Archive for the ‘curriculum’ Category

Symbols of Lent

Today in rotation Sunday school our fourth and fifth graders were in the “Galaxy of God,” which is our computer lab. Our teachers showed and discussed several different symbols of land, and then the students use the program Kid Pix to draw these symbols. Rather than end the lesson there, or print them out, we use the free iPhone app “Shadow Puppet” to take pictures and then have the students narrate, explaining what they had drawn on their screens.

Three students were involved in the creation of each short video. One student pushed all the commands on the iPhone (including taking the photo), another student shared a short introduction, and the third student described their drawing.

After class, I use the free iPhone app “YouTube Capture” to merge the eight videos into one and upload them to YouTube. Here is our final video!

This post was mobile blogged with WordPress for iPhone

Comparing Biblical and Worldly views of Christmas

Yesterday was Shepherd Sunday for Sunday School, and we did several activities in 4th grade to get to know each each other better, connect after the holidays, and continue to learn about the birth and life of Christ from the Bible.

We started by playing a name and action game, where each student (and teacher) said their name and did a unique action or movement. Each time someone new shared their name and action, we repeated together all the names and gestures of the people who came before them. I’m not sure what the name of this game is, but it is something I’ve done before with students and it was a fun and energetic way to get us started.

We next sat in a circle and shared the one or two favorite gifts we RECEIVED for Christmas. Answers included a piano, microscope, new tennis shoes, Android tablet, iPod Touch, Kindle Fire HDX, Razor scooter, light up pillow, and more. We discussed how Christmas is much more than receiving gifts, and next brainstormed the messages which “the world” tells us Christmas is about. Our list included:

  1. Gimme, Gimme, Gimme
  2. Santa Claus / Kris Kringle
  3. Elvis singing “Santa Claus is coming to town” (but also talking about God in kind of a confusing way)
  4. Giving gifts
  5. Money

We next brainstormed what the Bible says about Christmas. This was our list:

  1. Jesus was born in Bethlehem
  2. Jesus was born in a manger
  3. Jesus is God’s son
  4. Jesus was born from the virgin Mary
  5. Elizabeth visited Mary before their children were born, and John the Baptist (still in the womb) jumped for joy when Mary came with Jesus who was still in her womb
  6. 3 wise men came to visit Jesus and his family after his birth
  7. Herod, the king, killed all the baby boys under the age of two when he learned the wise men hadn’t returned to tell him about the child they had found. He did this because he didn’t want another king to grow up who would challenge him.

We then started to work on a “5 Photo Story” to highlight some of the things we knew are true about Christmas from the Bible. The students wanted to first stage a photo about Herod killing the babies who were under 2, and this led to a lot of discussion about why he did that and how the holy family left to be safe in Egypt. We talked about how an angel came to Joseph in a dream and told them to go to Egypt.

We ran out of time and were only able to take that first photo. I hope this background about our lesson and discussion helps shed some light on what we did and talked about Sunday! Please discuss these ideas with your child, and use their interest in different aspects of the story (including the Herod story) to deepen their understanding of Biblical truth and the story of Jesus.

We’re looking forward to a great 2014 of Sunday School! Our next rotation starts next week!

Crucified with Christ

This Sunday in 5th grade Sunday School, we’re discussing and exploring the meaning of Paul’s words in Galatians 2:20.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

We’re using this presentation in class, along with a movie clip from “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.” Specifically, we’re watching scene 17, titled “Aslan’s Sacrifice.”

Please take some time this week to discuss this verse with your child, which is our memory verse of the week. Discuss what it means to sacrifice, and to live with the knowledge that Christ lives in us. Talk about your own understanding and belief in the crucifixion as well as resurrection of Christ. Talk together about why this belief is a cornerstone of our faith as Christians, and how you live differently each day with this knowledge as well as the faith it provides.

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Working to be a servant

Today in our 5th grade Grapple Sunday school class, we started a new unit of study called, “Why in the World?” Our first lesson was about, “What Difference Can I Make,” and today we discussed what it means to be a servant.

