Acacia in the Desert

August 27, 2012

Sensory Tub: Sea of Galilee

Contents: Water, water pearls, foam fish with memory verse written on it, sea shells hand-gathered from the Florida beach. Added a boat (rectangular foam folded in half and stapled) in week three, and plastic netting in week four.

Apparently, kindergarteners are not too old for sensory tubs.  They spent 30 minutes clustered around this tub coming up with new ways to play.  All I had to do was sit back and watch, and remind them that items stay in the Sea of Galilee.

  • Hey, the fish stick to the sides!
  • Let’s sort the fish.
  • Whirlpool! (swirling the water madly around)
  • Now there’s a storm.

They discovered that when you squeeze the water beads between your fingers, they “shoot” out.  Both fish and shells were the recipients of this target practice.  The shell with the hole in it was popular, getting repeatedly filled up, then letting the water beads trickle out as a “waterfall”.

One little girl decided the water beads were “babies” and while the boys were making a storm she spent her time “saving” the babies. Quite a few of the beads got squished into pieces, but those pieces then became “food” for the babies.

This Sea of Galilee tub was in our classroom during a month of New Testament stories.  Bible lessons might include:

  • Calling of the Disciples.  “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
  • Jesus Calms the Storm.  “Peace, be still.”
  • Healing of the Paralytic.  Four friends and a lame man let down through the roof.
  • Feeding of the Multitudes.  And a little boy gave his lunch.
  • Jesus Walks on Water.  Peter too.
  • Jesus Helped a Man Hear.  Healing of the deaf man.
  • Jesus Helped a Man See.  Healing of the blind man.

March 19, 2012

Story Tray: Jesus Heals the Deaf Man

Target Age
Preschool, Kindergarten, and 1st

sound bottles which are empty pill bottles with the outside covered by Avery labels.  Inside are screws, pony beads, sequins, and sand.  Instructions for using these can be found at Info Montessori.  I’ve been surprised how popular these are with the five and six year olds, I would have thought they’d be too old for them.

Palm tree from Constructive Playthings Wood Block Nativity Set

Jesus, people, and deaf man figures from Worship Woodworks

A cardboard box lid makes the tray

This was inspired by the Young Children and Worship: Jesus Heals Blind Bartimaeus story.  It sits on the New Testament shelf in our Sunday School classroom.

Adapted from Mark 7 in the New American Standard Bible.

At a time when the Romans ruled the land of Israel, Jesus was by the Sea of Galilee.  Point to blue sea on green underlay.  Place Jesus figure. 

The people brought Jesus a man who was deaf.  He couldn’t hear and could hardly speak.  Place “people” figure and deaf figure. 

Jesus took him aside from the crowd, by himself.  Move two figures off to side.

Then Jesus put His fingers into the man’s ears.  Touch your ears, or touch the sides of the figures head.

Jesus spit, and touched the man’s tongue.  Put hand in front of mouth, and say “pppt” then touch figure’s face.  

Jesus looked up to heaven with a deep sigh, and said “Be opened!”  Look up at ceiling and raise arms.

And he could hear and talk!  The people were utterly astonished, saying, “He can make the deaf hear and the mute speak!”

February 13, 2012

Miracles Book Bag

Target Age
Kindergarten – 1st Grade

A bunch of Christian picture books placed in a 12 x 12 inch tote

This bag was introduced in the months leading up to Easter.  Although I didn’t plan it this way, I did end up with two books on the Feeding of the 5000 and two books on Jesus Healing the Paralytic.  That covers healing miracles and power over nature miracles, but I’d like to add one about the resurrection of the dead — perhaps the daughter of Jairus or Lazarus.  It’s pretty difficult to find children’s books about Christ casting out demons, which be another category of miracle.

The Christmas book is because I have so very many of them and if I put them all in the same bag it would get repetitive.  So right now I have one Christmas book each in the Life of Christ and Miracles bag.

August 25, 2010

Galilee Craft #2

Target Age
Preschool – 3rd Grade

Bible Story
Calling of the Disciples / Jesus Calms the Storm / Walking on Water

Fold paper boats (see instructions).  Use crayons to decorate.

Jazz It Up!
Some variations…

  • Use the Sunday School coloring page.  After kids have finished coloring it, turn it into a paper boat.
  • Fill a wading pool full of water outside, and sail the boats in it.  If the bottom is colored thickly with crayon, it will be more water proof.
  • Use a parachute or a section of ocean scene setter and toss the boats wildly in the air.  When the teacher says “Peace, be still” the storm must stop.

August 18, 2010

Galilee Craft #1

Target Age
Preschool – 3rd

Calling of the Disciples / Feeding of the Multitudes

Activity Description
Buy the Fish Sand Art Magnet Craft Kit from Oriental Trading.  Follow the enclosed instructions.

On the Mess
One kid had to be stopped from blowing the sand across the table onto the floor.  Other than that, it wasn’t very messy.  Definitely spread out a plastic tablecloth to contain the sand, though.  Or win Cool Teacher of the Month award, and do the craft outside.

