Tag Archives: Sunday Church School

Gleanings from a Book: “The Barn and the Book” by Melinda Johnson

Fans of “Shepherding Sam” will be delighted to find both Sam (the boy) and Saucer (the corgi) are back! They each play an important role in “The Barn and the Book,” a brand new book by Melinda Johnson. (Don’t worry, if you did not read “Shepherding Sam,” you can still jump right into “The Barn and the Book” seamlessly!)

“The Barn and the Book” takes place on the grounds of the monastery of St. Gerasim and features Sam’s 3rd and 4th grade Sunday Church School class; their teacher, Sister Anna, and a few of the other nuns; a handful of parents; and of course Saucer the corgi and his friends – the other animals on the monastery farm.

The story happens during a Church year. The students and their families attend the church on the monastery grounds, because it is the only Orthodox church in the area. Throughout the course of the year, everyone works together to prepare to celebrate the monastery’s special anniversary in March. At the beginning of the book, Sister Anna invites her class members to write a story that will be shared at the anniversary celebration. This book is the story of how they find and write their stories in the context of life together. It features humor, realistic characters, and many lessons for its readers.

The story contains many humorous parts. For example, the mere idea and corresponding mental image of a corgi going to Sunday school brings a chuckle to the reader’s smiling lips. Well, he sort of goes to Sunday school… Actually, the corgi (named Saucer) just looks longingly in the window during class because his best buddy Sam is there. Lucky for Saucer, class meets in the basement of the church, so the window is right at corgi level! That is how he is able to keep a good eye (and smashed-to-the-window-pane nose) on things. Saucer is so accurately described that the reader feels they must be able to reach into the book and give him a good scritch.

But Saucer is not the only realistic character! Throughout the book, the reader feels bound to the characters as they experience everything from moments of frustration to those of genuine joy. Readers come to realize how a Sunday Church School teacher feels when no one listens. They want to peacefully wander in the prayer garden with Sister Anna. They also make a mad dash for the door of the Sunday Church School room when the sheep get out of the farm enclosure. They inwardly cheer on the children who challenge themselves to write a story for the celebration, first wondering if the children will be able to pull it off, then rejoicing alongside the others in the book when everyone is pleased (albeit surprised) by the results! Because of its genuine characters, by the end of this book, the reader feels that they have been a part of preparing the monastery for the big celebration.

There are plenty of lessons to be learned from the characters in this book. Take for example, the nun, Sister Anna. She learns a lot over the course of this story, and the reader will do well to learn along with her. First of all, she finally learns to stop comparing herself to others. She comes to understand that she must completely trust her gerontissa, and not to test God, demonstrating with both of these learnings the humility that comes with truly trusting those in authority over us. With her choice of how she handles frustration, Sister Anna teaches us the value of having (and using!) a prayer garden, and demonstrates how the act of stepping out of our routine to pray helps us to calm ourselves as we entrust our frustrations to God. Other characters’ experiences in the story remind us of things like the fact that miracles can happen, while also leaving us wondering whether animals really can talk at midnight on Christmas. Perhaps most importantly of all, an ordinary boy named Sam learns that being present in the moment and choosing to be thankful while in that moment is the most magical thing one can experience. This lesson is an important one for readers of any age.

The story begins in the fall and continues into the spring. Though it covers much of a year, a fairly significant part of the story happens right at Christmastime. Because of the book’s humor, genuine characters, and important lessons, this book would make a great gift for Sunday Church School students. Since it’s set in the context of a Sunday church school class, it would also work as a read-aloud if you have a time in your class each week to do so (for example, if your students eat a snack in class after Liturgy).

Purchase your own copy of “The Barn and the Book,” available as a book or an ebook, here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/the-barn-and-the-book/

To listen to the book, purchase the audio copy of “The Barn and the Book.” Author Melinda Johnson reads the book, and listeners can enjoy both her unbridled enthusiasm and her special voices for each character! https://www.audible.com/author/Melinda-Johnson/B004RXKWF4

Here are a few gleanings from the book and suggested related activities in case you read the book with your students.


“Sister Anna was too short and pudgy to move quickly, but she did her best. She wanted to reach the prayer garden without being seen. It was too cold to sit there for long, but Sister Anna needed some quiet time.” (“The Barn and the Book” by Melinda Johnson, pp. 19-20)

Where do you go when you are frustrated, embarrassed, or angry? In “The Barn and the Book,” Sister Anna headed to the prayer garden. Sam went to the barn with the animals. Do you have a place that is quiet and peace giving? Maybe it is your family prayer corner, or somewhere else. Talk with your students about good places to go when you need a minute to regroup and talk with God about what is happening in your life. It will not always be the same place for everyone. Invite your students to sketch their idea of a peaceful place where they could go. Perhaps it would be a prayer garden; a place where an animal (or several) live(s); or it could simply be a quiet room or corner. Encourage them to try to create such a space at home, and to use it when they are frustrated, embarrassed, or angry.


