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.

22 June 2017

The Bible: If it is not in the hand, it is not in the head

Years ago in a discussion about the Montessori approach to education someone told me that the philosophy could be summed up in the idea that: If it is not in the hand, it is not in the head.

This quote, which I thought came from Maria Montessori but which I cannot find the source for, stuck in my head. And it made sense to me. What it meant to me was that unless children play with something, manipulate it with their hands then they are not really learning about it. This is a reductionist view of Montessori but it is reflective of their constructivist view. People need to explore and engage with the world in order to learn. In other words learning is hands on and exploratory.

Reflecting on this idea makes me think about how we approach the Bible with children and young people.

Do we approach it like an Rubik's Cube or a Swarovski Crystal ornament?

On the one hand the Rubik's Cube is played with, twisted, explored, thought about. The better you get the more sides of it you solve. Most people are happy to play with it without ever solving the whole thing but they learn as they go. With some help and understanding they may learn the tricks or approaches to solving larger sections. (I also realise lots of Rubik's Cubes end up in the bottom of the cupboard and this is the point where the analogy breaks down)

On the other hand the Swarovki Crystal is something that sits on the shelf. It is precious and beautiful to look at but it is not something that is touched, played with, manipulated. It might be looked at from time to time but essentially it is forgotten.

 If it is not in the hand, it is not in the head

I think there is a tendency in religious education, especially in primary levels, to present the Bible to children as something of an ornament. We can look at the stories, hear them, but we don't play with them. And by play I mean the freedom to really pull it apart. This is not how we teach children to treat other texts. We encourage them to pull them apart, think about them, reflect on how they make them feel. Have a look at the English section of the Australian Curriculum for example, even in the Foundation Year.

We need to allow children and young people to engage with the Biblical text in a way that gives them permission to explore it, touch it, experience it and play with it. There are all sorts of ways this can happen, again the Australian Curriculum provides some pointers for age appropriate engagement with texts. Practitioners need to find methods that make students want to explore the text with curiosity. Mind you memorising scripture may also be necessary as well.

Some people may feel anxious about this approach. They may fear that it will undermine the message the Bible is trying to communicate. Surely it shouldn't be treated like other books. We may fear this approach might mean young people will not reverence the Bible. The greater risk we run is that young people will not even look at the Bible because like the Crystal they know they are not allowed to touch. As it is we have a great deal of preconceptions to deal with.

If we want the Bible to get into the heads of young people, to be thought about and reflected on, we need to put it firmly into their hands with the freedom to play. In doing this it may not only be in their heads but also in their hearts.

15 June 2017

Zombies and Theology

The Emmanuel Centre for the Study of Science, Religion and Society at the University of Queensland is worth checking out if you teach religious education in Brisbane or beyond. They run regular seminars on all kinds of topics and issues. Like this one:

Zombies and Theology

a seminar with Dr Matthew Tan on Tuesday 27 June, 12 noon to 1.50pm

In this presentation, Dr Tan will interface postmodern pop culture and its technological context with Christian theology. Dr Tan will explore the fascination with the undead, in particular the fascination with zombies, in contemporary culture. The argument put forward is that the zombie is not just another addition to the monster genre. Instead, the zombie is a theologically-inflected embodiment of both the desires and apprehensions of postmodern culture that is, without realising it, striving towards an immanent, technologically enhanced form of immortality by manufacturing a heaven without God.

Interested? Find out more here.

5 June 2017

My Wonderful Opus

I think the person who takes a job in order to live - that is to say, for the money - has turned himself into a slave. - Joseph Campbell

Most schools run programs to help students think about what they might do when they leave school. This is a good thing but I wonder what values and ideas are behind these programs. To be honest I know very little about them. The question I want to ask is: What should Christian schools be teaching students about work? (and here I am talking about what I call "Mission schools", Christian schools where the majority of students are not Christians).

What might Christianity say about work?

Before I go any further though, the big question is: What do you mean by work?

And here's the thing. We shouldn't be talking about 9-5 drudgery, or employment, or getting a job.

We should be exploring something more life affirming. So lets not talk about work but opus.

