17 March 2012

wondering with materials

It's an exciting feature of the Faces of Easter lessons that instead of opening up a time of verbal wondering or discussion at the close of each story, the storyteller says, I wonder what there is in this room that can help us tell more of the story. Look around and see if you can bring something to show more about this part of the story.

That's all. There are no more rules than that.

Some in the circle may be thrown by this and have no idea how to respond. As Berryman says, that is okay. Many children learn by watching as well as by doing.  Since most of us will present portions of this lesson at least twice during Lent, participants will have another chance on another occasion... and after all, this is an opportunity but it is never a requirement. If you don't feel like getting something, that's okay. Just enjoy what we make together.[All the Berryman quotes in this post are from The Complete Guide to Godly Play, volume 4.]

The first person I ever called upon took the instructions very literally, and brought our Bible to the circle. Which was an excellent response. Berryman had predicted what my next child did: Sometimes children get up, wander for a moment and bring something at random, without knowing why. That's okay. [Notice how often he says, that's okay. That's one of the things I love about Godly Play!] Be amazed and wonder why with them, together coming up with something relevant. Everything in the room is connected in some way.

Last year, though, I chose not to wonder explicitly about connections. I just accepted anything that was brought to the circle with silent wonder and appreciation. And perhaps a nod or a smile. My children were young, and not always very articulate. And ever since my training I've liked this special kind of Wondering for its freedom from words and freedom from over-thinking things.

And this is why I love writing this blog and reading your comments, and reading the posts that others write, especially those submitted to our Lenten link-up. It's so helpful to hear about how others put this into practice, what they like best, what they think is most important, and what they think can be left out.

photo from the So Many Joys blog
Amanda wrote a post at So Many Joys pointing out that sometimes we may need to set limits about how much it is practical to bring to the circle. Berryman suggests that a child might bring the desert box, but many desert boxes are so heavy and unwieldy that this may be too disruptive. Amanda writes about a bit of chaos that grew from large item connections to the first Face of Easter -- the entire Books of the Bible lesson, the desert, the World Communion lesson -- all big and very interesting stories to explore all out at once when we were still in our circle. I actually think that is when my headache started. Perhaps next week, I'll just have them bring one small item from the story rather than an entire story. 

Berryman proposes some Wondering Questions for use when these stories are told outside the Godly Play classroom. But it may also be entirely appropriate to ask people to think creatively and look around whatever room you find yourselves in for objects which would help to tell the story, or even to share aloud what object they would bring if it were available.

photo from Featherglen, cropped by me
When Featherglen did this, family members brought various objects, some overtly religious and others not. She writesMy beloved rummaged for a while in his overstuffed desk and brought out a beautiful big dried bean. He is gardener and this was one that came from last summer's crop. He placed it by the picture with baby Jesus. We all wondered a while about the significance of the bean, its colour (you can't see so well but it is actually a rich purple colour), baby shape and, of course all the elements of growth. 
photo from Explore and Express, cropped by me

As Sheila's experience shows, you may get unusual connections and contributions even within a Godly Play setting. Can you see what has been placed next to the plaque depicting Jesus resisting temptation?

She writesOne child laid a package of cookies and a stop sign made of sticks beside the picture of Jesus in the wilderness.  He then explained that this represented Jesus’ long fast and how hungry he must have been.  

I hope this post encourages you to try this kind of wondering if you have not done it before! Feel free to set boundaries that work for you - whether or not to ask for explanations about the objects brought, whether to limit the size of object brought, whether to restrict the objects to Godly Play materials, whether all objects should relate to one plaque or to any of those laid down...

The rewards, for you and all the circle, can be rich. As Amanda's So Many Joys post continued, I still loved seeing their connections to the Mother Mary and the Father Joseph and the Word born flesh as a wordless child. They are profound, the kids! 


  1. I have a child who each week has brought a large stone to set beside that weeks picture. He simply says, "because Jesus dies on a cross." This has challenged me to (silently) stretch my personal wondering to make the connection. It is his part of the story to tell -not mine, but I do wonder.
    As for bringing too large of items, I simply state it must be something you can carry yourself to the circle.
    This is my first time sharing these stories and I am loving the response.
    Wonderful to hear how it is going in other groups. Thank you for sharing!

  2. "notice how often he says 'that's okay'" -- also something I really love about GP! I really do love the connections -- maybe it's the former English teacher in me -- but this really is deep, meaningful work we and the kids are doing.

  3. This is a great post! Thank you for unpacking this type of wondering and inviting us to consider these ideas ourselves. We do a bit of this in the atrium, but I am already trying to figure out how to do more! Thank you!

  4. Thank you, Coedith, Amanda, and Leslie, for your positive feedback! It was a bit daunting to pull together various perspectives without being too long-winded yet staying true to the different experiences. So I really appreciate the encouragement. And a huge thank you to Sheila, Amanda, and Featherglen, for sharing your photos and words!

    1. You're welcome, Storyteller. What I love about this type of Wondering is that the possibilities of ways to respond are endless. They are only limited by the child's imagination.


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