“‘Do the nuns like me?’ wondered Grace.

‘Sure they do,’ said Elias, grinning. ‘Nuns like everybody.’


Elias nodded. ‘The nuns even like Macrina,’ he said impressively. (“The Barn and the Book” by Melinda Johnson, p. 47)

Have you ever visited a monastery? Monasteries are such holy places for us to visit, where we can pray and rest. When we spend time in one, it is good for our souls and we come away refreshed and grateful for the experience. Invite your students and their families on a field trip, to visit one and see for yourself how the nuns (or monks) like everybody! Ask your priest to recommend one for your class to visit. (Look here for additional ones:http://www.orthodox-christianity.org/orthodoxy/countries/usa/usmonasteries/)

“‘I set the stick up yesterday, and then I came to see if it fell down.’ Sister Anna clasped her hands and reclasped them, squeeze squeeze. ‘If it fell down, or if it didn’t.’
…The abbess smiled, but Sister Anna did not see her smile. ‘You have made a test with your stick.’

‘Yes, Gerontissa.’

‘You set a trap for God. In the garden. With a stick… You want Him to tell you something now, and He has not told you something for you to hear, so you set a trap for Him, to make Him tell.’” (“The Barn and the Book” by Melinda Johnson, pp. 96-97)
Sister Anna is not the first person who loved God and made a test (or, in the words of “The Barn and the Book,” “set a trap for God”) to try to get Him to answer a question. Have you ever done something like this? If so, you’re not alone! Even in the Old Testament of the Bible, we read a story about this. Gideon used the fleece of a sheep to ask for God’s guidance. Find the story in Judges 6:36-40. What did Gideon want to know (what was the reason he set out the fleece)? Did he get his answer? If you have the Orthodox Study Bible, be sure to read the footnotes on this passage. What was Gideon’s fleece the type of?

Find a lesson plan suggestion, complete with activity suggestions, on the story of Gideon, here: https://missionbibleclass.org/old-testament/part2/judges-and-ruth/gideon-and-the-fleece/


“‘Do you think he will go in the barn?’ asked Grace, lowering her voice.

‘Go in the barn? What for?’

‘For the animals. You remember, like you told him.’

“Ohhhh. You mean to hear the animals talk at midnight on Christmas Ever?’

Grace nodded vigorously.

‘I don’t know. Won’t he be asleep?’

‘Maybe he could stay awake. Maybe I could stay awake. I want to go, too.’

Elias shrugged. ‘I don’t think your parents are going to let you go in the barn in the middle of the night.’” (“The Barn and the Book,” by Melinda Johnson, pp. 120-121)

Have you heard before about the idea that perhaps animals can talk at midnight on Christmas Eve? What do you think about that idea? Here’s one legend that offers a possible reason: https://tarapollard.wordpress.com/2013/12/13/the-legend-of-the-talking-animals-2/

And here’s one family’s funny memory of a child who went to the barn on Christmas Eve to find out for herself if they really do: http://www.walkdownthelane.com/animals-talk-on-christmas-eve/


“‘Hi, Macrina!’

Macrina turned sideways to see who was talking to her… ‘Hello, Grace… Thank you so much for the nice card. My mom gave it to me.’
Grace smiled happily. ‘You’re welcome!’

They walked a few steps more and had almost reached the refectory door when Macrina spoke again. ‘Do you want to sit with me at lunch?’

‘Sure!’ Grace gave a little skip. She was now even more certain that her card had brought Macrina back to health. Why else would Macrina want to sit with her?” (“The Barn and the Book,” by Melinda Johnson, pp. 106-107)

Have you, like Grace, ever done something small but kind for someone who was not so kind to you? Did it change your relationship in a positive way? Who in your life right now would benefit from a small kindness? What kind thing could you do for them? Of course, you can (and should!) pray for them, but what else? Write them a note? Secretly do a chore for them? Bake them cookies? If you need ideas of kind things to do for someone else, check out the ideas at the end of this blog (https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2014/02/12/try-a-little-kindness/) or this one (https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2016/01/01/on-being-a-bucket-filler/).


