Pathways to Wonder & Awe

The first time I saw flying fish, I was overcome with amazement. They looked like silvery stars twinkling in the waves as they leap away from a boat wake.

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Meaningful End-of-Year Recognition

Awards ceremonies are often a major event at the end of a program year. Some children eagerly await them,

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Everyday Rituals

When we think of rituals, we often recall major life or religious events like weddings, funerals, baptisms, bar mitzvahs,

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Helping Kids Understand Symbols

Symbols are all around us, but sometimes they can be hard to understand. We need to know something about their cultural context and the stories that surround them to comprehend their meaning.

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Creating Resource-Rich Spiritual Environments

A child’s environment has a huge effect on their lives and, consequently, on their spirituality. The things and people around kids become resources for everyday experiences,

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The Importance of Play

Play is a major part of childhood. Kids run around outside, hiding from one another, racing, or kicking a soccer ball.

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Spiritual Care with Seriously Ill Children

When a friend’s daughter was diagnosed with leukemia, everyone around them was shocked and dismayed. We wondered how to best support them.

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When Children Interrupt

Interruptions are an expected issue when working with children. Sometimes they want to tell us about their new pet or what they did over the weekend.

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Children’s Understandings of Death

Death is a part of life. Even if some children do not experience it directly with a pet or family member,

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Living Black History Projects

It’s Black History Month once again in the U.S., when teachers and group leaders plan lessons celebrating African American figures and exploring the dynamics of race and racism in America.

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Dreaming about Racial Equity with Kids

During the Black Lives Matter protests of 2021, my home city (Richmond, VA) struggled with the legacy of several prominent confederate monuments.

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Holiday ‘Marker Talks’

Many of the children I teach come from households that celebrate multiple religious and cultural holidays. Others have friends whose holiday traditions are different from their own.

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Creating a Calming Corner

December can be an overwhelming month for kids. Seasonal changes prompt a shift in clothing and outdoor activities. Numerous cultural and religious holidays fall during this time.

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Practicing Thanks-Giving

“Let’s go around the room and say something we’re thankful for,” says the teacher. “I’m thankful for apple pie!” says one child.

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Managing Misbehavior with Conscious Discipline

I’m watching a group of children prepare to act out a spiritual story. One child insists on taking the lead role,

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Kindness Projects

My children’s elementary school had a student committee that planned service projects for every grade. Kids from kindergarten through fifth grade participated in the process: researching local needs,

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Making Belonging a Priority

Three weeks after my middle child started third grade, she was so anxious and upset that she couldn’t concentrate on learning.

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Reflecting on Our Work with Kids

The start of a new school year means many program leaders are scrambling to build relationships with new children and families,

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Community-Building

School buses are back on the streets and pumpkin spice lattes have returned to coffee shops. Children’s backpacks are stocked with new pencils and notebooks,

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Using Movement to Reduce Trauma Responses

Numerous studies show that stress is on the rise among children. Some experts suggest that school closures and pandemic isolation are to blame,

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Building a Strong Image of Children

Sometimes when we talk about children, we focus on what kids can’t do: they can’t walk yet, or they can’t reach the sink,

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Language that Builds Community

“This is a story for Amelia,“ announced the adult leading storytime. “It’s a story for Marcus, and a story for Carl,” she repeated,

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Becoming a More Reflective Leader

When I first started organizing an afterschool program for third and fourth graders, my supervisor’s advice to “make it whatever you want“ left me struggling.

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Recording Lessons

When the pandemic shut down in-person gatherings, many of us pivoted to online programs. Some loved working with digital tools to create learning opportunities.

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Promoting Children’s Voices through ‘Grand Conversations’

One of my pet peeves with curricula for children’s programs is how teacher-directed most of the activities are. The leader is instructed to say this or that and then to ask questions with predetermined answers.

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Using Books as Spiritual Mirrors & Windows

As a preschooler, my daughter loved Don and Audrey Wood’s The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry,

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Helping Children Appreciate Diversity

Cleaning out my daughter’s closet, I found a shadow box she constructed in 1st grade. She and a friend set out to create bedrooms for a set of fictitious triplets: Penny,

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Using Room Decorations to Support Spiritual Learning

The walls of my son’s pre-K classroom were covered with posters and children’s artwork. It was like walking into a massive collage!

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Promoting Restorative Justice

My son’s Montessori school had a ‘peace table’ where children could go to work out disagreements. On it were a few laminated cards with conversation prompts,

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Cultivating Intellectual Humility

“Saying something doesn’t make it so.” My grandmother would issue this reminder whenever my siblings or I would try to insist that having another cookie wouldn’t ruin our dinner or that pulling weeds was bad for our backs.

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Encouraging Authenticity

Authenticity is trending as a value. Parents and children want to speak their truth and advocate for what they believe matters.

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Durable Spiritual Learning

Recently, I watched several young children explore finger labyrinths for the first time. Most would race to see how fast they could get to the center and then back out again.

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Getting to Know Children Better

When marketers want to learn about people, they collect data about them. They then use that information to improve how they communicate about their products or services.

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Creating A Culture Of Caring

In 3rd and 4th grade, I participated in an afterschool Kids Club organized by a neighborhood grandmother. I would walk to her house every Tuesday for homemade snacks and educational activities.

