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.

16 June 2015

Faith Debates in the Classroom

There's lots of great stuff for RE teachers at RE:ONLINE. This website has all kinds of resources. 

There are sections on assessment, information on RE pedagogy, interesting articles, and resources for learning in a whole host of areas.

Of particular interest are the resources connected with Westminster Faith Debates. This website is itself a valuable resources for religious educators but with the materials supplied by RE:ONLINE it becomes very useful indeed.

Debates with resources include: Do Christian's really oppose gay marriage? What limits to religious freedom? and Why do God? 



4 June 2015

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.

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.