“…Some people might want to know why the monastery is called the Monastery of Saint Gerasim and the Lion. Saint Gerasim was an abbot at a monastery in the Holy Land a long time ago… He helped a lion with a hurt paw, and the lion became his friend and lived at the monastery. The nuns chose this saint because they helped the animals who lived at the farm that used to be here, and the farm turned into a monastery, just like Saint Gerasim’s lion sort of turned into a monk.” (part of Macrina’s story, from “The Barn and the Book,” by Melinda Johnson, p. 153)

To learn more about St. Gerasim (also called St. Gerasimos), check out this blog post:




On Teachers and Summer Break

It is summertime in the northern hemisphere, and for many of us, that means a break in the Sunday Church School routine. During this break, let us take time to be refreshed! Having a break gives us time to rest and to evaluate our work. How are we doing? What is working with our students? What is not? What other ideas are out there? What might we want to try that could improve the quality of our students’ education in the Sunday Church School classroom?

Here are a few resources that may help us to evaluate and recharge. (Note: not all of these are Orthodox. Each of them does, however, contain ideas that can help to refresh us and be ready for the next Sunday Church School year.)


Ever feel like you’re stuck in a rut or just need to breathe a little? This page offers 25 hands-on ideas that people in Christian ministry can do to reset their creative juices: https://childrensministry.com/simply-refreshed/


Here are 10 suggestions for rest/refreshment during the break from the school year. Aimed at school teachers, many of these work for Sunday Church School teachers, as well. https://www.mmersfrenchresources.com/2017/05/10-ways-to-recharge-during-summer-break.html


Need a bit of a refresher? You’re not alone! Many teachers need to take some time to refresh themselves so they can continue to encourage and inspire others. Here are some ideas of ways to refresh yourself: https://teach4theheart.com/6-ways-teachers-can-refresh-can-give-students/


Laughter is good medicine, and can help to refresh your soul. If you find yourself in need of a little laughter, read this article. Do you know any of these students? https://sharefaith.com/blog/2016/09/10-students-sunday-school-teachers-recognize/


“Whether you hold a relaxed version of your regular Sunday school program or discontinue classes until fall, read on for nine refreshing ideas to help you nurture kids in the summer months too!” https://network.crcna.org/sunday-school/9-refreshing-ways-connect-kids-summer


You may want to begin evaluating your year with something like this printable document. It asks many questions that can help you think about how things went in your classroom. http://pghpresbytery.org/disciplemaking/pdfs/Evaluation_Tool_for_Teachers.pdf


Has your parish thought through (and made public) the details on how your Sunday Church School works? Some parents and even visitors may find information like this helpful, whether on a printed handout in the narthex, or online. Check out this parish’s example for inspiration: http://transfiguration.org/ministries/religious-education/transfiguration-sunday-school-teacher-information/


Check out Orthodox resource lists like this one to see if there is anything out there that you were not aware of which could help you be a better teacher. http://ww1.antiochian.org/online-resource-list-parents-and-teachers


Do you want to become a better educator? You may find both refreshment and challenge from Praxis Magazine. The Greek Archdiocese publishes this magazine three times a year, and posts many articles and even entire back issues online. (For example, Volume 14, Issue 1, “Teaching Strategies,” is available online in its entirety and you can read it immediately!)  https://goarch.org/-/praxis-magazine


“Sophie Koulomzin, an Orthodox author and former professor on Orthodox education, tells us, ‘You can teach only that which you have made your own…’” This article challenges Sunday Church School teachers to evaluate their own embracing of the Orthodox Christian Faith, and reflects on how that will influence our students. http://myocn.net/what-is-orthodox-education/


Take a little time this summer to rethink your classroom organization. Check out our other blogs for ideas of ways to organize your Sunday Church School room.https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/tag/classroom/


Have you heard of using a binder method for organizing your students’ work? Here’s one suggestion of how to do so: http://illumination-learning.com/main/2012/05/21/church-school-binders/


Teachers of teens may want to see if any part of this mindset and/or teaching “style” would help their students better connect to the Faith: https://www.youthworker.com/articles/refresh-sunday-school/

On Pursuing Virtue: Honesty

Author’s note: We have written about virtues before (see https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2017/03/03/on-pursuing-the-virtues-an-introduction/), and now we are continuing the series. There are so very many virtues for us to acquire! Fr. Thomas Hopko’s book “The Orthodox Faith, Volume 4, Spirituality,” offers additional virtues, some of which we will now study. May the Lord have mercy on us and grant us grace as we learn to better walk in His ways!

Fr. Thomas Hopko’s chapter about honesty opens with the statement that “the wise man who has knowledge lives according to the truth through a totally honest life.” But what does a “totally honest life” look like? Is honesty just about speaking truth and not telling lies? Or is there more to it? He goes on to explain.

