Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tour of the Atrium: Structure for Independence

In a recent post, I talked about parts of the room that allow the children to clean up independently in the Good Shepherd Atrium. Today I thought I would share some photos of other parts of the room that help children to function without adult help and keep the atrium running smoothly.

Just off the main room in the atrium is this walk-in shoe and coat closet. Every child stops here to take off his or her coat and shoes and take a deep calming breath before entering the atrium. 

Throughout the room there are small tables like this where children can bring their materials to do their work.

Rugs are available in this basket for children to  unroll and use to define their work space on the floor. One of our first lessons is how to unroll and roll a rug!

This is a special table set aside for presentations by catechists for the children.

We added this shelf a year or two ago. It houses some activities which can be used with little or no explanation. When a child visits us unexpectedly, we have this shelf of offerings that he or she can do without a presentation.

Because we have no sink in our room, we set up this drinking station. Here children can pour themselves a cup of water, drink it, and clean it up without adult help whenever they like.

We created this quiet corner as a respite space for a child with special needs, but it has become a great place for anyone needing a little quiet time. There are atrium related books in the corner which the children like to explore. Children also enjoy relaxing on the soft sheepskin rug.

This is a second area for reading and relaxing. Children can pick up a book from the shelf and sit on the stool to read it. We also have a small hand held labyrinth in a drawer in the little white table on the left that children like to sit and use.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

With Thanksgiving for Sofia

I just received the announcement below from The National Association of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd saying that Sofia Cavalletti died this morning at the age of 94. I had the honor and pleasure of meeting Sofia in 2004 when visiting Rome. She was a woman of great strength and intellect, who loved God deeply and cared passionately about the spiritual lives of children. As we prepare for a new year of Christian Formation at Christ Church, we join with friends all over the world who give thanks to God for Sofia and the tremendous gift she has given us in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”
Luke 1:46-47

Dearest Friends,
With tears and with peace, we want to share with you that our beloved Sofia Cavalletti, at 94, a founding mother of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, has entered the celestial pasture of the Good Shepherd. There is great rejoicing in heaven for her with Gianna, Tilde, Fr. Mongillo, Maria Christleib and Tina, along with members of her family who have gone before her.

Francesca Cocchini sent the following announcement from Rome, Italy: “Dearest, this is only to say that during this night – at ten after midnight (Tuesday, August 23) Sofia encountered the Good Shepherd face to face.” The funeral mass will be on Wednesday, August 24.

Francesca also shared the announcement for the Italian newspaper, Repubblica:
“The Maria Montessori Association for the Religious Formation of the Child sings the Magnificat for the life of Sofia Cavalletti who gave the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd to the Church. Eucharist is at 11 am, Wednesday, 24 August, at S. Giovanni dei Florentini Church, Rome.”

Sofia goes ahead of a large family of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd catechists and children in thirty-seven countries around the world. A Hebrew and scripture scholar, Sofia began to work with children in 1954, collaborating with Gianna Gobbi, a Montessori educator. Together they were called and inspired by the children they served to listen, watch, and deepen an understanding of children’s spirituality in relationship with God.

Sofia leaves to the world an approach to the Christian formation of children from the ages of three to twelve that is theologically sound, systematic, and rich in Bible, liturgy, and sacred history. Sofia’s reverence for the Bible and liturgy, her fresh and compelling style of writing and speaking, her wise and intelligent way of discussing complicated theological themes simply, her sense of humor, and personal warmth will be greatly missed by many.

Please go to our Facebook page (The National Association of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd) to share your prayers and remembrances of Sofia and feel free to forward this email to other catechists & friends you know who may not yet be members of our association.

With great love and affection,
The Board and Staff of CGSUSA
The National Association of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd has posted a beautiful tribute to Sofia on their home page. You can see it by clicking here.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tour of the Atrium: Clean Up

One aspect of the atrium that often surprises visitors is the fact that everyone seems to know what to do!  The children are very independent in the atrium. In this post and the next I'll be showing you some aspects of the environment that facilitate the children's independence. This first post looks at cleaning up.

In the atrium children know how to clean up after themselves and return materials to shelves ready for the next person. Beans are dropped and swept up, water is spilled and wiped away, polishing cloths are used, put in the laundry and replaced - all without the advice or help of an adult. This is possible because of the time we spend demonstrating these tasks for the children at the beginning of the year, and the skills the children need are often introduced and practiced in their practical life work.