As Christians, we are called to be different and live differently than others in our culture. In our church bulletin today, there is a flyer ad for Financial Peace University with the headline, “Normal is Broke. Be Weird!” In some ways, we are called to “be weird” as Christians living in a world that does not believe in Jesus or follow him. The city of Austin, Texas, has a public relations campaign called, “Keep Austin Weird.” We are not called as Christians to be weird for the sake of weirdness, but instead to act differently according to the instructions of Jesus.

We are also called to not believe and follow the messages of the world, when it comes to “being great.” When we look at a current pop star, like Taylor Swift, we may get the wrong idea of what it means to be “great.” You don’t have to be a rock star, have a wonderful singing voice, wear Ugg boots, or do other things we see pop stars do to “be great.” Jesus tells us we need to be leaders, and lead is to serve.

Jesus came to earth not to be served, but to serve. Jesus was a revolutionary during his human life on earth, but did not advocate a violent revolution like others have. Sometimes when we hear the word “revolution” we might think of communist revolutionary leaders like Che Guevara or Mao. Some of the people who lived when Jesus walked the earth as a human were thinking their Messiah would be a military leader and help overthrow the Roman empire. Jesus did not lead a violent revolution, however, he lead a revolution in thinking about what it means to lead and to be great. The basis for leadership and commendable living is SERVICE.

We read and discussed three Bible verses today to explore what it means to serve and be a servant. The first verse was Mark 10:42-45. In it we read:

Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage."

These words of Jesus were the basis for a speech Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shared on February 4, 1968, in Atlanta, Georgia, called “The Drum Major Instinct.” You can hear some of that speech, in Dr. King’s own words, by visiting the homepage of The King Center in Atlanta. We listened to these words today in class.  Dr. King is making the same point we read about in Mark: the definition of greatness needs to change. Jesus tells us that to be great, we must serve. This is what Jesus did and the example he set for us, and we need to become servants as well.

We also read Luke 10:38-42 and Romans 12:1-3 to discuss ideas and examples of being a servant. In Luke’s verses, we discussed how Mary and Martha were both serving. Serving does not just mean doing housework and chores, like Martha was. Mary was also serving Jesus, by sitting at his feet and listening to him. Today it is very easy to be distracted. It can be a big deal to give someone our full attention. We talked about how this is true in relationships. We can serve our parents and each other by giving others our full attention, and not being distracted by other things in our lives.

This week, please talk at home about what it means to be a servant and the ways we can serve others. We are going to create a 30 second video next week that can be a “public service announcement” for others about being a servant. Today at the end of class, we watched the PSA “Think Before You Post” and talked about how this video gets people who watch it thinking about changing their behavior. We are going to creatively try and create a similar video, with the theme of being a servant.

Please come to class next week with ideas for how we can make a video about being a servant.

Candy Canes and the real meaning of Christmas

Today in Sunday School, our last Sunday before Christmas, reviewed our theme for the past several weeks answering the question, “Why are we here?” Last week we discussed the “Fruits of the Spirit,” and to review today we played last week’s podcast. (5 minutes long) We discussed how the themes of each week in Advent (hope, peace, love, and joy) overlap / are the same as some of the fruits of the Spirit discussed by Paul in Galatians 5:22-23.

candy canes

Our primary lesson today focused on the history of the candy cane and the symbolism it can have for us as Christians during the holiday season. We have several books in our church library about the history of the candy cane, including “The Candymaker’s Gift” by Helen Haidle and David Haidle as well as “The Legend of the Candy Cane” by Lori Walburg VandenBosch and James Bernardin. We discussed how both of these books are titled “the LEGEND,” because while they are based on historical facts, they are not entirely historically accurate. We also discussed how at holiday times, there are many traditions we may follow and stories we may hear which can be traced from non-religious sources. It is important to discuss these things, so we know why we do them and what they mean. The most critical lesson and idea of the Christmas season for us, as Christians, is that God sent his son Jesus to earth so we could learn how to live and be able to obtain forgiveness for our sins, thanks to God’s amazing grace. That IS A fact, and the reason for the Christmas season.

