Sunday, October 12, 2008
Getting Creative With Nehemiah
Once a month Hubby helps with a Sunday School class of ten or so second- and third-graders. His job is to show up and mostly be a second adult body in the room. Usually the teacher is responsible for the lesson content and delivery while Hubby merely needs to help ride herd on the more rambunctious boys, of which there are several.
Yesterday Hubby got a phone call from the regular teacher. She was going to be out of town and would he please do the Sunday School lesson this week? Since he is the nicest man on the planet, he agreed, then he got off the phone and came into the living room with a woeful face. The poor man had spent all week with a nasty head cold and the stress of switching jobs. We had plans to go down to L-town in the evening and would likely get back late. I think he had been secretly nursing the desire to skip church entirely and now he had one day in which to plan and execute a Sunday School lesson, an activity he had never had to do before. Not only that, he didn't have access to the regular materials because the teacher had them.
I have to admit I was somewhat unsympathetic. I had not volunteered for Sunday School duty at our new church on purpose. With years of teaching under my belt I feel that I had put in my time for the moment. But I did take pity and offer to at least be his happy helper and do the herding.
He wracked his brain for a suitable lesson. We did get back from L-town late so it was almost midnight and we were sitting at our respective laptops hurriedly Googling free Sunday School lesson plans and materials.
He at last settled on the story of Nehemiah rebuilding the wall. A little-known story with lots of drama, he figured it would appeal to a class full of eight-year-old video game junkies. He got to work printing worksheets and making a quick trip to the 24-hour WinCo for supplies. I wasn't sure what he had up his sleeve, so I watched with interest as the kids filed into the classroom this morning.
He started with chit-chat about the cold weather and wearing coats. One of the boys apparently had been caught wearing his older sister's bathrobe that week in order to stay warm for which he received some good-natured ribbing. The Hubby handed out the bibles and we helped the uncertain readers find Nehemiah, a little book sandwiched between Ezra and Esther.
The kids took turns reading the story, Hubby pausing them to explain the drama as they went along. To my surprise it did play out a bit like a video game. Nehemiah and the Jews were on a mission to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, destroyed during the exile and the "bad guys" Sanballat and his henchmen were bent on stopping them. The workers, all of whom were unpaid volunteers, were forced to work rebuilding their beloved city with their tools in one hand and their weapons of defense in the other. In the back of my mind, I pictured Hubby building his workforce of little digital men, upgrading their armor and weapons while setting them to work on their wall.
After a comprehension sheet full of questions that reminded me of some kind of historical Mad Libs, he introduced the climactic activity of the morning. He had created a game using our toddlers' wooden blocks in which the "good guys" would built a wall and the "bad guys" would attempt to knock it down using chocolate pumpkins. The moves, controlled by dice rolls, would alternate between the groups of children.
It turned out to be a complete hit! The kids loved taking turns rolling the dice, building blocks and then tossing foil-wrapped chocolate pumpkins in an attempt to knock down the block construction. Of course we had to establish some pretty strict rules of game-play to prevent the whole thing collapsing into chaos, but the kids were surprisingly willing to behave and take turns.
When the dice roll favored the four boys who played Sanballat and his evil henchmen, they sent up such a roar of approval that I was sure it carried upstairs to the sanctuary where the pastor delivered his sermon. Oh well. Likewise, when the good guys won the dice roll they cheered with enthusiasm.
At the end of the class each kid got to take a couple of Hershey Kisses, who had represented the Jews in our game, and a couple of the evil chocolate pumpkins. All in all, I think those kids had a fabulous time in Sunday School today. I'm sure proud of my Hubby. Although he has done a little practicum teaching before, I imagine that roomful of eight-year-olds was one of the most intimidating things he has faced for a long time. Instead of shirking, he planned a really great, creative lesson and executed it with grace, making each kid feel welcome and also making it a lot of fun. Good job, Honeybear!