Because we only see the children for a few hours each week, they sometimes need a reminder or adult help with clean up. But our goal is always to empower children to work independently and to be self directed (or Spirit directed!) as they move from activity to activity. The children themselves find it very satisfying! This arrangement also allows adults to spend their time presenting new materials to smaller groups of children and observing the children who are working.

Here are some areas of the Good Shepherd Atrium that allow the children to clean up independently:

We have no sink in our room. Instead on the left in the photo above is our water dispenser, where children and adults get the water they need for work. Water is disposed of in the bucket below. In the middle of the photo is a hand washing station for the children. On the right is a bowl for washing dishes used in atrium (such as the small bowls used in polishing, and the gluing brush and tray). There is also a towel for drying dishes hanging off to the right that I just missed in this picture!

Polishing cloths.
On the top shelf above are the small bucket and sponge used for cleaning up spills, tissues and hand sanitizer. The children use the cloths, sponges, and q-tips on the second shelf to replace the ones they use when working. The bottom shelf holds supplies for sweeping up spills on the table and on the floor, and wash cloths for drying hands and cleaning up spills.

A child-sized broom and sweeper that are used to clean up spills on the floor are kept along side the shelf above. There are practical life works designed to show the children how to use these tools and sweeping is a favorite!

The trash can, recycling bin, and laundry basket are next to the shelf on the other side and the children know which materials go into each and use them regularly.

Check back next week to tour other parts of the room that help keep the atrium running smoothly!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Tour of the Atrium: Art

Today on the tour, I want to share photos of the art supplies in the Good Shepherd Atrium. Making art is a great way for children to continue meditating on the piece of scripture or moment of the liturgy which they are exploring. Occasionally we offer the children a specific group project that they can help to create, such as making the "Alleluia" banner before Lent. But in general, rather than completing specific crafts as a group, a supply of good quality art materials is always available in the room and children choose what they would like to do on their own.

Many materials in the room have an artistic extension connected to them - for example after becoming familiar with the altar, children can make a booklet of rubbings of the articles of the altar. In the photo on the left, you can see a sandpaper representation of the paten (the plate that holds the bread). The children place a piece of paper over the clipboard and rub it with a crayon to make an impression.

After working with the colors of the Church year, children can make a collage of the chasubles labeling when they are worn. (You can see an example on the right). Extensions like these are available throughout the room and the children enjoy doing them over and over.

Here is a quick look at some of the art materials available in the Good Shepherd Atrium.

This is our light table, used for tracing. The basket on the left holds many simple religious images, and words of scripture that children like to trace and illustrate. On the bookshelf to the right are some clip boards, stacks of tracing paper and plain white paper, and trays of colored pencils that children can pick up to use at other tables in the room.

This shelf holds gluing trays and mats on the top shelf. On the second shelf you see crayons and pencils on the left, a cutting exercise (which is good practical life work) in the center, and a whole punch and rings or pipe cleaners for making booklets on the right. On the bottom shelf on the left, is a punching exercise (using a stylus with a pin on the end to punch out the image of a chalice or paten). On the right are the materials needed to learn to glue in the atrium. From time to time, we also set out stamps, modeling clay, and watercolor paints for the children to use for their reflection.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Tour of the Atrium: Life of Christ~Easter

This is the area in the Good Shepherd Atrium for 3-6 year olds where we meditate upon Jesus' last days, his death, and resurrection. Over the years, I have really come to love and respect these works, and have been awed by the gentleness of the approach and the deep connections they make possible for the children.

The Last Supper material is one of my favorites in the atrium. With it, children often make their own connections between the loving way Jesus offered himself to his friends just before his death, and the joy and wonder of receiving communion each Sunday in Church. For more on this presentation and pictures of the material, take a look at this post on The Last Supper.

The City of Jerusalem material (on the floor in the foreground of the first photo) is another favorite work. Following in the footsteps of Jesus in his last days seems to help us ponder his death and resurrection without focusing on violence and creating unnecessary anxiety. You can learn more about this work and see photos of it in another post on The City of Jerusalem.

A final work in this area is called the Empty Tomb. This material opens up the joy and power of the resurrection and extends our Easter meditation. You can see pictures of this material as it is found in the True Vine Atrium at this post called Making Connections: Easter.

These works are the focus of Lent and Easter in the Good Shepherd Atrium, but in my experience they are very popular with the children all year long.