Enjoyment Factor

No paper plates and no construction paper.  What’s not to like?


  • Kids will need help peeling the paper off to reveal the sticky side.  It’s dangerously easy to accidentally peel of the sticky part, and then there’s nothing for the sand to stick to.
  • There’s enough sand that kids can share.  I managed to save several pre-packaged baggies for future crafts.  Give each child one bag of sand at a time, and have him dump it into a pile to rub his fish into.  Then the next kid who wants to use that color doesn’t need to open a new bag, she can use the pre-existing pile

August 11, 2010

Game: Be Fishers of Men

Target Age

Activity Description
Children (and teacher) form a circle, with Child A standing in the middle.  Walk around Child A and sing.

To the tune of Farmer in the Dell:
Be fishers of men
Be fishers of men
Hi ho the derry o
Be fishers of men

Child A picks a random kid to be Child B, and they both stand in the center.  Sing again.  Then Child B picks Child C, and so forth.  Continue until your arms can no longer stretch wide enough to surround the kids in the center.

Then start a new round, with the last child picked getting to stand in the center alone.

Field Report
For such a simple game, the kids loved it.  We did at least three rounds.  this game does need a minimum of about eight people  to play.

July 28, 2010

4 Setup Tips for Stories-by-Galilee

VBS teachers decorate their rooms.  This adds pizazz.  But they have five stories around a common theme.  You can’t reach that level of pizazz just by changing the decorations each Sunday.  So analyze each month’s worth of stories.  Usually you can pull out a common theme, if you have the kind of curriculum that starts a new set of stories each month.  Find the common theme, and redesign your room based on it.

These setup tips are for that collection of stories that are usually grouped together in a curriculum.  It’s a smattering of miracles, Jesus’ teachings, and tales of the disciples.  One unifying theme to make these stories a unit is the Sea of Galilee.  Common stories are:

  • Calling of the Disciples.  “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
  • Jesus Calms the Storm.  “Peace, be still.”
  • Healing of the Paralytic.  Four friends and a lame man let down through the roof.
  • Feeding of the Multitudes.  And a little boy gave his lunch.
  • Jesus Walks on Water.  Peter too.

If the craft involves fish, then the story fits into this unit.

Felt Underlay

Available from Worship Woodworks.  They also provide:

  • a wooden boat
  • people
  • fishing net
  • wooden fish

Personally, I’d go to the local craft store, buy two pieces of felt, and hot glue them together.  Then I’d make the other pieces out of construction paper.  Most stories can be told just with the pieces above.  But you could add:

  • waves cut from blue felt (Calming of the Storm, Walking on Water)
  • basket (Feeding of the Multitudes)
  • mat (Healing of the Paralytic)
  • house made from shoebox (Healing of the Paralytic)

You use these pieces to tell the Bible story to the kids.  Then place them on a table against the wall, turning them into a learning center, so kids can tell the story to themselves over and over.

Air Mattress

Available from your local store. Your job is to transform this into the Sea of Galilee.

  • Blue.  If it’s not a suitable color, get a blue tarp and toss it over the mattress.  Voila!  Water!
  • Waves.  Fill the air mattress only partially with air.  Avoid firmness.
  • Boat.  Take the table from your Sunday School classroom, and fold its legs under it.  Place it on the mattress.

If you have filled the mattress to the right amount of firmness, kids should be able to sit on the table, and by shifting their weight, feel the “boat” sway with the “waves.”

Use this to dramatize the stories.  The teacher acts as narrator, the kids are the disciples, and one person is Jesus.  Have them:

  • Sit in the boat and fish from it (Calling of the Disciples)
  • Experience a storm (Jesus Calms the Storm and Jesus Walks on Water)

Any storm is greatly enhanced if you stand by the light switch and flicker the lights, or if you aim a box fan at them and turn it on, or if you mist kids with a water-filled spray bottle.

Lake Scene Setter

Available from Party City.

Use to  mark off sections of the room.  Mark off a drama center with a box of costumes.  Mark off a fishing area.  Place a section of the scene setter behind the air mattress “boat.”

  • Any Story.  Draw a bulls-eye and spread it onto floor.  Kid tosses a bean bag.  Teacher asks a review question.  If answer is correct, child is awarded points based on where the bean bag landed.
  • Jesus Calms the Storm. Cut a section and turn it into a parachute.  Kids hold the sides and corners, and create a storm by shaking it wildly.  Put paper boats on it, and shake until kids hear the words “Peace, be still!”
  • Peter Walks on Water.  Lay strips of it on the floor.  Dramatize Peter sinking beneath the waves.  Award a prize to the best actor.

Use it to just generally add atmosphere.

Fishing Net

Available from Party City.

Hang from the ceiling to add atmosphere. Or tack it to the wall.

For Calling of the Disciples, have kids pretend to be the fish, and run to the other side of the room. You, the teacher, be the fisherman and try to toss the net over them.

