Acacia in the Desert

August 20, 2012

Story Tray: Parting of the Red Sea

Target Age
Preschool, Kindergarten, and 1st

Several bags blue glass gems from Michaels.  They are very satisfying to run one’s fingers through.

Pyramid is the top block from Haba Pyramid

I’d like for the Hebrews to be the same style as Moses or the Egyptians, but right now they are Hygloss Decorative Wooden People

Pharaoh is the Playmobil Pharaoh

Moses from Worship Woodworks

For Passover, there is red cloth from Joann fabric.  Cloth from the same swath of fabric is used for the crucifixion story.

Egyptian soldiers also from Playmobil

Plastic box from storage section of Walmart.  It had sticky velcro placed on its bottom, and brown felt placed on top of it.  So far there haven’t been any problems with kids removing the gems from the box.

This was inspired by the Young Children and Worship story, with modifications made after looking back at the Biblical text.  It sits on the Old Testament shelf in our Sunday School classroom.

Script for the Exodus from Egypt
Pause, place your hands in your lap, and sit back a moment.  Once the children were very hungry.

Place some figures of children lying down in the sand in the left-hand corner of the box nearest you.  They cried in the night, even when they were asleep.  Their parents heard them…

Place the parents around them.  …but there was no food.  So the Israelites crossed the desert to the land of Egypt, where there was food.  Move the people across the desert to Egypt (the far right-hand corner). 


They stayed.  But then a new king, called a pharaoh, wanted the Israelites for slaves.  Cup both hands over the people as though you were trapping them. 

The Israelites had to work when Pharaoh said to work.  They had to live where Pharaoh said to live.  They had to go to bed when Pharaoh said to go to bed.  They were slaves.

Present Pharaoh. 

Then the people of God cried to God for help, and God remembered his promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  God spoke to Moses through a burning bush and told him what to say.  [Ex 2:24]

Present Moses and place him at a distance.  Then move him towards Pharaoh. 


Place hands around mouth.  Thus says the Lord, “Let My People Go!”

Place arms in X shape then move them out sharply.  “No!”

God sent ten plagues on the land of Egypt.  During the last plague, the firstborn son of all the Egyptian families and animals died.  But not the people of God.  The Israelites killed a lamb and placed its blood on their doorposts…

Place red cloth over the people of God.  …so that the angel of death passed over them.  Pass hand over people of God.

Move Moses back to Pharaoh.  Touch Pharaoh.  Pause. Point finger.  “Go.”

Move Moses back and speed up your voice by running together the following sentences:

The people of God were ready.  They had to hurry!  So they packed unleavened bread, because there wasn’t time for it to rise.

God led the people around by the way of the wilderness to the Red Sea.  Move the blue stones to the middle of the box.

Then the Lord God warned Moses, “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart.  He will chase after you.  Then the Egyptians will know that I Am the I Am.”

Line up the Egyptians.  The people of God heard the war chariots!  They were trapped between the sea and the army!

Then God showed Moses the way… Part the waters. …and brought them through the sea to freedom.  Move each Israelite through.  When the Egyptians tried to pursue… Move the soldiers through. …the waters returned to their place.

Then the people danced and sang: Move people in a dancing motion

I will sing unto the Lord for he has triumphed gloriously; The horse and rider fell into the sea.

This was the tale of the Exodus from Egypt.

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!”

January 25, 2012

Story Tray: Abraham and Promise of Descendants

Target Age
Preschool, Kindergarten, and 1st

3 plastic boxes with filled with sand, blue and silver glitter (stars) and wooden Messiah figure, all from Michaels craft store

Trunk for oak tree of Mamre from Haba Middle Eastern blocks, and top of tree from Constructive Playthings Wood Block Nativity Set

Abram and Sarai figures from Worship Woodworks set 609

Angel figure is sadly not the same size as Abram and Sarai — it’s a good half inch thicker.  I wish I had known beforehand that the sets were not interchangeable.  But the angel is from Worship Woodworks set 637.

Tent is a square building block with a piece of scrap leather (available from craft stores) draped over it

This was inspired by the Godly Play: Great Family story.  It sits on the Old Testament shelf in our Sunday School classroom.

January 11, 2010

Telling the Story of the Tabernacle

So far, I’ve told the story of the tabernacle in two ways.  The first time was to a group of third graders.   I essentially used the story from Young Children and Worship.  I like the emphasis on becoming ready to get close to God, and how each line of the story builds on the previous.