There are several ways that we can live a truly honest life. One way is to always speak the truth and never lie or speak unfairly or demeaningly about others. Another way to live an honest life is to act sincerely, not putting on airs or trying to come across as someone we are not. In other words, we live an honest life if we are not a hypocrite.

Hypocrisy, lying, and deceit are things that Christ hated the most, according to Fr. Thomas. Our Lord accused the devil of these things, for the devil constantly pretends to be what he is not and tries to make others believe that what he says is the truth, although it is definitely not the truth.

We must be mindful of the devil’s trickery and of how cunningly he tries to deceive us, sometimes through other people. Even devoted religious leaders can be part of his deceit: just look at the scribes and Pharisees in the time of Christ! Christ condemned their hypocrisy, as well He should, because of its lack of truth.

In order to live an honest life, we must first and foremost look at ourselves. Do we present ourselves to others honestly, or do we pretend to be someone we are not? An honest person comes across exactly as they are, not speaking or acting in a way that makes others think they are anyone but who they really are.

Fr. Thomas writes that a truly honest person does not just speak the truth and present themselves to others honestly. An honest person is also honest in thought and mind, forever remembering that God sees and knows our heart. In his words, a truly honest person is “utterly honest and pure in all that he things, says and does, knowing that God sees all and judges with righteousness all those who ‘walk in integrity’ (Ps. 26:1, 11).”

May we all grow in the virtue of honesty, and help our students to do so, as well!!
Read Fr. Thomas Hopko’s discussion of honesty here: https://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/spirituality/the-virtues/faith1

Here are some ideas of ways that we can help to teach our Sunday Church School students about the virtue of Honesty:
Want to focus on honesty in your classroom? Consider some of the ideas found on this (non-Orthodox, but creative and helpful) website: http://www.barnabasinschools.org.uk/exploring-values-with-the-bible-honesty/
Teachers of younger students may wish to enhance a lesson on honesty with a story. Here are some secular books that may be helpful as you plan: https://talkingtreebooks.com/best-character-education-resources/books-honesty.html
What do the scriptures say about honesty? Here is a list of verses that can help in a lesson about honesty. Sunday Church School teachers could write each reference on a slip of paper before class. Take the slips along and have each student select one reference to look up in the Bible, then read to the class. http://www.kidsofintegrity.com/lessons/honesty/memory-verses
Teachers of young children may find some parts of this secular lesson on honesty helpful as they gather ideas for a lesson on this virtue: https://talkingtreebooks.com/lesson-plans/honesty-worksheet-kindergarten-grade-1.html
There are so many ideas that can be gathered from this series of lessons on honesty! It was written for parents to use at home, and is not at an Orthodox site, but Sunday Church School teachers will find many scripture verses, stories from the Bible, and a myriad of different hands-on learning activities here. These ideas can easily be added to a lesson on honesty: http://www.kidsofintegrity.com/lessons/honesty
Teachers with students of varying ages may want to take a look at the activities suggested in this object lesson containing a variety of ways to talk about the importance of honesty instead of lying. From weaving a tangled web with yarn to trying to cover a quarter with a penny, students will be interested and involved in the lesson. (The lesson is not written from an Orthodox perspective, but can still be very helpful for this topic.) http://storage.cloversites.com/yorkalliancechurch/documents/KS%20Lesson%208%20Honesty.pdf
Middle-years or older students may find this page useful. It contains questions about honesty and answers as found in the scriptures. http://www.kidsbibleinfo.com/article/102/topics/h/honesty
Although it has “teens” in the tagline and addresses parents, this (secular) list of ideas for helping children learn about honesty will be helpful to Sunday Church School teachers preparing to teach their students about honesty. We especially liked the obstacle course idea. (Set up two obstacle courses, one easy and one full of obstacles. Allow students to run through both. Then talk about which was easier and why. Talk about how telling lies adds additional obstacles to your life, while honesty is simpler and more straight forwards.) https://www.livestrong.com/article/559757-teaching-teens-the-importance-of-telling-the-truth/
Teachers with students in the middle years may want to share this children’s sermon – or at least some of the true stories it contains – as part of a lesson on honesty and integrity. Follow the stories with a discussion about how honesty is a lifestyle, and a true measure of our honesty is how we act when no one is watching. https://www.sermons4kids.com/do_right_thing.htm

