.countryjoe.com/nightingale/broadside.htm

Read the PoemSanta Filomena. This is the famous poem in which Henry Wadsworth Longfellow uses the term, ‘lady with the lamp’. https://www.countryjoe.com/nightingale/broadside.htm

Lo! in that house of misery
A lady with a lamp I see
   Pass through the glimmering gloom,
   And flit from room to room.

Role Play - Red Carpet Interview - invite the ‘press’ to interview Florence. Set up a ‘press Conference’ in the classroom and ask students to participate in a role play. 

Your gifts? Your purpose? Your service? Your future?

Reflect on your own life.


What would you like to be remembered for?

What are your gifts?

How could you serve others?

What issues around social justice do you feel passionate about?

Would you like to see any changes in the world?

What could you do to bring about those changes?

What lessons can you learn from the life of Florence Nightingale?

Her name will long be remembered. I wonder if you know why she was called Florence? 


As always - email me if you would like any help with developing lessons around these ideas. Vanessa

12 May 2020

Lockdown Lava Lamps

Praying for others with lava lamps!

I have been so moved by requests for prayers for children suffering from coronavirus. While we may be doing quite well here in Australia, many communities elsewhere in the world are still struggling to control the pandemic and are asking for our prayers.

For over 10 years I have been making lava lamps as a special way to help people pray. Now might be a great time to create lava lamps at home or at school. Use these lava lamps to help your students think about others and pray for children across the world.

Steve Spangler is my favourite Science Teacher - have a look at his website!





11 May 2020

All Shall Be Well

Is it time to teach your students the fascinating story of Julian of Norwich, the first woman to write a book in English?

I am not sure about you, but since the Covid lockdown, I have seen many messages quoting Julian of Norwich and thought this could be a fabulous time to teach your students about this remarkable woman, who survived the plague three times and lived in her own form of spiritual isolation. For a fascinating story to share with students, why not develop a mini unit on Julian of Norwich? 


You have probably heard Julian of Norwich quoted over the years – but may not have considered using her life, her wisdom and her example to explore topics such as love, life choices, anxiety, guilt, gender, honesty, humility and resilience with your classes. Julian is also the author of the first work in English identified as written by a woman! Her theology is sometimes referred to as the quintessence of Anglican spirituality, with compassion at its heart.

Possibly her most famous quote is, 

“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

Julian of Norwich


Students will be captivated by the mysticism of the story, Julian’s extraordinary life and what they can learn from this medieval anchoress. What great wisdom for us all as we live in a time of this global anxiety and concern surrounding the pandemic!
Here are some ideas for you if you wish to provide your students with a lesson on Julian of Norwich. Adapt according to the age of your students. This is a story that will engage students of all ages. 

Lesson Plan


Watch the video Julian of Norwich



Background Briefing


  What is an anchoress?
  Why might anyone choose to be anchoress? 


Link this to isolation and quarantine that we are currently experiencing.
*    Julian of Norwich had visions of God on 13 May 1373. (Some sources say the 8 May.) She was desperately ill and when she awoke, she was cured. What did learn from the visions?


Discussion Ideas – Think, Pair, Share


*      Imagine what it would have been like to live in a small cell attached to a church?

*      Julian lived in a cell for 60 years. Why would anyone choose this life?

*      She was walled in – and could counsel visitors through a small window. Why might people go to speak to her and ask her advice? Would you like to talk to her? What would you have asked Julian if you had the opportunity to meet her?

*    Julian of Norwich wrote a very famous book while in her cell – Revelations of Divine Love. Julian wanted to leave a message for the world. She explored issues such as anxiety, worry, guilt, forgiveness and even gender. Find out about this book?  Have you written a book or a journal while you have been in lockdown? What topic would you choose to write about?

*      As a young girl, Julian wished she would suffer when she was young? Why would anyone want to suffer? Does suffering help us to live more meaningful lives? Is suffering important? How does our character develop when we suffer?

*      Julian is famous for her wisdom – “all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well”. What does this mean? Design a poster or a t-shirt with this quote.

*      In one vision, Julian was taken to the bottom of the sea and shown that even when you are at the bottom of the sea – if you are with God – you shall be safe. How would you interpret this vision?

*      What was Julian’s basic message? Julian of Norwich did not want to be remembered or famous – she urges us not to remember her for who she is – but for what she said. Such humility! What do you want to be remembered for – your kindness, your courage, your love for your neighbour? Think about it and write down your thoughts.


One Thing

  What is one thing that you think is interesting about this story?
  What is one thing you don’t understand?
  What is one thing you find hard to believe?
  What is one thing that you might change in the way you live or think after learning about Julian?

Responding to the story

  Julian possibly lost her family to the plague, yet she devoted her life to God, and we are still talking about her today. What can she teach us about resilience?
  Design a stain glassed window to honour Julian of Norwich.
  Find any artwork related to Julian of Norwich and copy or design your own.
  Research the history of the church in Norwich and sketch the church.
  Research another anchoress or anchorite.



“The greatest honour we can give Almighty God

 is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love.”
― Julian of Norwich

















14 April 2020

The Pilgrim's Progress - A Free Movie Treat for the Whole Family



The wonderful people of  Revelation Media have done an extraordinary thing to support families through the COVID-19 crisis. They have made the entire movie, The Pilgrim's Progress, available, free online.

Watch the entire movie here.

May I suggest that you encourage all families from your school to watch this fabulous movie. Of course, there are some themes and images that make this unsuitable for little children - so do watch it yourself first. There are a few scenes with the evil creatures - think Harry Potter - so younger students could find some scenes frightening. However this is a truly brilliant movie and so many themes and ideas to explore.


The author of The Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan, wrote this much loved and very famous novel,while he was in prison! He was sent to prison for 12 years for preaching about Jesus. 

The book is an allegorical adventure telling of the journey of Christian from his home town, the City of Destruction, to the Celestial City. There is so much to learn and explore with your students. Discuss the ideas of figurative language and the rich depth of exploration that an allegory provides us. Open up a discussion on the difference between a literal interpretation of text and a metaphorical interpretation. There are  many profound messages in the story - and you can find ways to explore these even with young students. Students can think about how we overcome obstacles, how we stay focussed, how we endure suffering and why, and the importance of faith. There is a whole lesson in just talking about the names of the characters - Evangelist, Obstinate, Pliable, Help, Faithful, Hopeful and Giant Despair. Create maps of the journey with your class or draw each character from the story. After watching the movie, you could simply ask the students what do they think is truly important in life?

Through the generosity of Revelation Media, students and families who are in isolation or quarantine can enjoy watching this outstanding movie. What a generous and thoughtful gift. Please take time to enjoy this gift. You can also make a donation to support the work of this organisation.