Now the priest could go through the sweet-smelling incense and smoke to the Ark and be close to God.  But this still wasn’t enough to come close to something so precious.  So they made a special table called the Table of Shewbread.  … Now the priest could walk between the Table of Shewbread and the Menorah through the sweet-smelling incense and smoke to the Ark and be close to God.

I did make some changes.

  • The main change I made was telling the story in reverse order, going from the outside-in.  I started the priest figures outside the fence, and gradually moved them in, adding each piece to the table as it was mentioned in the story.
  • Given that the best way to learn a new vocabulary word is hearing it in context, and given that the essential meaning of this story is the holiness of God — I didn’t use the word “precious.”  I said, “this still wasn’t enough to come close to something so holy.”
  • I emphasized exclusion.  Only the Jews could enter the tabernacle.  Only the priests use the bronze laver and go past it.  Only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies.  Only once a year could he do so.  God is holy.  We are not.

The second time was to a group of four-year-olds.  Attention span = 10 seconds.  That’s two sentences per piece of furniture.  So all the pieces were placed in a cloth bag, and we went around the circle.  Each child got a turn to draw out a piece and place it where I instructed — sort of a non-chronological storytelling approach.  To read the report of that lesson, see Of Torn Curtains, and Other Joyful Thoughts.

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January 1, 2010

The Tabernacle? For Kids? Won’t That Be Boring?

Otherwise entitled How To Get Awesome Materials for a Tabernacle Story

Worship Woodworks sells a wooden tabernacle set designed for use with the Young Children and Worship book.  Church Publishing sells a similar set for use with the Godly Play curriculum.  Both are gorgeous wooden sets, and both induce sticker shock.

So instead of buying either of those, I purchased a far cheaper (yet far more detailed) set from The Tabernacle Place.

The  picture is how the plastic looks when it has been painted.  Being a perfectionist, I spent a weekend painting my pieces until the set looked roughly like the one above.  Explaining to myself that we do not live under the law, but under grace, I did do a few things differently than what was described in Exodus.

The fence posts were supposed to be painted bronze, as well as the washbowl.  Most of the other items were to be painted gold.  I bought a solo can of gold spray paint, and decided no one knows the difference between bronze and gold anyway.

Each fence post should have a silver top.  This would mean hand painting every last one.  I didn’t.

Twelve separately colored jewels on the breastplate of the high priest?  That thing is less than an inch tall!!  No. Way.

I wanted to be able to easily remove the tent covering, so I didn’t lace the elastic through the edge or screw in those hooks.

The fence posts stay up just fine without the thread ‘n’ hooks, so I left those off.  In my opinion, leaving out the hooks makes the set look less cluttered.

I am especially glad I used the can of textured spray paint for the base, and that I painted the sashes and robes of the priests.   Those two things alone changed the look from ordinary to exotic.

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December 14, 2009

Biblical Fabrics

Filed under: Sunday School Activities, Tabernacle and Temple — Tags: , , — Acacia @ 6:01 pm

Materials Needed

Blindfold – so the child can focus on the sense of touch
Sackcloth (originally made of goat or camel’s hair)
Cotton (likely not cultivated in Palestine until after contact with the Persians in the exile)
Embroidered cloth

Have two pieces of each fabric.  All pieces should be a uniform size.  Try to have solid colors of a natural hue.


Play a Matching Game, or play Can You Find [Name of Object]?

Stories to Use Activity With

Making of Tabernacle (Exodus)
The High Priest’s Job (Leviticus)
Solomon Builds the Temple (2 Chronicles 2-5)
Resurrection of Jesus (nothing left but the linen wrappings)
Christ’s Second Coming (Revelation 19)
Esther (mentions of linen and sackcloth in this story)
Daniel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel (in the prophets the messengers of God generally wear white linen, while the people of Israel are urged to wear sackcloth and ashes)
Jonah (the people of Nineveh demonstrate repentance by covering themselves with sackcloth)

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November 28, 2009

Mystery Bag

Filed under: Sunday School Activities — Tags: , , — Acacia @ 9:30 pm

The Mystery Bag is a much-loved activity that has yet to lose its fun with the children.  I use it as a high-interest hook to draw the kids away from free play into group time.  After the activity, they’re already in a circle and in a concentrating sort of mood, so it’s easier to transition to the Bible story.  The original instructions state that each child should place his hand in the bag, describe what he is feeling (“I feel something soft and round”), make a guess as to what it is, then remove the object to check how accurate his guess is.  Our class attempted this.

Teacher – I feel something hard and poky…I think it is the star. Pulls it out. I’m right!  Passes bag to girl on right.

