Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Whole Lotta Props

My Catechism class is held in a recently-renovated middle-school building. The classroom has a smartboard and other aids that I don't know how to operate, which may be for the best. I'm not teaching a full classroom of kids who'll be taking notes on several subjects during a 180-day, 6-hour per day academic year. We also don't watch movies, or do anything that takes time away from live instruction, 55+ minutes nonstop each meeting. Of course, the kids are tired in the evening, and 6th graders like the stimulation of visual aids (don't we all?), so in lieu of technology-enabled visuals, I provide...a whole lot of props.

Before I get to the props, some background. A constant theme in class is that God made us Body & Soul, two parts that make a unique, unified whole. I want the kids to think: I'm a Body & Soul; I'm a body&soul; imabody'n'soul, imabodynsoul...... Always think of them at once: bodynsoul. It helps to understand Catholicism. God communicates to us, loves us through both aspects, spiritually & physically; we respond likewise....bodynsoul. Most (not all) of the props have to do with telling Bible stories where something physical acts as a conduit for God's power. These lessons lay a philosophical groundwork for the kids to see the reasonableness of Sacraments. Let's Get Physical

With that very brief introduction, on to the props:

A plastic fetus comes in handy all the time...abortion, marriage, the Annunciation, Christmas. Doesn't everybody have one? Current Events

My jacket for portraying Elijah cloaking Elisha (1Kings 19), and for parting the Jordan (2Kings 2). We see the cloak used as a (physical) symbol of (invisible) authority, and as a medium for divine power. Wednesday Sunday School

A dishrag for portraying Acts 19:11, and to discuss relics & sacraments. The rag comes up later in a different context with a little American flag.

A long stick for portraying Moses striking the Rock (medium for divine power). Used again with a foot-long stick to explain canonization (from the Greek word for measuring stick, a rule, kanon / κανών) Church authority, and sacraments. Wednesday Sunday School

A rubber ball for explaining free will. The ball has no choice but to bounce back up or fall back down. Where there is choice, there's free will, and morality.

Balloons to discuss Mary's womb and body and soul. An inflated balloon is obviously more balloon-y than an airless one. Pneuma & Einstein

A chicken bone to portray how Elisha's bones brought a dead man back to life (2Kings 13:20), and to discuss relics, intercession, and sacraments. Recaps

A small American flag to illustrate respect for symbols and names (2nd & 3rd Commandments). I'll pretend to change my grandson's dirty diaper, and pull out a it ok to use this cloth to clean his little butt? Sure. I put it away, pull out the little American it ok to use this cloth to clean his little butt? No! From there we discuss respect for God's symbols, His name, and His Stuff (churches, priests, images, etc.)

A picture of my wedding day is frequently useful (wedding feast, marriage, fidelity, vows, covenants, children, Bride of the Lamb, celibacy (who does the priest marry), etc.)

A picture of my wife as an adult, and one as a child. I use these to discuss marriage, idol worship, the maturing process, and mortality. Barney & St. Augustine

A statue of Mary to discuss idol worship, very useful in the Bible Belt.

A crucifix to portray how 17th century Japanese Christians were martyred because they refused to stomp a crucifix. (respect for God's Stuff)

Copies of Rembrandt's Prodigal Son to facilitate discussion of Confession.

Copies of a painting of the Anastasis to facilitate discussion of the Resurrection, Jesus' descent into 'Hell', Sheol, Purgatory. Anastasis

A pre-Vatican 2 Latin Missal. It's useful just to show the kids some Latin. Plus there are some terrific illustrations on the opening pages of the Ordinary of the Mass. On two facing pages are shown the grapes & wheat; the bread & wine; the Crucifixion; the Last Supper; and a picture of the altar with the Priest and altar boy accompanied by praying angels, thus indicating the Heavenly connection. Trou de Ver & the Mass

Photo of me and two of my kids when they were about 2 and 4 'helping' me wash my car. I use it to discuss how God, who is omnipotent, nonetheless wants us to do what we can to help. Not because God needs helping, any more than I needed toddlers' help to wash the car, but for our own good. I usually introduce the phrase "cui bono?" as part of the discussion. Leitourgia

My key wallet for acting out Isaiah 22, a critical precursor to Christ giving authority to Peter.

An umbrella to visualize the recurring Biblical significance of overshadowing.

I think these are all the props I use. A great thing about them is they can be pulled out on short notice to recall a lesson the kids learned with the prop, then using that recap as a jumping off point for a new lesson.