Do you know why former American president Abraham Lincoln was called “Honest Abe?” You may want to print the free printable about him at this site, and use it in a lesson about honesty. http://characterfirsteducation.com/c/curriculum-detail/1951185
Here is a secular-based (but still useful) series of lessons on honesty. We especially liked the idea of using two M&M bags (one filled with something else) to illustrate the importance of honesty and how we need to live an honest life, not just put on the appearance of what we want others to think that we are. http://materials.randomactsofkindness.org/cde/en/5-Honesty-and-Integrity.pdf
Middle school teachers may find some useful ideas for part of their lesson on honesty, from this (secular) lesson: http://character.org/lessons/lesson-plans/middle/john-a-carusi-middle-school/
As we prepare for confession, one thing we can do is to look at the Ten Commandments and consider how well we are keeping them. While planning a lesson on honesty, we may want to take a look at these questions about the commandment “You shall not bear false witness.” These questions can help us think about what honesty looks like in an Orthodox life. Sharing these questions with our class will give both us and our students the chance to be honest with ourselves about how well we’re keeping this commandment: “Have I given false testimony against anyone? Have I spoken evil, told lies or spread rumors about anyone? Have I disclosed to anyone the sins and faults of another? Have I made careless statements or done anything else to harm the name and reputation of another? Have I engaged in idle gossip?” (This set of questions comes from: http://greekorthodoxchurchtampa.com/church_files/lent_pascha/ten_commandments_in_preparation_for_confession.pdf)

The holy Fathers of the Church use words to teach us about false witness and condemnation, but they also teach us by their lives. Here is one story from the book, Sayings of the Desert Fathers. Teachers of older Sunday Church School students may wish to use this story during a lesson on honesty:

“A brother at Scetis committed a fault. A council was called to which Abba Moses was invited, but he refused to go to it. Then the priest sent someone to say to him, ‘Come, for everyone is waiting for you.’ So he got up and went. He took a leaking jug, filled it with water and carried it with him. The others came out to meet him and said to him, ‘What is this, Father?’ The Elder said to them, ‘My sins run out behind me, and I do not see them, and today I am coming to judge the errors of another.’ When they heard that they said no more to the brother but forgave him.”https://stjohndc.org/en/orthodoxy-foundation/thou-shalt-not-bear-false-witness-against-thy-neighbour
Teachers of teens may want to include quotes about honesty from others, besides the scriptures and the church fathers. Share the following quotes with your students, and invite the students to discuss them. Compare them to the scriptures and the Church Fathers’ teachings on honesty, and discuss. What can be learned from these quotes, as well as the others?
Possible quotes to include:
“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” – Thomas Jefferson
“Take note, take note, O world, to be direct and honest is not safe.” – William Shakespeare
“I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is the best policy.” – George Washington
“Make yourself an honest man, and you can be sure there is one less rascal in the world.” – Thomas Carlyle
“An honest man is believed without an oath, for his reputation swears for him.” – Eliza Cook
“It takes strength and courage to admit the truth.” – Rick Riordan

On Organizing a Sunday Church School Classroom

We are nearly at the beginning of a new Church year once again. This is a good time for Sunday Church School teachers to take a moment to look at the Sunday Church School classroom and see if there are any improvements that can be made to the way in which the classroom is organized. Those of us in the northern hemisphere whose parishes have taken the summer off from Sunday Church School may have a little more time in our schedules right now to do so. Regardless of which part of the world you live in or what season it is, take a moment to tour your classroom, evaluate it, and see what can be done to better organize the room so that you can more effectively serve your students.

Walk into the classroom and look around, and consider the following:

1. Look at the students’ sitting space in the classroom. Is there an inviting working space with a place to sit down for the children? Since the children have just come from (or will be going to) Divine Liturgy where they were/will be standing, it is important that they be able to sit comfortably in the classroom if they want to, and/or it works with what you are doing together as a class. If you do not yet have comfortable seating, consider purchasing a rug, large floor pillows, or even making hand-cushioned crates for seating in your gathering area. Perhaps the classroom already has a table with chairs, or desks, or comfortable mats for them to sit on. If it does, and that is what works best for your students, then you are in good shape!

2. Look at the focus area of the classroom. Is there a whiteboard or chalkboard? This is often the focal point of the classroom, since many times we write questions, illustrate points, or have students write answers on a board like this. The board is a quick way to easily show the whole class something at the same time. If the room does not yet have a whiteboard or chalkboard, purchase one. You could also paint part of the wall with chalkboard paint and write on that space.

3. Look around at the walls/partitions that surround your room. Are you effectively using the display space in your room? Sunday Church School rooms do not need to look glamorous or elaborate, but a little thoughtful decoration will go a long way to enhance the learning environment.

