Sunday, February 10, 2013


    • Hello song
    • Prayers
    • Quotation:
              "Say: "O God, my God! Attire mine head with the crown of justice, and my temple with the                  ornament of equity. Thou, verily, art the Possessor of all gifts and bounties." -Baha'u'llah
  • MAIL
    • Gem of justice
    • Letter about justice
    • Abdu'l-Baha's magic fruit tree matching game: Abdu'l-Baha's tree has enough fruit for everyone to get two. The only rule is that they have to match:

    • Puppet show: Eunice the unicorn has a carrot and Eliot is starving. Eliot the elephant has a blanket and Eunice is freezing. The two friends figure out how to make sure everyone has what they need. 
  • ART
    • Fruit Bowl: Each child got a sheet of fruits to cut out. They had to draw two bowls, one for themselves and one for a friend, and glue equal numbers of fruits into each bowl. 

    • Virtue Journals
    • Closing prayer

Monday, February 4, 2013

Courage, part 2

Today's class focused on two stories about courage:

Swimmy by Leo Lionni: in which a little black fish is the lone survivor after his family becomes a big fish's dinner. At first he is afraid in the ocean all alone, but as he gets to know the other creatures in the sea, what was once the scary unknown becomes an adventure full of beauty and discovery. He eventually meets a new school of tiny red fish who are too afraid of the dangerous waters to venture out of hiding. Swimmy comes up with a brilliant plan and teaches the fish to swim in the formation of one giant fish. Swimmy becomes the black eye. Together, they scare off the other big fish and overcome their fear.  

The children also found a secret sealed box in the mail that I told them contained something having to do with our second story. When it was finally time to reveal its contents, each child got a glimpse and guessed what it was: a thin black hair (actually a thread). I told the story of the dream Baha'u'llah's father had of Baha'u'llah swimming through the sea, hundreds of fish attached to his long black hairs. His body glowed from within and nothing hindered his progress through the water. This illustrated courage on Baha'u'llah's part for delivering His message of Unity unperturbed by the trials that assailed him. And it illustrates how we can gain courage: by remembering that we are always guided, attached, to Baha'u'llah--the ultimate Protector.

We also had fun singing a new song called 'Slippery Fish.'

The children sponge painted the outline of a giant fish with small red fish and filled in the blue ocean all around. One black 'Swimmy' was placed as the eye. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013


This was a class in which I left thinking A) We have all really learned something here today and B) My, do I have so much more to learn.  Certainly, one of the more challenging aspects of a children's class is facilitating meaningful dialogue so that these tender, rapidly expanding minds have the opportunity to meaningfully explore spiritual concepts. Of course, it is much simpler and easier to spoon-feed a pre-determined definition of 'courage' to the group, and then move on to art.  Because let's face it--when one opens the floor to a 4-year-old, the risks of getting completely sidetracked on a playmobil tangent are greatly increased. But the chances of hearing some seriously thoughtful insights? Inevitable. 

Today we learned and studied the quotation:

"Armed with the power of Thy name nothing can ever hurt me, and with Thy love in my heart all the world's afflictions can in no wise alarm me." Baha'u'llah

And before I knew it, a discussion on the word 'armed' found us grappling with such issues as guns and violence, policemen and bad guys. I muddled my way through an explanation of how people can protect their physical bodies with armor and weapons, but that Baha'u'llah's power is so much greater: He can protect our souls. Our bodies still may get hurt, but our souls can never be harmed if we call on the power of His name. We do this through prayer and trusting in Him. And when we trust that Baha'u'llah will keep us safe and go ahead and do something that is scary, we are practicing courage. 

The children talked about how policemen have special training to safely handle guns and that sometimes it can be necessary to protect people. I acknowledged that violence can be necessary sometimes and has been an acceptable form of problem-solving in the past, but that Baha'u'llah is now challenging us to solve our problems with peace and unity. Baha'u'llah assures us that if we arm ourselves with virtues, we can bring peace to the world. (I must admit, I didn't even come close to being this coherent in the moment.)

They had a LOT to say about this issue and it left me realizing I need to read up on the intersection of children (especially boys) and play and violence. And first and foremost, what Baha'u'llah has to say about it. Please, please, please, send me your comments, book recommendations, insights into this area.

As for the actual class, the children spelled the name of Baha'u'llah out with cloth letters, taking turns and matching them to this picture:

I didn't help them with this at all, and it was neat to see their process and self-correction.

During art, they traced the entire quotation themselves, which I had printed in outline form. They then got an envelope with all the letters in 'Baha'u'llah' and had to glue them in the proper order. I was blown away by their hard work and concentration during what amounted to a very long project. Even the younger ones did remarkably well and were SO proud of themselves for completing it. I guess the elementary school teacher in me just can't resist the literacy lessons...

