We begin our Religious Education Classes at the age of three. Our Preschool Team, led by veteran Religious Educator Kathy Solu, adapts the curriculum “Celebrating Me and My World” to use throughout the year.
This full-year curriculum celebrates the wondrous qualities of children and the animals, objects, and people around them. It provides preschoolers with experiences and opportunities to grow in trust and caring and to develop their self-identity and sense of connectedness with all of life.
In the introduction to the curriculum, the authors write, “When you view the world through the eyes of a preschooler, life is full of wonder ready to be discovered. Preschoolers are becoming aware of themselves and their bodies, experiencing life through all their senses, exploring their environment, and expressing their emotions and ideas.”
At this age, we want our children to expand what it means to be themselves—learning about their senses, learning about the world around them, and learning how to care for others. We want to help them see the spiritual in the everyday, and expand what it means to be a religious person.
Research shows at this age, the child’s sense of religion, faith, and spirituality is tied to their cognitive thinking and social development. They are the center of their own thinking. They learn through doing: by physically enacting routines of religion, they come to label and know them as their own.
“Noticing the world around her, the preschool child learns about spirituality through everyday life. The ability to stop, notice a beautiful bird, and ponder is a spiritual gift of a young child. Fluid in her thinking, the preschool child is open to fantasy and reality. She’s likely to ask large questions and she is receptive to both concrete and less tangible answers. She is open to the unseen, ready to experience the world spiritually.” – Tracey Hurd
PreK/K (4 and 5 year olds)
Under the guidance of our lead teacher Carol Todd, who has taught this grade for many years, we are using a new curriculum this year called “Treasure Hunting Take 2.” This curriculum uses the theme of treasure hunting as a concrete way of involving children in the excitement of the search for the meaning of life and the wonder of the universe. It addresses issues that children face daily, explores the meaning of Unitarian Universalist principles and values, and emphasizes an accepting and caring community that children create in class and that we create at the Fellowship.
The goals of Treasure Hunting Take 2 are,
- To understand and celebrate each person’s uniqueness and feelings,
- To learn about their congregation,
- To learn about Unitarian Universalism as a living religion, and
- To gain awareness and appreciation of the community and the world around them.
Our PreK/K program is centered around encouraging our children to build a loving and respectful community. At this age, we want our children to know they are part of a bigger faith community, we want them to build community with their classmates, and we want them to start exploring how to help others in our greater community.
“Knowing what we do as a faith community helps them know who we are and nurtures their beginning identity of religious upbringing. We light a candle and say kind or sad words about someone we love…Imitating the routines or rituals of religion, the child comes to know them first as things they do and later as part of a larger, more complex system.” – Tracey Hurd
In the first and second grades, we move to focusing on building identity, specifically, a Unitarian Universalist Identity. What does it mean to be a Unitarian Universalist? How can we be a Unitarian Universalist in the real world?
Our first semester we focus on the curriculum called “Love Surrounds Us.” This program explores our Unitarian Universalist Principles in the context of the Beloved Community of family/home, school, neighborhood. Participants engage in activities that emphasize the love they feel in community. The seven UU Principles are introduced with opening activities and a story. Rather than listing the ways love surrounds us when we are treated equally, students engage in ways to identify equality by the love shown in community.
The goal of second semester program called “Becoming: Principled” is to go in depth about the 7 UU Principles, one principle each week. The children will learn to write the Principles in their own words, and then to put all the sentences together into one paragraph that says what they believe. This will end with a ritual and celebration to recognize their completion of the course, and a time for them to share their paragraphs with the congregation.
“The early school-age child wants to belong to her family, community, and world. She is “doing” religion as a means of learning about faith, just starting her search for answers to questions about the spiritual world. At this age, children often ask wonderful spiritual questions. Their sense of spirituality moves from fantasy to concrete reality, and they seek simple answers.”
– Tracey Hurd in Nurturing Children and Youth
Our theme for our third and fourth grade classes is all about respect—building respect for themselves and others. We want our children to learn how to be in a loving community and learn to love themselves in the process.
Our first semester curriculum is “Love Will Guide Us.” In this program, students learn to seek guidance in life through the lens of our Unitarian Universalist Sources, with an emphasis on love.
Together we ask questions such as, “Where did we come from?” “What is our relationship to the Earth and other creatures?” “How can we respond with love, even in bad situations?” “What happens when you die?” Sessions apply wisdom from our Sources to help participants answer these questions. Students will learn that asking questions is valued in Unitarian Universalism, even as they begin to shape their own answers.
Our second semester is called “Becoming: Sourced.” This program will go in depth about each of the 6 Sources of Unitarian Universalism. Each week the students will learn about a different Source along with a workbook of readings. After learning about all of the sources, children will name the one source they most identify with. They will search for a reading about that source they find particularly meaningful and work on memorizing a portion of it. This course ends with a ritual and celebration.
“Newly developed abilities to take on the perspective of others and empathize fuel the child’s search for justice for himself and others…Belonging to a religious community and having a faith identity to claim anchors this stage of faith development.” – Tracey Hurd
The theme for our 5th/6th grade class is “Building a Relevant Faith.” We want our children to have a faith that is personally relevant to them—beliefs that make sense to where they are in life, and know how they can put their beliefs into action.
“Love Connects Us” celebrates important ways Unitarian Universalists live our faith in covenanted community. Moved by love and gathered in spirit, we embrace our responsibility toward one another and the world at large. We encourage one another’s search for truth and meaning. We strive to be active in peace-making and other efforts to improve our world.
The sessions explore our legacy, from both Universalism and Unitarianism, of living our connections in loving service, inquiry, and action for social justice. At the same time, the program builds active participants in our faith. Children learn how our actions create a new heritage of love.
We are using the curriculum “Becoming: Spiritual” for our second semester. The goal is for students to identify a historical Unitarian, Universalist, or Unitarian Universalist they see as a spiritual ancestor based on their past works, beliefs, values, and more. They will be led through a process of identifying their spiritual ancestor and then compiling a report on them, with in class and at home work. This program will also incorporate spiritual practices. Children will explore in depth about meditation, prayer, and other spiritual practices.
“In later elementary school years, the child is ready for more conceptual complexity. He is more aware of injustice and seeks religious answers that reconcile earlier simplicities with his life experiences…Encouraging questioning is essential for the school-age child’s spiritual development.” – Tracey Hurd