Here are two possibilities of ways to teach your Sunday Church School Students about the Ascension:
1. Take your students on a hike. Find the highest point of your church’s property, and have your class there. (If you are unable to do so, ask your students about the highest place they’ve ever been. How far could they see? What did they see? Imagine that you have all hiked to that spot together.) When you arrive at that high space, talk about the Ascension. Pretend together that you are the disciples, reunited with your Lord after the difficult time of His death and the joy of His resurrection. How do you feel, having Him in your midst again? If He invited you to the top of the hill like this, would you go with Him? What if He stood in the middle of you and began to talk: would you listen? If He began to tell you He will be leaving, how would you feel? What would you think about? When He suddenly began to float up from the ground and keep rising into the sky, right in front of you, what would you think? (If you are outside, you could demonstrate this with a face “of Christ” drawn on a helium balloon attached a really long string – so you could eventually retrieve it – or with a small plastic toy “Christ” taped to a kite that flies as high as you can get it to go from your picnic spot.) And what if He got so high that He disappeared in the clouds? (If you’ve done the demonstration mentioned, you will need to retrieve the balloon or kite now, noting that we’re not Christ, so we can’t do what He did!) Even though we can’t actually lift into the sky like that, we can imagine what it must have been like for the disciples left behind! What if, as you were talking about Christ leaving and disappearing in that way, suddenly there were two other men there with you, asking what you’re looking for, and telling you that Jesus will come back again someday? How would you react? What would you think? What would you do next? Then talk about what the disciples did next: they went to Jerusalem and waited. Just like Christ told them to do. What do you suppose the disciples talked about as they went back to Jerusalem? Discuss this, especially the fact that we are still waiting for Christ to come again, as you gather your things and head back down the hill to your Sunday Church School classroom.
2. Spend a class period thinking about Christ’s last words to His disciples. Last moments/last words leave an impression to those left behind. Talk a bit about your students’ experiences with “last words” from people they know who have now passed away. Then spend some time thinking about the last moments and last words that Christ had with His disciples before the Ascension:
Matthew 28:19-20 – Just before He ascended, Jesus told His disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Luke 24:50 says “He lifted up His hands and blessed them” before He ascended into heaven.
Acts 1: 4-5 – Christ tells His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come and be with them.
Acts 1: 8 – Christ tells His disciples that the Holy Spirit’s power will take them all over the earth, telling people about Him.
Set out art materials and invite each member of the class to choose one of the above to interact with through art. (It’s okay if everyone chooses the same one.) Someone may use chenille stems to create “Jesus” with hands outstretched in blessing, perhaps on a coiled “spring” of a pipe cleaner that allows him to begin “ascending.” Someone else may use a computer to print the words to the great commission (“Go therefore and make disciples…”) and incorporate them into a collage of magazine faces of different races or magazine pictures of different parts of the world. The ideas are endless.
Here are a few more ideas for celebrating the Feast of the Ascension with your students:
After writing the blog post featuring these ideas for the Ascension, we went looking for additional links to share, and found this one that is similar to our blog ideas, but different enough to share: http://www.buildfaith.org/2015/05/08/celebrating-ascension-day-at-home/
In case you missed it, here is our blog about the Feast of the Ascension from a few years back. It offers a variety of fun activities to do with kids as you celebrate this feast: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/teaching-children-about-the-feast-of-the-ascension/
Print this foldable centerpiece about the feast of the Ascension to decorate your classroom table (or print multiple copies and send one home with each child for their dining room table at home): http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/assets/asset_manager/e99a5a84333ba33b10a74cfd228c33c6.pdf
If your elementary aged students enjoy word searches, print this one about the Ascension: http://www.biblekids.eu/bible_word_search_puzzles/bible_word_search_puzzles/ascension-of-jesus_word-search_puzzle-2014.JPG
Watch this clip that uses Lego people to tell the story of the Ascension: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6D0kMWj5NCE
This (Roman Catholic) mom’s blog post is full of ideas for celebrating the Ascension with children: http://cherishedheartsathome.blogspot.com/2011/06/ascension-day-plans-and-scenes.html
Look together at the icon of the Ascension. How much can your class tell about the event, just by looking at the icon? Learn more about the festal icon here, and see if there is more to the icon than you knew: http://www.goarch.org/special/listen_learn_share/ascension/index_html