Does concentrating on Elijah count? No? Well, MOST of the children were working hard...

We just welcomed back the 2-year-olds to the group as well after previously limiting it to 3-6 year-olds. I need to do a better job of accommodating them in the future...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


I apologize for the delay. We just bought a house and then my dear sweet husband promptly left for Haifa, Israel for 3 weeks of consulting work. It has been a wonderful, exciting, challenging period, and we are so very grateful for what Baha'u'llah has so graciously handed us. Now back to children's class!

We have completed two classes on truthfulness since last I updated. Both times we spent a good amount of time discussing Baha'ullah's quotation:

"Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtues. Without truthfulness, progress and success, in all the worlds of God, are impossible for any soul."

We talked about what a foundation on a building is and how important it is for the integrity of the entire structure. It supports everything above; without it, the entire building crumbles. In the same way, truthfulness supports all the other virtues. Without truthfulness, true love, patience, justice, kindness, etc. cannot exist. The example that seemed to resonate with the children was that of a child giving a gift, but changing their mind and taking it back. The child may have been pretending to be generous, but without truthfulness there really wasn't any generosity at all. Such is the case with all the other virtues. And what a serious consequence: our souls cannot grow without truthfulness.  

Last week, we read The Empty Pot during the first class, in which a little boy in China becomes emperor after proving himself truthful. During art, the children each got a set of construction paper shapes (ie. blocks) which they used to design and assemble their own buildings. They had to consider which 'block' should be the foundation and write 'truthfulness' on it. They also each wrote out the entire quotation on the back, some without assistance and some tracing dotted lines. It was challenging and they were quite proud of their final products. 

This week we watched a Eunice and Eliot puppet show and had a great time playing, 'Who ate the cookie from the cookie jar?' We all got to practice telling the truth about whether we actually had the cookie or not. During art (mostly because I was unprepared) we made another building, but this time the children cut out their own blocks and collaborated to create one giant building. I had taped a few pieces of paper together and hung them on a wall. They got really into this, ultimately deciding that their building would be an underwater seafood restaurant/church catering to monsters. Good times, I tell you. 

There were a few different combinations of kids lately due to absences, and I must say it is helpful to observe how differently children behave when the group dynamics are altered. It is a good reminder of how complex we human beings are, and also how superficial behavior can be. And how those behaviors do not in any way add up to our realities. But isn't that the work of spiritual education? To gradually align our outsides with our insides until eventually, in one of the worlds of God, they mirror each other perfectly. To be truthful to our inner reality. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Obedience part 2, and a philosophical exploration on the nature of virtue.

What a great class today! It was a last minute call, it being so close to Christmas and all, but goodness am I glad we met. I love these kids more every week. And watching them gradually start to own this beautiful, amazing, inspiring Faith? Such a gift.

Teaching classes on spiritual qualities (virtues) each week means I have to grapple with their application in my own life if I'm going to have any chance of then translating them for the slightly shorter population. Often I end up feeling like I have less of a handle on the virtue than when we started, but I've come to realize this is actually a good sign. Thinking you have a handle on a spiritual quality? Why not just scream, 'Test me now, God!' Knowing you're one step ahead of clueless? A much safer position.

In thinking about obedience, I kept coming back to Baha'u'llah's words: "Observe My commandments, for the love of My beauty." Any parent can testify to the complete futility of trying to coerce your child into doing something they DO NOT want to do. It's hopeless. Without resorting to means we are not proud of. And so I've come to the conclusion that spiritually educating our children boils down to somehow nurturing their own love of God/the Manifestations so that they WANT to obey. Ultimately, we obey because we love. Because we trust that God knows us better than we know ourselves. Loves us better than we love ourselves. And that His (Her) vision of reality encompasses the entire truth and not just our limited and skewed perception of it. Besides, when you love someone so much, is there anything better than pleasing them?

I am certainly not saying I achieve this in our weekly children's class, or even that it is achievable in such an environment. After all, developing a lasting and meaningful relationship with anyone, let alone a Manifestation of God, takes time, dedication, WORK, commitment. I'm just saying that this is what I strive for each week; to create a space in which these children can develop a relationship with their Creator and fall in love a little more each time. Now this seems like a pretty abstract and lofty goal, but for the 3-6 year-old crowd, it boils down to this:

1. Prayer: If you want a relationship to work, you sort of have to talk to each other.
2. Stories: We have been given the most precious gift of Abdu'l-Baha whose life is a perfect example for our own lives. Not only do we learn how to be kind, generous, joyful, patient, etc. through his example, but Abdu'l-Baha is the bridge between us and Baha'u'llah. Getting to know one, brings us that much closer to getting to know the Other.
3. And practicing virtues. Virtues are what animate our every interaction. They are the language of the spirit. When children learn early on to function primarily from their spiritual nature, their default language becomes the language of virtue.

