13 July 2013

order - everything in its place

Remember Little Sister, who hunted through my attic for "Jesus things"? It wasn't enough for her to work with them in the attic; she wanted to carry them down to the living room as well. And when I look at the photographs I took, one thing that strikes me is order.

Godly Play is informed greatly by the educational methods of Maria Montessori. Montessori found that children are attracted to orderliness from a very early age, less than a year old in fact. She argued that children are sensitive to order (sensitivity is a technical term here, meaning able and eager to learn) during these early years, perhaps especially in their third year (age 2)). This does not mean that after their third birthday they stop finding order attractive, but rather that already by then they should have learned how to put things away, what belongs where, and how to recognize things that are out of order.

clockwise from left: Noah's ark, the Bethlehem stable, the Table of the Good Shepherd
(laid with a paten, a cruet, and bread), an Anglican rosary, and the Holy Family.

I am struck in this photograph by the way that Little Sister has made a differentiation (which is not emphasized in the Godly Play lessons) between the Christ Child's earthly family and the other characters in the Holy Family set - the shepherd, the magi, and the animals. (LS didn't have to decide where to place the "Risen Christ" figure since mine was in England at the time!) Also striking was the way she added several objects to the Godly Play materials. The terra cotta stable was unearthed while hunting through the attic, and is an obvious addition to a nativity scene.

More surprising additions might be the Anglican rosary (which she came across in our living room), and the Chinese triptych. The latter is a souvenir of the Five Oxen, a Tang dynasty Chinese painting. I don't know why she carefully placed it behind her work. Although the triptych is a common form in Christian art, I doubt that LS knows that yet. Perhaps it's because the ox (or cow) is one of the figures in the Holy Family. Or maybe it's just that this, like Godly Play materials, is a beautiful object of a size suitable for children.

adding a pair of elephants to the Holy Family

The last addition is not clear in any of my photographs, but is a set of two wooden elephants. Elephants are not mentioned in any Biblical accounts of the Christmas story... but then again neither is the donkey or the ox! (Indeed, I have seen one or two nativity sets suggesting one of the magi might just as well have ridden an elephant as a camel.)

In the Godly Play classroom, children are encouraged to bring together materials from more than one lesson, making theological connections between stories and seeing how one might illuminate another. But afterwards, the child is always expected to put things back where we always keep them, to maintain the order which is one of the comfortable and reassuring things about our room.

1 comment:

  1. Funny you should write about order - I had just drafted some notes today for a blog post about a desire to focus on the prepared environment and creating order this year. Our rooms are never untidy, but I wanted to perhaps store some items and create some white space, perhaps to give some room for the Creator. Thanks for your post!


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