Or, cut net into pieces, hot glue magnets to it, and use to catch paper clipped construction paper fish.

March 4, 2010

How NOT to Teach About Miracles

Here’s two activities that really bug me.

For The Wedding at Cana:

Put some grape Kool-Aid in the bottom of a opaque pitcher.  Let the kids see you pour clear water into the pitcher.  Works best with younger kids.

And another one:

Find a wine glass with an indentation in the bottom.  Put two drops of red food coloring in the bottom.  The indentation will hide it from the kids.  Fill the glass with water.

What’s wrong with these activities?

Reality and fantasy are fluid for preschoolers.

Two things.

  1. They equate miracles with sleight-of-hand.
  2. They are often used with younger children.

Preschoolers and younger elementary age kids are still figuring out how the world works.  Especially preschoolers.   Think about this for a minute.  For all these kids know, sometimes water just turns into wine.  They observe their world (that water just turned red), and incorporate what they see into their view of life.

James Fowler explains Intuitive-Projective faith:

The stage most typical of the child of three to seven, it is marked by a relative fluidity of thought patterns.  The child is continually encountering novelties for which no stable operations of knowing have been formed.  The imaginative processes underlying fantasy are unrestrained and uninhibited by logical thought.  [emphasis mine]

So what is an interactive activity to do with miracles?

Well, I recently taught the Feeding of the Five Thousand.  Lifeway provided a nicely printed paper basket, as well as five colorful loaves and two fish.  I elected to use these props for something other than the intended purpose.  After telling the story, I say:

Teacher: Who thinks they can do a miracle?

Kid #1: What’s a miracle?

Kid #2: I do!  Me first!

Kid #3: No, I want to go first!  What’s a miracle?

I swear, I could ask these kids if they wanted to supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and they’d argue over who went first.

Co-Teacher: I’m really good at miracles!

Teacher: Okay, you go first.  Here, put these in the basket and count them as you put them in.

Co-Teacher: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Teacher: Now see how many you can take out.

He pulls out 7, loudly counting them.

Teacher: Oh, you are NO GOOD at miracles!  Jesus took out lots more!  Amdiel, your turn.

Amdiel: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Teacher: Now see how many you can take out.

Amdiel: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

I shake the basket upside down to be sure.

Teacher: Oh, you are NO GOOD at miracles!  Jesus took out like seven THOUSAND!

Amdiel: Whoa!

A small hand tugs at my co-teacher, and Elsha looks up with large eyes.

Elsha (whispering): I don’t know how to do a miracle.

Co-Teacher (whispering back): Neither do they.  Only Jesus knows how.

Hunter: 1, 2, 3….

I thought they might lose interest after the first couple kids.  But each one insisted on getting his or her fair turn.  As the last one came up, I heard a comment from the back of the room.

Smart Kid: He’s not gonna’ be able to do it.

And sure enough, he couldn’t.

That’s the point.

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March 3, 2010

What Jesus COULD Have Told the Hungry Multitudes

Tavish was telling the story of Jesus feeding the multitudes.   Lifeway only had the story of the day as feeding the 5000, but Tavish decided to stretch that. First, he told the story of Jesus healing the deaf man.  Then,

Jesus sat down and began to teach the people.  Time went by.  Jesus talked.  Time went by.  Jesus talked.  Time went by.  Jesus talked.  Then Peter said to Andrew, “Ooo, I’m so hungry!  Where are we going to find something to eat?”

“Eat grass,” suggested a ruthlessly practical child in the front row.

Then Andrew said to John, “Ooo, I’m soo hungry!  Where are we going to find something to eat?”

“You could go to the store an’ buy some food,” said Tabitha thoughtfully.  “But,” argued another child, “It wouldn’t be enough for four thousand, just for haf’ a thousand.”

Then Jesus took five loaves of bread and two fish, and broke them in pieces, and began handing food to the people.  And there was so much food that everyone had enough to eat, and there were twelve baskets left over.

Tavish then changed scenes on the felt board and told the story of Jesus Walking on Water.  (Check the gospel of Mark.  It comes right after the feeding of the 5000.)  Then Tavish changed scenes again and began telling the story of the Feeding of the Four Thousand.  (Yeah, Jesus did the same miracle twice.  You’d think the disciples would figure out they didn’t need to worry about the lack of food.)

Jesus sat down and began to teach the people.

“Say ‘time’,” prompted a genre-savvy child.

Time went by.  Jesus talked.  Time went by.  Jesus talked.  Time went by.  Jesus talked.  Then Peter said to Andrew, “Ooo, I’m so hungry!  What are we going to do?”

“Hey!” said Corin.  “You could go fishin’ and eat the fish!”

Then Andrew said to John, “Ooo, I’m soo hungry!  What are we going to do?”  And John said to Thomas, “Ooo, I’m soo hungry!”

Exasperated with the disciples, Hunter leaned forward from his seat on the floor and burst out…




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