Monday, December 29, 2008

Kwaanza Celebration

This Sunday our children celebrated the holiday of Kwaanza, an African-American celebration of family, community, and culture. We discovered that the seven principles of Kwanza, called Nguzo Saba, are very similar to our seven Unitarian Universalist principles:

Umoja (Unity)
To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race

Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves

Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other business and to profit from them together.

Nia (Purpose)
To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Kuumba (Creativity)
To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

Imani (Faith)
To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Ask your child about the principles and how they apply in your lives. If your child was at our celebration, read together the booklet they made.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Youth Cook Up Souper Lunches

Last Sunday the junior and senior youth contributed their cooking talents to create a hearty soup lunch of vegetarian and meaty chili for all to enjoy following the congregational meeting. Donations collected for the lunch went to benefit the Guest at Your Table program, sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee. If you have not already picked up a box to have on your dinner table at home, please do so, and continue to donate until the new year!

The youth of Saltwater will continue to provide lunch as a service to the community on the first Sunday of alternate months. The next lunch will be the annual sub sandwich sale in February. Watch for order forms in January.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Diwali Celebration

Last Sunday, Dolly Mangla and her husband Sanjay, who moved here from India a few years ago, visited the Lighthouse to help us share the celebration of Diwali.

Dolly explained that Diwali is a 5-day festival celebrated all over India. It's like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years all rolled into one. People give thanks to the gods for the food they have and pray for good fortune in the coming year. They give each other presents, buy new clothes, make special foods, and shoot off firecrackers.

Dolly introduced us to Lakshme, goddess of fortune. Diwali is called a "festival of lights", because people light candles and hang lanters, so Lakshme finds her way to their house.

During the class time, children made paper lanterns to hang at home, and clay lamps (called "diyas") that are put at the altar. They also made sand paintings called "rangoli", which are decorations in the house to welcome Lakshme.

After the diyas were done, we took a break from crafts to assemble the altar. Dolly showed us how to do "pooja", which is a ritual honoring the gods. We lit candles and incense, and put an offering of food on the altar, to represent being grateful for what we have, before we eat. Then Dolly put a red dot on the foreheads of all the gods at the altar, and on her own forehead. That demonstrates honoring the gods, and giving the same honor to ourselves. We played special, joyful music and moved a candle in a circular motion around Lakshme, while everyone clapped.

After pooja, we had a special snack. It was an exciting day! Thanks to all the extra adults who helped us manage a very busy class!

Diane Schairer,
Teacher, Treasure Hunters Class

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Creating the Universe

Our Spirit Play class has been exploring stories of creation from different times and cultures. The story in the photo comes from Northern Africa. In this story, Nana Buluku, the Great Mother, created the world. Her twins, Mawu and Lisa, were the sun and the moon. They were mother and father of all the other gods--seven pairs of twins. Each pair was given a piece of the earth to rule and care for. Mawu-Lisa took care that none of the lesser gods were ever seen by people. That is why people speak of the sky as a spirit, and storms and lightening as spirits too.

Ask your child to tell you about the creation stories we've shared in class. Why might so many ancient cultures told creation stories? How are the stories similar and how are they different? How do you think the earth came to be?

This week, we explored a scientific story of the creation of the universe. Ask your child about the great blast of heat and light, the particles, the exploding volcanoes, and the first raindrops that fell to earth helping to cool the crust and prepare the planet for the coming of life.

Next week (November 30) we'll be doing experiments to help illustrate the big ideas from this story. Come join us if you are in town!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Sounds of Discovery

The world seen through the eyes of a preschooler is full of wonder ready to be discovered! Our Discovery class have been exploring how we experience life through all of our senses. By connecting with teachers and classmates who know and care about them they are growing spiritually. Today the children took a listening walk around the church and shared what they heard. Then they made shakers filled with beans and played music together. We learned that "if you are so quiet that you can hear your own breathing, you are being quiet enough to pay attention to the other sounds around you." We experienced the joy of making music together.

Ask your child what we heard on the listening walk. Take a walk around your home and discover what you can hear when you are quiet enough to listen. Enjoy playing some music together.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


The Treasure Hunters class learned the story of Savitri, about a princess who becomes a heroine because of her mind and heart, not her beauty. The children acted out the story as a play during their class time as part of their study of Hinduism.