We referenced the “Origin of the Candy Cane” article on, which “debunks” a popular email circulated in 2007 which contended the candy cane was invented in Indiana as a Christian symbol. VandenBosch and Bernardin’s book, “The Legend of the Candy Cane,” does include an excellent historical overview of the candy cane, including some of the elements referenced in the Snopes article. These are referenced in the current WikiPedia article for “candy cane:”

The distinctive “hook” shape associated with candy canes is traditionally credited to a choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral in Germany, who, legend has it, in 1670 bent straight candy sticks into canes to represent a shepherd’s crook, and gave them to children at church services. The shepherd’s staff is often used in Christianity as a metaphor for The Good Shepherd Jesus Christ. It is also possible that, as people decorated their Yule trees with food, the bent candy cane was invented as a functional solution.


In Europe candy canes were used to decorate Yule trees along with other items of food. In North America, the first documented example of the use of candy canes to celebrate Christmas occurred in 1847, when a German-Swedish immigrant by the name of August Imgard hung the candy canes from the branches of a Christmas tree. Christmas cards from the following decades show Christmas trees decorated with candy canes, first white canes, then striped ones in the 20th century. This then spread to the rest of the continent, where it continues to remain a popular Christmas tradition.

We discussed how remarkable it is that peppermint flavoring did not become commonly available until the early 20th century. We take peppermints for granted today, as well as many other things. It is important that as we are surrounded by the sights, sounds, smells, and activities of the Christmas holiday season, we remember the symbolism of things like our advent wreath and candy canes.

This past week I heard about a new book which argues Santa Claus is able to use a variety of technologies far more advanced than anything we have today. The book is “The Truth about Santa: Wormholes, Robots, and What Really Happens on Christmas Eve” by Gregory Mone. While this story and many others may be fun to read and share at Christmas time, it is critical remember what we know to be true about Christmas, God, and his son Jesus Christ. The story of Christ’s birth, life, crucifixion, and resurrection is not “just a story” like many other books we may read at Christmas time. In many ways, this is THE STORY which should direct our thoughts and actions not only in December each year, but every day.

Note: Next week all students in grades K-5 will gather in “Miracle Movies” at the church for a pajama party and a “Happy Birthday Jesus Party.” Feel free to wear your PJs to church next week, and meet us in Miracle Movies.

May God bless you and your family this Christmas season. Have a very Merry Christmas!

Fruits of the Spirit

We continued our discussions about why God created us and how we are called to live by:

  1. reading and discussing Galatians 5:22-23 today in class
  2. listening to the song “Fruit of the Spirit” by Uncle Charlie (watching the lyrics too on DVD)
  3. recording a five minute podcast about our thoughts on these fruits of the spirit.

As we continue to go to school, work, and home in this Christmas season, we want to remember that Jesus is the “reason for the season” and we should focus on the gifts he gives us, when we invite God’s Holy Spirit to enter into our lives and direct our actions.

We brainstormed some of the “Non-Christian Messages of Christmas” in class today. This is what we came up with:
1. Just give gifts
2. Santa Claus
3. Christmas Lights
4. Buy me / purchase stuff
5. Christmas Tree

We also discussed some of the “Christmas Messages / Symbols” of the season, including:
1. Christmas Star (Jesus)
2. Candy Cane

Next week we will talk more about candy canes, again in the context of “Why I am I here?” and “How am I supposed to live my life?”

We reviewed that the candles of the advent wreath represent:

  1. Hope
  2. Peace
  3. Love
  4. Joy

In reading, discussing, and listening to Galatians 5:22-23 (both in the NIV version and “The Message“) we discussed these fruits of the spirit and what they mean to us in greater depth. According to the Apostle Paul, writing to the Galatians, the “fruits of the spirit” are:

  1. Love
  2. Joy
  3. Peace
  4. Patience
  5. Kindness
  6. Faithfulness
  7. Gentleness
  8. Self-control

Just as we recognize a tree by its fruits, other should recognize we are Christians by seeing these “fruits of the spirit” in the way we act toward others every day. In addition to remembering and focusing on the meaning of the four candles of Advent, we also want to focus our minds and our efforts on demonstrating the fruits of the spirit this Christmas season.

We sent a parent letter home today, which you can also download in PDF format. (This online version does NOT include the password to join our new online learning community, however, the link to our iSHARE project spreadsheet or home/cell phone numbers. Alternate online contact information/methods for Wes are available.)