This term opus is kind of artistic. It usually refers to the creation of works of art on a large scale. I think this is closer to the Christian idea of work than anything else. In Genesis man is placed in the garden to work. He is in God's great creation, God's wonderful artwork to be a participant in shaping it. It is only post fall that work becomes backbreaking drudgery.

In Religious Education our exploration of work should try to crack open the idea that our true work (or opus) isn't necessarily what we do 9-5 but what we do to participate constructively in God's creation. It is using our gifts and talents to make something wonderful with our life. Not selfishly, but selflessly. As an act of service. A wonderful and enjoyable and satisfying act of service. This may not happen 9-5 but there is more to our life than just this.

Can everyone do this? Create a great opus? Yes. It isn't about fame or money or power or any of the other things that we often use to judge life success. It is about contribution, use of gifts, and purpose and meaning in life.It may not be easy but it is wonderful.

So here are two videos that open up the idea that we have a set amount of time to use. How are we going to spend it?  In self torture or on creating a wonderful opus. (I will post something more practical on work and vocation in the RE classroom next week. This week lets just dream of  working joyfully  in God's great garden.

Jelly Bean Time:

How would you really enjoy spending your life?: 

25 May 2017

Free Bible Images

Free Bible Images is a useful sight if you are looking for picture resources to use while teaching about the Bible. The images are sorted by Book and story or passage. Not all the pictures are great but there is a good chance you will find something useful.

18 May 2017

A treasure trove of RE resources

Brisbane Catholic Education has produced a plethora of high quality resources and information for their RE teachers. You can see it all here.

If you are still reading this and not exploring the site let me point you to a particularly valuable section: Worlds of the Text. This section provides background  information on all of the Biblical texts BCE use and it is sorted by year level.

Learning Bytes is another great resource that provides a starting place for developing units of work.

Are you still here? Go to BCE's Resource Link.

11 May 2017

Meeting the kinder version of yourself

Do you remember those BUPA ads from a few years ago that had the tag line: What would you do if you met a healthier version of yourself (see vid below). I always thought these ads were clever for the thought experiment that they invited us to participate in. How might the decisions we make now and the habits we engage in every day lead us to a particular version of our self?

Recently on the internet I saw this: ”Somebody once told me the definition of hell: On your last day on earth, the person you became will meet the person you could have become.

I think this is also an interesting thought experiment. It made me think about what version of myself  would make me disappointed in the person I had become. Would it be someone who was more moral than me, more successful, kinder? Maybe. But I wonder what other compromises this version of myself might have made?

Would it be hell if I met an incredibly moral version of myself but they were homeless. Or what if I met a super successful mega wealthy version of myself but they were morally repugnant.

I think this idea of meeting future versions of yourself might be a useful thought experiment for the RE classroom. It could really get students thinking about the type of person they want to become and the choices they might make in order to become this person. They could also think about the things that might cause them to make compromises.

I wouldn't spend too much time dwelling on the idea that we might be disappointed by the person we might become. It would be worth reflecting on how we might make peace with our past as we go through life and come to a point of accepting who we are.

Of course all of this can be connected with scripture in creative ways. Themes might include repentance, redemption, forgiveness, new life. The story of the rich young man could be used here. What if he met the version of himself who followed Jesus and didn't walk away.

27 April 2017

Prayer Spaces in Schools Australian Tour

If you haven't heard of Prayer Spaces in Schools, now is the time to find out! One great place to start is the Prayer Spaces in School website or you could check out the video in the bottom of this post. The most important thing to know is that Phil Togwell from Prayer Spaces in Schools (UK) is coming to Australia in August. Find out more about the tour here.

Brisbane - Wed 9th August - St John's Anglican College

Canberra - Mon 14th August - Radford College

Sydney - Tuesday 15th August - Ravenswood School for Girls

Adelaide - 
Thursday 17th August - St Peter's College

Melbourne - Friday 18th August - Caulfield Grammar School

(Cost $80 - includes morning tea and lunch)


If you want to find out how amazing Prayer Spaces are and learn how you might use them in your school come and join in. The tour is being organised by the Anglican Schools Commission in Southern Queensland but all are welcome.