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.

19 July 2017

Selling Religion

In recent years different religious groups in Australia has sought to change the public's perception of them through the use of television commercials. One of these campaigns put out by the Mormon's (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) attempted, somewhat successfully, in projecting the image that they were just ordinary people (although in many cases exceptional, charismatic and talented).

The Church of Scientology also used an ad in Melbourne for the launch of a new centre. This ad had previously been used for the Super-bowl. Once again it seeks to project a particular image of Scientologists as being independent, free thinking seekers (the ad is a bit like an Apple ad).

I wonder what your students might come up with if they were asked to create an ad for Christian's in Australia? How do they think Christian's are currently perceived? What image might they think is helpful for the world to see? What images or ideas might they use?

13 July 2017

Multiple Intelligence and the Bible

Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences are a useful tool for engaging students in the many different ways they learn and experience the world. When used creatively they can also open up experiences that transform the learner. Below are some basic ideas for using Multiple Intelligences when engaging with Biblical narratives. With all of these activities appropriate passages of scripture need to be chosen.

Music Rhythmic (Music Smart)
After reading a chosen passage of scripture invite students to listen to some brief excerpts of different types of music. Try to find music with different moods. Ask students to choose which piece of music they think goes best with the reading. The passage can then be read with that piece of music playing quietly underneath.

Naturalistic (Nature Smart)
The sounds, textures and smells of a Bible story may help many students to engage with it in a memorable way. Nature sound tracks can be used for some passages that take place at the beach or in the desert. The smells and textures of the story can be brought into the classroom such as the smell of cooking fish or the touch of sand. Jesus often told stories using real objects that can be put in students hands to see, touch and smell. Ideally some stories might be told outside looking at the things Jesus spoke about.

Bodily Kinaesthetic (Movement Smart)
Building and making can be an important tool for unlocking kinaesthetic children’s learning. Lego or other building and play materials might be used to help recreate a story that students have just heard told. Photos of the construction at different points of the story could be taken, so students can create a sequential picture book.

Intrapersonal  (Self Smart)
Many Biblical narratives can be rewritten in a way that invites students to go on a journey of the imagination. This can begin by asking them to imagine that they are in the story watching what is going on. Encourage them to picture everything in the story including the sights, sounds and smells. Ask them to imagine how they feel or what they think when different events occur.

Verbal-Linguistic (Word Smart)

There are many excellent Bible’s on CD or MP3 available these days. The best include high quality sound effects and musical scores in the background. Using one of these can provide an alternate way for students to hear the story being explored.

6 July 2017

All religions aren't the same...but...

I get twitchy when I hear students say "all religions are the same". In essence they are trying to say that at the heart of it all religions are on about the same stuff. Even superficially this statement is clearly not true. The closer you look the more obvious it becomes that different religious groups hold different beliefs, are motivated by different things and act in different ways. However, this is not to say that there aren't  things that we have in common. 

While my hope is that students might see clearly the differences between world religions I would also like them to see the good things held in common. One of these things is the idea of the Golden Rule: treat others as you would like them to treat you. This concept spans many religions and philosophies and hopefully reminds us that we need to be compassionate, generous and kind to those around us not matter who they are or what they believe. 

St Columbans Mission Society sell a poster with the Golden Rule as found in thirteen different religions. This can be a great reminder in our multicultural multifaith schools that although we may have many different beliefs, it is likely that our own faith tradition encourages us to treat one another in positive and life giving ways. It is something we can share together as we strive to love one other.

There are also some helpful resources that could be used in the classroom.

28 June 2017

Cracking Open the Concept of Work

Laziness may appear attractive, but work gives satisfaction (Anne Frank)

A few weeks ago I posted about what the Christian faith might have to say about work.
This week something a little more practical. Here is a basic idea for cracking open the concept of work.

Exploring Quotes

Interesting and challenging quotes could be a great place to start exploring the concept of work. Use a large range of quotes. Print them, cut them out and spread them around the classroom. Ask students to pick one that speaks to them or challenges them or that they disagree with. Have them write a paragraph on the truth the quote is trying to teach.

Here are some quotes to start with but there are plenty more online at places such as:

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
Thomas A. Edison

By working faithfully eight hours a day you may eventually get to be boss and work twelve hours a day.
Robert Frost

The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.
Vince Lombardi

Work is a necessary evil to be avoided.
Mark Twain

Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.
Theodore Roosevelt

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

Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for love of it.
Henry David Thoreau

Laziness may appear attractive, but work gives satisfaction.
Anne Frank

Without work, all life goes rotten. But when work is soulless, life stifles and dies.
Albert Camus

Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work.
Booker T. Washington

We work to become, not to acquire.
Elbert Hubbard

There is joy in work. There is no happiness except in the realization that we have accomplished something.
Henry Ford

When a man tells you that he got rich through hard work, ask him: 'Whose?'
Don Marquis

If you don't want to work you have to work to earn enough money so that you won't have to work.
Ogden Nash

I can't imagine anything more worthwhile than doing what I most love. And they pay me for it.
Edgar Winter

Work is not man's punishment. It is his reward and his strength and his pleasure.
George Sand

Teaching was the hardest work I had ever done, and it remains the hardest work I have done to date.
Ann Richards

Work is much more fun than fun.
Noel Coward

Men for the sake of getting a living forget to live.
Margaret Fuller

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?: