28 June 2013

making do - your Godly Play room

If yesterday's post, with the video tour of a "real" Godly Play room, or Sheila's recent post about spacious children's worship areas in Texas left you frustrated or discouraged - I hope this will undo that. Many of us have to "make do" with a space that feels less than ideal. But it's ok to do the best we can!

The minimum I would want is this: The space that is clearly a prepared space. It has been made special. It is both special ("set apart", even temporarily) and welcoming (for us). So if your circle will be made up of children, this should be a space which is set up with children in mind. There is a "threshold" of some sort, so that it is easy to tell the difference between IN the space and OUTSIDE the space. In the space there is a focal shelf, as well as materials for response and for cleaning up. Everything is displayed in an inviting manner (in open baskets, on low shelves if children are present) but also with care, so that it all looks orderly. Everything has a place. And that includes the people - there are mats or cushions or chairs enough for everyone.

You can stop reading right here. This, I believe, is enough.

doing Godly Play in my living room

If possible, the circle of participants will also be surrounded by the lessons and story materials. Again, these should be displayed in an orderly yet inviting way. Take care the first time you set things out, because ideally you will ever after always put them in the same place! Sacred stories should be together, arranged chronologically from left to right, with the core stories most visible and enrichment lessons stored beneath them. Parables are in a clearly different place. And liturgical action lessons are usually located near or beneath the focal shelf.

A piano bench is pressed into service as a parable shelf.

It is not necessarily a problem if everything needs to be set up and taken down each time. I have found that setting up is an excellent way for me to prepare myself for the session. After several months, once children had learned the layout of the classroom, then I would accept any offers of help that came from children who had arrived early. They had already learned to treat the materials with some care, and usually knew where to put them. [If you do this, you will need to think about how they enter the space - what if your threshold is not set up yet? and will you ask them if they are ready as they arrive?]

Can you spot a Parable box?

Don't forget to think about what cleaning supplies will be needed. In a future post I'll write about some optional extras that are nice to have in the room. Cleaning supplies, though, are not an optional extra. In Montessori fashion, we are confident that everyone will be able to clean up after themselves. They may need to be shown how, but they are then encouraged to carry on themselves. In fact, cleaning (or a task such as sharpening all the pencils) is a perfectly acceptable Response Time activity!

These chairs also served to delimit the space.

You don't have to replicate Jerome W. Berryman's diagram exactly! My Godly Play training took place in a room with a slightly odd shape, in which the obvious place to put the focal shelf was not (as is usually recommended) the first place you saw upon entering the room. One of the trainers commented that she was happy not to be using an "ideal" room for training but instead showing us how to "make do". 

Godly Play training classroom

Some related posts:

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