The story of princess Savitri is one of the best-known and best-loved tales of India. It appears within the Mahabharata, India's great national epic, which is much like an Old Testament to the Hindus. This epic, written down at around the time of Christ, had already been passed on orally for centuries. It arises from a time when legends were born--an age of walled cities, of sun and fire worship, and of woman far more independent than later Indian culture allowed. (From the book, "Savitri, A Tale of of Ancient India" by Aaron Shephard.)

Ask your child to tell you the story as they remember it. Talk about what makes a good hero or heroine.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Day of the Dead

Last Sunday, the children's classes at 9:30 celebrated Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Together we created an alter commemorating loved ones who have died. We also decorated skull masks.
Ask your child about the alter and the items on it. You might want to have a conversation about departed family members or friends, especially those who died before your child could remember them.
If your child is struggling with the idea of death, or with the loss of a loved one, sometimes celebrating a ritual like Day of the Dead may be helpful. If you find you or your child need resources for dealing with death or grief, let me know. Also, check out the resources on dealing with death and grief posted under the resources section to the right.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Today the elementary age classes (Treasure Hunters and Explorers) enjoyed a visit to the Sukkah in our courtyard while learning about the Jewish Holiday of Sukkot. This harvest festival is celebrated by the building of little booths, which families decorate with fruits and vegetables, and then eat meals in the Sukkah (and sometimes even sleep in them) during the festival. Melissa from Bet Chaverim showed the children how the Sukkah is decorated with fruits of the harvest, with the ceiling left partly open so that the stars may be viewed through the top. We ate our snack in the Sukkah and talked about ways that we share with others in our daily lives. The children helped to decorate the Sukkah and each made a Lulav. As part of the blessing of the Sukkah, the Lulav is waved in four directions, to show that God is everywhere.
"Some rabbis say that the different types of greenery in the Lulav represents different types of people. They say that the different kinds of leaves are tied together to teach us that all the different people of the world must work together in peace. Building a Sukkah reminds Jewish people of their history. Long, long ago there was a time when the Jews were slaves in Egypt. They wandered in the desert for 40 years, and built little huts for shade and rest. Today, Jewish people build little huts. They want to remember that not all families live in peace and comfort and safety." (From the Holidays and Holidays curriculum).
Talk with your child about what your family does to celebrate the harvest or Thanksgiving. What can your family do to help people who may not have permanent housing or enough to eat this season? What are some ways, small and large, that you encourage sharing within your family?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

We're All In This Together

Welcome to a new church year! I'm a little behind getting my posts up, but hope to be more on top of things from her on out. My plan is to post once a week, so check back to see more about what is happening with children, youth, and families at Saltwater. I'll included information about the different classes, ideas of things to talk about or explore further at home, and updates and reminders about special events. If there are other things you would like to see here, let me know.

Things are off to a great start in the Lighthouse. We kicked off our church year with our annual field day event. Here is a photo of some of our children helping to clean up afterwards. It really does take everyone's contributions to make our church community the best it can be for all of us, as James was reminding us a few weeks ago. Many thanks to all who are pitching in.

Our classes in September were mostly focused on group building and getting to know one another. Here's a few highlights from each:

Discovery: Our preschoolers have been learning about many ways that we're all different and yet all the same. This is a big concept for little ones, and very important to our UU principles. On September 21 the children learned about hands. Ask your child about what hands do. Are everyone's hands the same? What are some special things your child can do with his or her hands?

Treasure Hunters: Our primary class has put the democratic process to work! For years this class has been called the Wumps. This year the children voted to change their name. "Treasure Hunters" fits well with our other class names, and captures the purpose of this class. We are hunting for treasures, as we explore world religions, we are searching for pieces of truth and discovering that all religions have something to teach us about the big questions in life.

Explorers: Our older elementary class has begun their study of world religions by learning about Islam and Sikhism. On September 28, the class talked about the Sikh holiday Diwali. Ask your child about Rangolis.