And what a different world we will live in one day when our daily interactions with each other are characterized by love, kindness, justice, compassion, generosity, patience, compassion...

and obedience! To practice following directions this week, we went on a pictorial treasure hunt. I had taken close-up photos of different landmarks around Fellowship House and hidden them at each location. The children received the first picture in the mailbox, and had to consult about where they thought it was. It was just tricky enough that they had to really think and listen to each other.  

Receiving the first picture

Finding the next clue

Searching along the stone wall

Huddling up

Talking it through with Lucie. She figured it out, and called everyone back to point them in the right direction. Love it when the youngers lead the olders. 

Taking turns opening each clue. 

I found it!

The reward: strawberry banana muffins. Jonah declared, "This is the best class EVER!"  

And isn't that what happens in life too? When we obey the laws of God, we are rewarded with blessings and sweetness.

Monday, December 17, 2012


Our new memorization for obedience is:

"Make firm our steps, O Lord, in Thy path and strengthen Thou our hearts in Thine obedience..."

We discussed how Baha'u'llah gives us laws and rules to obey so that we stay safe and happy. Obeying these rules ensures that we stay on the path toward God. Choosing not to obey is like stepping off the path into the wilderness and away from God's protection. God has given us our parents to protect us as well, and we must obey them to be safe and happy.

Do you think maybe Mora was excited to be the mail carrier this week? That face right there makes teaching children's classes SO worth it. 

Stories of Abdu'l-Baha have become a central component of classes this year.  I told the children the story of Lua Getsinger and the poison ivy. Abdu'l-Baha was hosting a unity feast outside of New York City. He had recently asked Lua Getsinger  to go to California without him, but she could not bear the thought of leaving his side. So during the Feast, she snuck out into the woods and walked barefoot through poison ivy. When Juliet Thompson informed him of Lua's condition the next morning, he laughed, handed her an apple and a pomegranate, and told her they would cure Lua. This time, she obediently did as she was told. She did make one more attempt at getting out of the trip, but again Abdu'l-Baha urged her on toward obedience.    

See that? Wrapt attention with only a plastic apple and pomegranate for props. It's all about the dramatic presentation, folks. 

We practiced following directions by getting our yoga on.

butterfly pose

spinal twist

and a final leap frog over to art. 

They illustrated our obedience quotation after a little lecture on the importance of creative, careful work. (ie. no quick scribbling in order to finish as quickly as possible and the run like crazy folk around the room.) 

too funny not to include. 

virtue journals

And, completely coincidentally, pomegranate for snack! (Nice one, Sawka family.)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Generosity, part 2

Today we finally used our brains and set the tone of class from the very beginning. Instead of letting the children run circles around the room as soon as they arrive and getting completely ramped up before we expect them to do a 360 and sit down for prayers, we were ready with a few books on the blanket. And what a difference! The children came in, the new procedure was v.e.r.y. c.l.e.a.r.l.y. communicated. A couple times. And then they all sat huddled together in wrapt attention until it was time to begin. The class went far more smoothly, though we are still working toward appropriate behavior during prayers and circle time. 

The children are working on saying individual prayers, even if it is only the first line, and they are certainly gaining confidence in this area. Almost everyone said a prayer today! 

We finished up the virtue of Generosity today by reading Patti Rae Tomarelli's book, Something Important. Maggie's class is asked to bring in a 'memento'- something that is very important to them and tells the class something new about them. She finally decides to bring in her prayer beads and share the gift of Allah'u'abha with her classmates and teacher. Then she shares Allah'u'abha with everyone she sees on the way home, whether they know what it means or not! We talked about how we can share things that we cannot see or touch--like our love, our time, our help, and even a prayer for someone. These can be the most precious gifts of all. 

Then we played a game called "I would like to give this to you" in which we played a song while passing a small gem around the circle. When the music stopped, whoever had the gem chose a friend to give it to and said, "I would like to give this to you!" We continued until everyone had a gem.

For our art project today, we counted out exactly 19 beads and strung them onto pipe cleaners to make prayer beads so we can practice reciting our Allah'u'abhas each day. Back in our circle, we played a variation of "I would like to give this to you," only this time whoever ended up with a set of prayer beads got to keep them (and say 'thank you!' of course.) It was a good lesson in detachment as well as generosity. 

And let's not forget about our class magician! Sisay has been coming at the end of each class and dusting off his magic skills. I'm pretty sure the kids are digging it :)