It's not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It's our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.
The UUSG religious education program strives to give children a place to explore what they believe both spiritually and as residents of this planet. Lessons and conversations in the classroom focus on what other religions and great thinkers believe as well as what the individual child believes. At the core we are trying to help our children become critical thinkers who will ask “what do I believe” instead of taking what they read and hear as fact. Using the UU Seven Principles as guidelines, we work to create meaningful lessons and projects to help each child form their own set of spiritual values. The Seven Principles are re-stated in children's language as follows:
- 1st Principle: We believe that each and every person is important.
- 2nd Principle: We believe that all people should be treated fairly and kindly.
- 3rd Principle: We believe that we should accept one another and keep on learning together.
- 4th Principle: We believe that each person must be free to search for what is true and right in life.
- 5th Principle: We believe that all persons should have a vote about the things that concern them.
- 6th Principle: We believe in working for a peaceful, fair, and free world.
- 7th Principle: We believe in caring for our planet Earth, the home we share with all living things.
Children are present for the first few elements of the Sunday service. After the "Story for All Ages" or "Conversation with the Children," they are ushered to the Fellowship Hall for Religious Education class, which lasts until the final hymn of the service.
Our Current Curriculum:
HARRY & UU
This year we are focusing on social justice using the Harry and UU curriculum based on the Harry Potter book series. So far we have held a bake sale to buy books for the library to fight illiteracy, collected food for holiday baskets for the Gardner CAC to fight hunger, and are in the process of making warm winter scarves for children living in poverty. The children have been enthusiastically participating in such subjects as “Herbology” where we have been planting onions and garlic in the fall and then harvesting them in the spring to learn about the earth, growing things, and the connection they have to what we eat. We use “Charms” as a way to open up discussions. For example, a summoning charm can help us address what we dearly wish for ourselves and the world, while a protection charm leads to a conversation about what we want to protect ourselves and those around us from.
At the core, the Harry and UU curriculum is based on social justice issues and is a way to introduce children to the idea that they can make a difference in the world.
From the curriculum:
There are many reasons that it’s good for children to participate in social action projects:
- Most children have a natural desire to be fair and to right wrongs, and social action reinforces this desire.
- Involvement now is more likely to lead to involvement later; children will likely feel more motivation to take action in the future.
- Learning to work together to achieve a goal allows one to feel empowered.
- Taking action alleviates feelings of helplessness. Children learn that they can achieve results on their own.
- Working to better the community and the world leads to higher moral development and more defined citizenship skills.
The question then becomes how to empower children to become more motivated, passionate about and engaged in social action. Children require activities and discussion that immerse them, engage them, and allow them to become passionate about what they are learning. The Harry Potter series of books by J.K. Rowling are an excellent way to immerse children in the idea that one can work to make the world better.
These books offer important moral and social values for children, guiding them toward making the right choices. Lessons provided include dealing with bullies, finding friends, and channeling disabilities to find empowerment.
Use of the books can offer the chance for students to ponder hard questions. What does power mean? How can someone make a choice that seems impossible? Is violence ever justified? Readers can consider their experiences, values and beliefs to find the answers. In this way, Harry Potter can provide spiritual and moral guidance as well as entertainment.
Harry Potter, like other pop culture, can also allow children to discuss important social issues with peers. Talking about sensitive issues with peers can be daunting, particularly if the child lives and goes to school in a conservative atmosphere and knows that his/ her viewpoint is not shared by a majority of his/ her peers. Referencing a Harry Potter book or movie can help children express their opinions to others.
This curriculum seeks to help participants learn that change is possible through multiple avenues, and can happen whether the problem is local or worldwide. Students will have the opportunity to make a difference in their community and the world in a meaningful way through hands-on projects that will also teach them social responsibility.