Jr. Youth: Our middle schoolers have brainstormed a list of the many faith traditions they hope to explore this year, and their advisers are busy lining up field trips to various houses of worship. Parents are encouraged to attend with their youth on October 19, to finalize plans and discuss logistics for class field trips. Some of our middle school youth attended a district UU youth conference on Vashon Island recently. Ask them to tell you about what they experienced there.

Sr. Youth: Our high schoolers began the curriculum Popcorn Theology by watching Back to the Future and talking about how our choices affect the future. They also cooked a delicious and simple soup lunch on October 5th. Watch for more of these soup lunches on future Sundays, and more thought-provoking movies to come.

Spirit Play: So far we have heard two stories about the creation of the world, and will be sharing several more in the following weeks. The children have been engaged in a wide variety of art responses to the stories, and also in some deep wondering about the stories. Ask your child about the story tellers who told the first stories around their campfire, and the creator who brought all living things to life from the roots of a great tree. We will be holding a parent orientation soon, and will invite anyone who wants to learn more about this new approach to religious education.

Creativity Club: This class is very excited to be creating with Legos! Soon we will be ready to begin programming robots. The class has also created rubber band cars and paper planes, and have been playing a lot of active group games. Ask you child about what they and others have been creating.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Welcome to my blog!

I'm hoping this will be a useful resource for Saltwater families and volunteers in the religious education program. The teacher's manual is mostly posted now in the links section, as well as the registration form for the upcoming middle school conference, and information about our religious education classes for the coming year. If there are resources you would like to see here, let me know what would be useful to you! The next thing I'm planning to post are some titles of new books in our Family Ministries library that are available to borrow. I'll also be sharing more about what is happening in our classrooms and providing further information and ways to extend the religious exploration at home.

I'm excited for the upcoming church year, and looking forward to seeing you at Water Communion, if not before.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Things to Come

A teacher I admire, Aline Wolf, said that teaching “is a vocation to help bring about a better world.” As a community concerned with the religious education of our children, it is important that we hold this truth at our core. By teaching children and youth to empower themselves to become active, engaged citizens in the world, we are helping to shape the future.

Teaching religious education classes is a ministry, an important contribution to our community. It is also a way to explore your spiritual path, a source of personal enrichment and spiritual fulfillment (as well as intellectual stimulation). Sometimes people feel that they can’t teach religious education because they don’t “know” Unitarian Universalism well enough. It is much more important that teachers encourage questioning and foster a sense of community than that they be well versed in theology or church history. We engage the bodies, minds, and spirits of our children and youth in developing their own faith identity. By encouraging a sense of wonder and in guiding them to consider how the curriculum is relevant to their lives, we help them to discover what it means to be members of our religious community.

This summer, the children’s class will have an environmental focus, building on what they have been learning in the village class this year. We will examine some of the ecological issues facing our world, and ground that learning in exploring the forest and the living things on our church grounds. Water play, science experiments, the annual dedication of the animals, and field day will all be part of our exploration and celebration of our relationship with the environment.

In the fall, classes at the first service will center on world religions. In our diverse community, it important to have some understanding of our neighbors’ religious beliefs. We need to exercise the ability to hold an open mind, gain comfort with multiple belief systems, and to make connections about how the big ideas of different religions relate to Unitarian Universalism. We will celebrate holidays central to a variety of religions, visit other houses of worship, and invite people of varying faith traditions to share their spiritual practices. Classes at the second service will focus on a creation theme. Older children will examine the moral and spiritual implications of being creative forces in the world through designing Lego robots and other creative projects. Younger children will explore creation stories from different parts of the world and scientific teachings about evolution. In addition to Sunday morning classes, middle school youth will have the chance to participate in a Coming of Age program. Each participant will investigate their personal spirituality and UU heritage with the support of an adult mentor.

“An education capable of saving humanity,” wrote Maria Montessori (another teacher I admire), “involves the preparation of young people to understand the times in which they live.” I hope that each of us will discover a way to contribute to our shared educational ministry—as a teacher, classroom assistant, youth adviser, Coming of Age mentor, in sharing a special skill or passion, or by providing behind-the-scenes “backstage support.” For yourself, for our children, for our world—take this opportunity to get involved!