Please listen to our podcast this week and discuss these ideas with your family at home this week!

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Choices and Listening for God’s Voice

These are notes and links for parents and students in our 5th grade “Grapple” Sunday School class at First Presbyterian Church in Edmond, Oklahoma.

Last Sunday and this Sunday (Mother’s Day) we have focused on the themes of listening to God’s voice as we make choices. I’ve also used a few more interactive features of our SMARTboard, and created our lessons in SMART Notebook instead of PowerPoint. You can download these files below and use them if desired. Here’s a summary of what we’ve discussed and the verses we’ve studied.

Sunday, May 3, 2009
How Can I Hear God’s Voice
download our SMART Notebook 10 lesson (6.8 MB)
– reviewing things that do NOT matter in life versus things that do
Exodus 3: Story of Moses and the burning bush
– discussion of Egypt and where it is located in the Middle East relative to the Red Sea and the Sinai Peninsula
– Story of Gideon testing God: Judges 6:33-40
– Theme: We should not test God
James 1:5-7

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord.

Sunday, May 10, 2009
Choices, Choices! (Hearing God’s Voice Part 2)
download our SMART Notebook 10 lesson (7.5 MB)
Proverbs 2:6

For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

– vocabulary review: Gideon, Moses, Egypt, Sinai, Satan, Bible (as the sword of the Spirit,) dreams (as a way God can speak to us)
– Discussion prompt photo: The Fortune Teller
– Independent response questions:
— Whose voice do you know?
— How can you learn to recognize someone’s voice?
— What is the potential danger in listening to strangers?
— What is good about recognizing a voice?
— How can you recognize God’s voice?
– Discussion verse: 1 John 4:1-6
– Discussion focus: We must spend time in prayer and Bible study each week so we know God’s Word, his voice, and his will for our lives. Only by spending time with God regularly can we know his voice when he speaks to us. We should not put God to a test, as Gideon did, but we should put messages we hear in the world and from our friends to the “test” by comparing them to God’s will and what he says in his Word. God is here with us and speaks to us, but we must listen and spend time seeking him so we will know Him.

Thanks to Dave Debrowski for visiting us and participating in our lesson today! Dave told us about Chaos and invited both parents and students to come to the Chaos meeting this Wednesday, May 13th, in the Green Room at FPCE at 6:30 pm to discuss summer activities for middle school students.

We have just 3 more Sundays left in May, then 5th grade Grapple will be over!

Take some time this week to discuss some of the Bible verses and themes we’ve discussed in class together as a family. Have a great week!

sunshine streaming through the clouds over the ocean

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Things that don’t matter

Today we continued our study on things that matter in life from God’s perspective. We discussed how there are MANY messages in the media (on TV, on billboards, in movies, in games, on the Internet, in magazines, etc.) which try to distract us away from things which really matter in life. We mentioned Earth Day this past week, and showed a video which Alexander created about using electric cars rather than gasoline powered cars.

Just as most messages in the media do NOT encourage us to take environmentally friendly actions like using an electric car, we also see many messages that encourage us to have a focus which is not Godly. We brainstormed many of these distracting media messages today.

These were the results of our brainstorming:

What doesn’t matter
1. Tanning
2. Subway message to eat fresh
3. gambling your life away at a casino
4. get a prize for buying something you don’t need
5. Smoking is cool
6. what computer is best?
7. cool cleaning supplies
8. having an awesome cell phone
9. buying stuff

Eating fresh, healthy food matters because our bodies are God’s temple and we are to care for ourselves. Staying clean and keeping our surroundings clean also matters. There are many messages which encourage us to focus on things which do NOT matter, however. This ties closely to Pastor Mateen’s message this week in the service, “A Mind Worthy of the Gospel.” It also connects well with our prayer of confession from today’s service, including these words:

Today we confess in particular how we have misused our minds. We have pursued the lies of our culture as if they were true; we have lingered over dishonorable thoughts; we have justified injustices; impure and ugly images have clouded our vision.