Consider including the following on your classroom wall:

  • a calendar – This can highlight the Church year, remind your class when the parish has special services, display students’ birthdays or name days, and/or be a place to commemorate the saints
  • a bulletin board (or more than one) – This can be a display that goes up at the beginning of the year and stays all year (ie: self-portraits labeled “Our Sunday Church School Class Family”); a bulletin board that changes to illustrate what you are studying; an interactive learning center featuring activities for children to work at if they arrive early or finish something else before everyone else does; etc. The possibilities are endless.
  • a display area for student artwork/papers – This could be as simple as taping or pinning up their work right onto the wall; it could be bulletin board strips with pins to hold the work; it could consist of clothespins hung on a line on the wall; or it could be made of empty frames hung on the wall where the students’ work can be inserted.

4. Turn your attention to the supplies that you use during class. Is there an easy way to access and store these items? Perhaps there is a closet, cabinet, cart, or set of drawers in which you can keep supplies. If you do not yet have any storage space, find or create some. Then look at the supplies themselves, and consider how they are being stored in that space. Are they easy to access and put away? Is there a better way they could be stored that will make them easier for students to use and/or put it away?

5. Before you leave your Sunday Church School room, look at the room as a whole. Does it look inviting? If not, consider what could be done to make the room feel more friendly. Does your classroom communicate to all who enter it that the learning that happens in Sunday Church School is important enough to warrant a welcoming classroom? If not, how can you improve?
Do not feel discouraged if your tour of your Sunday Church School classroom generated a long list of things you ought to change. Instead of being overwhelmed, look at the list as an opportunity! Think about ways to enhance the Sunday Church School experience for your students by making their environment more conducive to learning. Then prioritize your “to-do” list and get started. Do a little at a time until you’ve improved all that you can. Organizing your students’ study area (and thereby minimizing distractions from the environment) can go a long way to keeping the focus on the reason your class meets together every Sunday: to learn more about God and His Church!

Here are links to websites that can give you ideas of how to better organize your classroom:


This link shows how to use inexpensive plastic bins for organizing your classroom, demonstrates the use of plastic crates with stuffed fabric “tops” for stools; etc: http://tupelohoneycaro.blogspot.com/2012/01/my-classroom.html


Purchase a “let the little children come unto me” oval rug featuring a colorful world map surrounded by  international children: http://www.cmresourceco.com/Let_the_Children_Come_Rug_p/joy-1513.htm


If seeing other classrooms inspires you with ideas, check out this page of pictures of many different classrooms. The bottom of the page includes links to online classroom setup planners, as well: http://www.theschoolsupplyaddict.com/room-setup.html


See what one teacher did with her Sunday School classroom here: http://www.myprimaryparadise.com/2015/05/22/sunday-school-room-make-over/


Here is one storage idea that features using fabric bins in metal cubbies: http://lisatilmon.blogspot.com/2012/04/organization-of-classroom-supplies.html


Find a list of brilliant DIY ideas for organizing a classroom on a very low budget here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/peggy/money-saving-diys-for-the-classroom#.niBEy1oO9


Consider painting a wall or door with chalkboard paint for prayer requests, scriptures, etc. as demonstrated here: http://sohldesign.blogspot.com/2010/09/new-kind-of-chalkboard.html


Find a variety of great ideas for Sunday Church School classroom renovation/organization here: http://childrensministry.com/articles/inexpensive-classroom-makeover-ideas/


Here’s a blog about important things to keep in mind when organizing a Sunday Church School classroom that will include special needs students: https://specialneedsministry.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/organizing-the-special-needs-classroom-physical-environment/


If you choose to set up your classroom with learning centers in addition to or instead of traditional lecture and response classtime, here are some ideas: http://www.sunday-school-center.com/support-files/tt101-sunday-school-learning-centers.pdf

Art Projects for Sunday Church School: Mixed Media Collage

This series of blogs about including art in the Sunday Church School will offer a variety of art techniques and ideas. Each week will focus on one medium, offering a tutorial for one project (which can be used at multiple age levels), as well as several other suggested ways to incorporate the medium in other projects. The purpose of the series is to offer Sunday Church School teachers ideas which they can keep in mind for future reference as they plan to use art in their classroom. Each technique can be applied to a variety of lessons, whether Bible stories, Church history, lessons on the Faith, etc. For the purpose of keeping it simple, the cross will be used in each illustration throughout the series.


Mixed media art can be used with children of all ages. It is an art form that can be very detailed and take a lot of time, or can be basic and fairly quick to complete. The materials vary according to what is available and/or what the artist wishes to incorporate into their piece. Mixed media is an art form that can be easily used in the Sunday Church School classroom, especially in collage form. Here is one example of a mixed media collage project. (This project is geared towards older children because of the many steps required to complete it.)