Girly Princess – Furrows brow, and carefully feels around bag. I feel something…brown?  Um…

Mischievous Cherubic Boy –  Figures he’ll take a shortcut, for why would he bother guessing when he could just pull it out? It’s a soldier!  Bang!  Bang!

The children simply did not have the vocabulary to think of adjectives to describe the objects before pulling it out.  So I changed the rules so that each child had to tell me what they were planning to pull out before they put their hand it.  That way, they’re still focusing on the tactile input coming into their brain. That worked out well.

Today, I dumped out the bag, and set out retiring some of the pieces and adding others.

The Favorites

The favorite objects seem to be ones that children can do something with.  The prism is always the first out, and promptly brought up to the eyes to look at the light through it.  The jingle bell can be rung, so it is generally second.  The boys like the metal soldier for reasons beyond my comprehension.  The bracelet can be put on the wrist, and one can put things in the velvet bag.

The Second-Stringers

The star has an easily identifiable shape, and the little bear is kinda cute.  The wooden knob, stone, cotton ball and shell eventually do get picked.   This shell is made of sterner stuff than the first shell I used, which broke within the first week.

The Rejects

I’m getting rid of the lego because I feel like it, and the penny because it always falls to the bottom of the bag and is difficult to find.  The ribbon tends to stick to a child’s fingers when she is trying to pull another toy out.

The Additions

I’ve got a pair of buzz magnets around the house somewhere that I’m going to add.  I’m also throwing in a plastic horse, and a dollhouse sized wooden barrel with a lid that comes off and on.

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September 20, 2009

Sensorial Smelling Jars

Filed under: Sunday School Activities — Tags: , , — Acacia @ 4:07 pm


Adherents of the Montessori method claim that children naturally enjoy and choose the Montessori activities.  In fact, Maria Montessori first picked which activities to keep in her classroom by observing what the children chose to spend their time with.

Montessori classes require an uninterrupted independent  three hour work period, and a prepared environment.

In my Sunday School class I have 1 and 1/4 hour teaching time. As it is a room shared with another class, any materials must be portable, brought in immediately before teaching, and taken down immediately after.

Research Question

Will 4-and5-year-olds actually enjoy a sensorial activity?  Can some semblance of the activity happen in my not-very-Montessori classroom?  And will it be a worthwhile activity?

(worth·while adj.  Sufficiently structured and engaging; distracts Boy #1 and Boy #2 from climbing to the top of the art easel and screaming madly)


Using materials from the dollar store, and some essential oils which I already owned, I created Smelling Jars.  I dearly wished for some myrrh to use as a scent, but alas, I had none.  I did use some juniper berry, as well as cedarwood and cinnamon — all materials mentioned in the Bible.  A snippet of yarn was placed in each jar, so that each pair would require one blue jar and one orange jar.


The kids enjoyed it!  They crowded around, unscrewing lids, smelling each smell, excitedly holding it up so I could also smell this new and interesting scent, and carefully repeating the scent names after me.  As the new activity in the room, no one wanted to play with puzzles or blocks, only these.  Which kinda backfired because…

Smelling Jars does not work as a group activity.  At all.  Way too chaotic.  I even tried it the next Sunday to be sure.  This activity really needs a “prepared environment” classroom, so that all the activities have the same level of newness.

I kinda had fun with it though.  Now that the bottles are made, I may use them during a lesson on Solomon building the temple (cinnamon was used in incense, and cedarwood for the walls), or for the Christmas story.

But I’ll need to buy that myrrh first.

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September 14, 2009

Art Response Center

Response time follows the Bible story.   The child may respond with prayer, by retelling the story to himself, or with art.

Art is not free play…

The children may choose to use art materials to retell a story or express their response to it.  Art responses enable the children to express feelings and work through critical issues they cannot or do not wish to express verbally. ~ Sonja Stewart in Following Jesus

…and not prescribed projects…

The children need the freedom to choose their own response instead of everyone doing the same artwork prepared by the leader.  ~ Stewart and Berryman in Young Children and Worship

…but personal response.

Here are two pictures of art response centers.

Art Corner by madarajo

Courtesy of madarajo


  • Plastic materials
  • Shared classroom, so these shelves need to be moved each week
  • Yellow corn on the cob trays are used to carry materials to the work area

Art Corner by Sharon Chapel

Courtesy of Sharon Chapel


  • Wood materials
  • Permanent classroom
  • Wooden trays are presumably used to carry materials to the work area

Although these two centers are different, they both have simple materials.  There is a place for everything and everything is in its place.  The materials (paper, colored pencils, glue) encourage freedom of expression.

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