Kelly Ramke Lardin is the author of the children's books Josiah and Julia Go to Church, and Let's Count From 1 to 20 (bilingual counting books in French and Spanish). She holds degrees in French from The University of the South and Tulane University and studied translation at SUNY-Binghamton. She has always enjoyed writing and loves studying languages. She converted to Orthodoxy shortly after marrying her husband, who is also a convert to Orthodoxy. Her journey to the faith was fraught with struggle, but she wouldn't trade it for anything. Together she and her husband are raising their two daughters in the Orthodox faith. This continuing journey still has its moments of struggle but is also a joy. Visit her at kellylardin.com for more information on her books and to read short stories and other writings. She also blogs about her faith, family, and life in Chicago at A Day's Journey. She is available for speaking engagements through the Orthodox Speakers Bureau.
This topic is on my mind at the moment because our church school program is focusing on the feasts for this year’s curriculum. I’m working with the youngest class, encompassing of preschool through first grade, so these ideas are geared to them, but could certainly be adapted for older elementary students.
Our church school coordinator planned out a book for the children to put together throughout the year. Each page of the book is a color associated with the feast and will contain the name of the feast, date (or when celebrated), icon, and a symbol of the feast. The first three items are simply glued on by the children. The symbol is a little more involved. Our coordinator gave me a list of symbols we would be using and asked for art ideas.
Colors and Symbols:
Nativity of the Theotokos (blue): print out of Jacob’s ladder decorated with glitter.
Elevation of the Cross (red): color small print outs of a cross and decorate with stick-on gems.
Entry of the Theotokos (blue): color oil lamp print out with gold/silver gel pens; decorate flame with glitter.
Christmas (gold): cover card stock star in foil, color with various Sharpie markers in random patterns, outline color blocks with silver marker pen or puffy paint (I’m still deciding which we’re going to use). This makes a cute “stained glass” star.
Theophany (white): water, illustrate the Jordan river with sparkling, blue mosaic stickers, add sand or glitter for the banks.
Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (gold): decorate a candle print out with marker dot art (color by dotting, rather than dragging the marker around the page)
Annunciation (blue): use water colors to paint lily print outs.
Palm Sunday (green): finger print pussy willows; draw a brown three pronged stem, and let the kids make the grayish catkins with a stamp pad or finger paint.
Ascension (white): glue on cotton ball clouds
Pentecost (green): paint flames of fire with melted crayon
Transfiguration (white): decorate fruit print outs with colored tissue paper scraps.
Dormition (blue): color flower print outs with oil pastels
Pascha (manila cover): I’m still thinking about this one. Just the icon? Red egg? Empty tomb?
Each week, we also read stories to the kids about the feasts. We are using The Twelve Great Feasts for Children set by Sister Elayne, but other sources could be used as well. Because we have more than 13 class days during the year, I’ve also created a memory game to help reinforce the material. For this, I used 26 index cards. I cut 13 cards in half and wrote (don’t use markers as they may bleed through and give unwanted clues) the feast names on one half and dates on the other. On the remaining full-sized cards, I added the icon of each feast. The children then take turns flipping 3 cards (one large and any two small) to match the feasts. To make it more challenging for older children, you could have them tell what the feast celebrates or some fun fact about the feast/icon when they make a match.
Finally, I’ll be culling ideas from the many projects I’ve done at home with my kids, like the cross magnet, Pentecost tongues of flame can, and the Mary and angel Annunciation figures, to help fill in the remaining time. I’m always looking for new ideas and ways to help kids learn about these important feast days, so I’d love to hear your ideas, too.
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