Cover your workspace to protect the table. Gather all of the art mediums and supplies that you wish to make available to the children, and place them in the center of the workspace. (Generally speaking, this is the point where you tell the students to use the mediums/supplies as they wish to create a piece of art reflecting whatever it is that you taught about in the lesson. This blog will show the process of creating one specific piece of mixed media art featuring an “embossed” cross on a mixed media background.)


For a project like this, first draw the focus piece (in this case, the cross) on a piece of cardstock or cardboard. Cut it out if desired.


Outline the focus piece and any details you wish to include with tacky craft glue or hot glue. (The type of glue you use is up to you: it can depend as well on the age/ability of your students and the amount of time you have for the project to dry/cool.) Set the focus piece aside, to allow the glue to dry or cool.


While the glue on the focus piece is drying/cooling, begin to decorate the background. (Students can use any type of media for this part of the project. Watercolor art is the base for this particular piece.) Paint a piece of watercolor paper with plain water. Paint over that water with different colors of watercolor paint. The colors will run together and mix on the already-wet paper.


While the paint is still wet, sprinkle salt on the paint. Set the background piece aside to dry.


When the glue on the focus piece is dry/cool, cover the entire piece with glue from a glue stick.

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Gently place a piece of tin foil over the entire piece, wrapping the foil around to the back. (This requires a bit of careful thought if your piece is a shape, such as a cross. Cut the foil as needed to be able to wrap it around to the back.) Add a little glue stick glue to the back if desired, to hold the folded-back parts in place.


On the front side, smooth the foil down carefully with paper towel-covered fingers to avoid tearing the foil.

Use a cotton swab to push the foil against the paper at the glue ridges. Work slowly and carefully: the foil tears easily.

Use a blunt pencil to add additional details into the foil.


Rub the whole thing with dark shoe polish, let it dry for a few minutes, and then gently buff it off with a paper towel. The focus piece is now finished. Set it aside while you finish preparing the background piece.

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Returning to the background piece, gently brush the salt off of the paper. Add scraps of other paper, stamped images, bits of fabric, or whatever is desired for the final effect.


Glue the focus piece onto the background piece and add any desired additional touches.


Your mixed media collage piece is finished!

Note: this project can be easily simplified for use with younger children. For example, the focus piece could be simply cut out of cardstock and decorated with crayon, rubber stamps, or even stamped fingerprints. The background could be decorated in a similar manner, or with swatches of colorful paper. The beauty of a mixed media collage is in its versatility: whatever you have on hand is fair game for use in whichever way the students wish to use it in their art piece!

The cross for this project was inspired by this: http://makeitawonderfullife.blogspot.com/2011/12/owls-foil-glue-and-shoe-polish.html

The watercolor ideas for this project can be found here: http://artfulparent.com/2014/04/watercolor-techniques-for-kids.html

Here are more collage links to inspire you:

http://mollymoocrafts.com/art-project-for-kids-collage/ (using paint, magazine photos, and stickers)

http://mollymoocrafts.com/art-project-for-kids-collage/ (using marker, paint, fabric, and sequins); http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/originals/3f/0c/d5/3f0cd50ed003b06d4d362b2c0e38c0cb.jpg (this is a picture only, but shows use of fabric/lace scraps in collage)

Following are other ideas for mixed media collage:


Create a still life with a mixed media collage as illustrated here: http://theartclassroom1.blogspot.com/2013/05/adaptive-art-collaged-still-life.html?m=1


Gather pictures, color swatches, and/or letters from cereal boxes to use in your mixed media art as suggested here: http://www.carlemuseum.org/blogs/making-art/artist-michael-alberts-visit-carle


Glue colorful strips from magazine in parallel lines and then cover that with a negative cut-out of black paper as suggested at  http://suzyssitcom.com/2012/06/feature-friday-cut-paper-art.html


Start with wiggle eyes glued on paper, and allow the children to draw around them: http://www.houseofbabypiranha.com/2012/07/wiggly-eye-drawing-starter.html


Sew buttons onto paper and have the children draw them into some part of the Creation. http://ertoris.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/knappeblomster_26.html

Or, glue buttons on paper and allow the children to incorporate those buttons into their drawing. http://www.redtedart.com/2014/04/02/button-crafts-button-art-button-cards/


Stamping ideas that can be used in mixed media art:  make your own foam stamps like this: http://www.carlemuseum.org/blogs/making-art/make-your-own-foam-stamp

make prints using found materials as demonstrated here: http://www.carlemuseum.org/blogs/making-art/printing-found-materials

print with the wheels of toy vehicles as shown here: http://www.carlemuseum.org/blogs/making-art/printing-toy-trucks

make your own stamp pads for stamping as demonstrated here: http://www.carlemuseum.org/blogs/making-art/make-your-own-stamp-pads