Next week we will continue this series and focus on the things which DO matter. The words of the apostle Paul will be part of our focus in Philippians 4 :8-9.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me— put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

What Matters? Verses from our lesson today

Today in 5th grade Sunday School we started a series of lessons on the topic, “What Matters?” Our first lesson focused on whether the opinions of other people should matter to us as much as God’s opinion. These were some of the verses we read and discussed. (We actually just got to about three of these, but they all apply to the lesson and would be super to discuss at home as a family.)

Colossians 3:9-11 (The Message)

John 5:16-18 (The Message)

John 5:36-44 (New International Version)

Galatians 1:10 (New International Version)

Matthew 10:29-32 (New International Version)

Psalm 139:17-18 (New International Version)

2 Corinthians 10:12-18 (New International Version)

Our verse of the week this week, from our weekly devotional (with which we start each Sunday’s lesson, led by one of our class “shephards”) is 1 Corinthians 4:7. In the NIV it reads:

For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

We need to remember where all our gifts, talents and skills come from: Our Lord! What matters most is God’s opinion. The opinions of our family and friends matter too, and we always need to remember the power of our words. Our words can build someone up or tear someone down. God calls us to serve Him first, and remember that HIS opinion is the one which should matter the most in our lives.

Have a GREAT week!

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Why doesn’t everyone go to heaven?

This past Sunday, March 15th, our 5th grade Sunday School class started a new multi-week study on the theme our students voted for in January, “Why do some people not go to church?” We started with a Grapple lesson on “Why doesn’t everyone go to heaven?” Our discussion on this topic focused on the existence of sin, how sin separates us from God, and how our “good work” here on earth cannot save us from our sins. It is only through faith in Jesus, and our asking for forgiveness for our sins, that we can be forgiven and be able to join Christ in heaven. We discussed the meaning of “holy” (set apart) and how even the “saints” of history were sinners. No one except Christ has been or is without sin. We discussed how it is not our SIN which keeps us out of heaven (otherwise all human beings would be prevented from getting into heaven) but rather human failure / unwillingness to repent in the name of Jesus which prevents entry into heaven.

Our Grapple curriculum suggested several verses for us to discuss and explore in this lesson. These included:

Isaiah 59:1-2 (New International Version)

Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save,
nor his ear too dull to hear.
But your iniquities have separated
you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
so that he will not hear.

Matthew 7:13-14 (New International Version)

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Romans 5:20-21 (New International Version)

The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

In discussing our own perceptions and definitions of “sin,” one of our students suggested that “killing is a sin.” This led to a discussion about whether it was moral or a sin to eat meat of any kind: beef, chicken, etc. We discussed how the ten commandments include the commandant “Thou shalt not murder,” which is different than “Thou shalt not kill.” I briefly mentioned Just War Theory and the idea which has been developed through the ages that the use of violence to defend innocents can be justified on moral means. We didn’t spend a tremendous amount of time discussing these issues, since of course these are very deep in themselves, but we did touch on them since they were raised by one of our students.

In the context of the above verse from Matthew, we discussed the role of shepherds in the time of Jesus and both the Old and New Testaments, guarding their flocks and being willing to put their lives on the line (lay down their lives) to protect their sheep from predators. We discussed the “sheepfold” and how shepherds would position themselves in the only place where a sheep (or other animal) could enter or leave the sheepfold. In this way, the shepherd was “the gatekeeper” and tightly controlled all access to the sheepfold. This is the context for the Matthew verse as well as verses from John (John 10) when Christ refers to himself as “the gate.” I shared some photos as well as videos of sheep in New Zealand with students during our lesson, and discussed (as an aside) how different the “shepherd” role is in New Zealand since they don’t have ANY natural predators in the entire country. (No wolves, coyotes, foxes, snakes, etc.)

These are challenging teachings to study, understand and embrace in our relativistic and postmodern age. I didn’t use those terms with our 5th graders, but I point it out because there are plenty of folks “out there” calling themselves Christians, professing a belief in Christ, and professing faith in the Bible, who have universalist and Unitarian views of salvation. The Bible and New Testament specifically is clear on this point: There is one way to salvation, and that is through confession and profession of faith in Christ.

Our memory verse for next week is Psalm 46:10 (New International Version):

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth

Students don’t need to recite the entire verse for next week, the first line (“Be still, and know that I am God”) will be sufficient. 🙂

Have a great week, and please discuss these topics and issues with your family!

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