Use mod-podge, paint, and paper scraps on a piece of wood to make a beautiful scripture verse wallhanging as found here: http://www.crayonfreckles.com/2013/04/mixed-media-art-for-kids-mod-podge.html

Introducing a Resource: PRAXIS magazine (Featuring “The Ministry of Teaching,” Volume 11, Issue 3) (permission requested)

PRAXIS magazine, published 3 times a year by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, is a wonderful resource for Orthodox Christian Sunday Church School teachers. Every issue can be ordered by subscription, and is full of articles useful to Orthodox educators. (Interested readers can subscribe to PRAXIS here: http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/religioused/praxis_subscription_form.)

To better serve Orthodox Christian educators, many back issues of the magazine are available to the public. These can be found online at http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/religioused/praxis. Every magazine has a specific theme, ranging from prayer to pop culture to icons to adult education to teaching difficult topics. Each issue contains a variety of articles, most relating to the theme, and all useful to an Orthodox Christian educator. “PRAXIS is THE magazine for professional catechists,” says Carole Buleza, Director of the Antiochian Orthodox Department of Christian Education.

For example, let us look at the PRAXIS issue “The Ministry of Teaching,” Volume 11, Issue 3, published in the spring of 2012. Articles include “Christ, the Teacher of Teachers;” “The Role of the Priest in Christian Education;” “Why They Teach;” book reviews (including one of Jim Pierson’s Exceptional Teaching: A Comprehensive Guide for Including Students with Disabilities, for example); and “Religious Ed Basics: Achievement and Incentives;” and much more. Each article focuses on a different aspect of Christian Education. Not all articles will be applicable to each reader, but every reader is sure to find articles that are helpful in any issue.

To further investigate PRAXIS’ helpfulness, let us look closely at the last article mentioned above, “Religious Ed Basics: Achievement and Incentives” (pp. 24-25). This article recounts the incentive program that is carried out at Holy Trinity Church of Dallas, TX. Their Sunday Church School rewards students for attendance, achievement, and graduation. Students who have attended at least 80% of their Sunday Church School classes receive the attendance award, which varies from year to year (ie: a lapel pin or a necklace), and comes with a promotion certificate. For the achievement award, each age group is assigned an age-appropriate test/task. Tasks range from making the sign of the cross (age 3) to raising money for Support A Mission Priest or speaking in the church’s Oratorical Festival (grade 12). Students who successfully complete the task(s) for their grade level are awarded an icon, different for every age level. By the time the children graduate, they have a collection of beautiful icons to keep for the rest of their lives. Graduates who have successfully participated in the program are given an icon, an Orthodox Christian Study Bible, a prayer rope, and a variety of useful books and pamphlets. The PRAXIS article includes graphics such as an achievement award chart showing the age groups, the achievement they are expected to accomplish, and the icon which they are awarded. The article is inspiring, and can help Sunday Church Schools of all sizes to think through their program and consider what incentives they may want to offer to students in their program.

Articles such as “Religious Ed Basics: Achievement and Incentives” are what PRAXIS is all about. The word “praxis” means (according to http://www.merriam-webster.com) “exercise or practice of an art, science, or skill;” “customary practice or conduct;” or “practical application of a theory.” This magazine is aptly named, as its articles take the Orthodox Church’s Traditions and offer practical applications that enable Orthodox Christian educators to practice their skills in the classroom in effective ways. Orthodox Christian Sunday Church School teachers and directors will find this magazine to be an inspiration and a help to their goal of educating students in the Faith.

Some quotes from PRAXIS’s “The Ministry of Teaching;” V.11 , Issue 3, Spring 2012:

“We can teach as Jesus taught. By taking a closer look at Jesus’ teachings, we begin to discern a distinct ‘style of teaching’ that we can imitate in our own ministry of teaching.” ~ Anton C. Vrame, PHD, “Christ: The Teacher of Teachers,” pp. 6-8

“…the whole Church has the responsibility for Christian Education.” ~ Rev. Dr. Peter G Rizos, “The Role of the Priest in Christian Education,” pp. 9-12

“Sometimes the students teach the teacher, even if they’re only four years old.” ~ Rosemary Shumski, “Why They Teach,” p. 15

“The ministry of Sunday Church School teachers is central to the life of the parish, but they cannot do this task alone.” ~ Anton C. Vrame, PHD, “Recognizing Teachers,” p. 40

“When children see adults taking matters of faith seriously, children will begin to take it seriously.” ~ Anton C. Vrame, PHD, “Recognizing Teachers,” p. 40