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Starters That Support Well-Being

“Can’t I just be 10 minutes late?” pleaded my daughter. We were driving to her Brownie troop meeting and I could see her unhappy face in the rearview mirror.

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Preparing Preschoolers for Spiritual Learning

Working with preschoolers can be a blast! Many are full of curiosity about everything and eager to explore. Even the more timid among them can become fascinated by relatively simple things: butterflies,

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Teaching Spiritual Discourse

One of parents’ greatest fears is that others will indoctrinate their children with ideas that don’t match their family’s values.

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Child-Led Spiritual Learning

As a child, I often was bored in school even though I loved to learn. I would quickly tune out adult monologues and rip through fill-in-the-blank worksheets without paying much attention.

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Being Antiracist with Kids

As a white researcher and teacher, I know I am susceptible to implicit bias. Even though I am committed to antiracism,

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Building Rapport

As Covid-19 transmission risks soar again, concerns about the effects of masking and social distancing on relationships also rise.

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Celebrating Self-Discovery

As the regular school year draws to a close, many extracurricular programs also pause for the summer. Teachers and leaders plan celebrations to mark all that children have learned.

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Setting Spiritual Goals

A few years ago, I taught a child who struggled with managing his emotions in group settings. He was unhappy about his outbursts and wanted to act more calmly so other children would partner with him on activities.

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Project-Based Spirituality

A few years ago, my children’s school decided to sponsor two Habitat for Humanity home builds. The actual construction happened in the spring,

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A 5E Model of Spiritual Education

One of my eldest child’s favorite memories is a series of 5th grade class sessions where they explored scientific theories for ancient religious events.

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Being Gender Inclusive

I started transgressing gender norms with my children when they were babies. I dressed them in colors and styles assigned to their ‘opposite’ gender.

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Replacing Hurtful Words with Kindness

“Losers! Losers!” shouted a kid on the opposing soccer team. My fifth grader and her teammates were headed to the parking lot after a 0-7 game.

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Sharing Personal Spiritual Practices

Children’s group leaders often wonder how much to share about their personal lives with young people. We appropriately want to protect our privacy and maintain appropriate boundaries.

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Using Story Circles to Build Empathy

Sorting through a box of old school papers, I found a story one of my children wrote in 2nd grade.

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Reimagining Spiritual Education

Most of the time, we think of the global pandemic as a terrible time for children and learning. School closures,

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Neuroscience and Learning

Have you ever heard (or said) that spirituality is ‘caught, not taught’? While it’s true that good models and experiences are important for spiritual development,

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Guiding Questions for Pandemic Programming

Just when we thought it was safe to relax a little, the Omicron variant has swooped in and put pandemic debates in the spotlight again.

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Movement-Enhanced Learning

Several years ago, I was leading a holiday workshop and more kids than I expected showed up. There weren’t enough chairs to go around.

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Helping Kids Appreciate Facts

What is a fact? One basic definition is that facts are things that we know to be true because of experience,

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Avoiding Seductive Details

Drawing children into learning activities can sometimes feel like Sisyphus rolling an immense boulder uphill. Just when we think we’ve gotten their attention,

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Teaching Tough Topics

Ruth Wills doesn’t believe in shying away from tough topics with children. A few years ago, she developed a method for helping children reflect spiritually on the Holocaust and its legacy of hate and bias.

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Empathy Maps

Getting to know the children with whom we work is essential. We learn their names and perhaps ask about their favorite activities or what they did this week or last summer.

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Strengthening Connections

“I forgot my mask” yelled my daughter as she ran home from the bus stop, then back out again,

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Gender and Sexual Diversity Inclusion

My daughter returned from her third grade ‘Meet the Teacher’ with news she’d heard through friends: a boy in her class last year was now wearing a dress and using a girl’s name.

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Public Learning

The common idea that spirituality is a private matter  creates a dilemma for organizations that partner with families to nurture children’s spiritual identities.

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Back to the ‘Kinda’ Familiar

As a new school year begins, many organizations are planning to welcome children back to in-person programs. But experts say we shouldn’t expect to just jump right in where we left off.

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Talking with Kids Under 10

Talking with children seems simple enough, but effective communication is actually more complicated than we think. Our words, tone,

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Spiritual Counseling

For many children, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a time of trauma, grief, and loss. Even if children have come through the last 18 months without knowing someone who became seriously ill or died,

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Contextual Engagement

Engaging children in spiritual work is a contextual experience. Yet much of our understanding about children’s development and learning comes from WEIRD studies: research focused on Western (largely white),

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Critical Race Theory

When the University of North Carolina declined to tenure Nikole Hannah-Jones after recruiting her for a chair in journalism,

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Letting Go of the ‘Main Point’

It’s often the first thing a teacher or group facilitator looks for in a lesson plan: a line near the top that identifies the ‘main point’ or central idea that children should take away from the lesson.

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Collective Spiritual Conversations

Often our interactions with children center around questions like “What did you learn? Or “How did that happen?” We then expect certain semi-scripted responses from children in return.

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Spiritual Mirrors, Windows & Doors

“But mom,” my eldest complained, “why do I have to go to church school? They never talk about anything relevant!”

Like some parents,

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Building Spiritual Resilience

As new Covid-19 cases decline in the U.S., families are embracing opportunities to reconnect and restart communal activities. Yet conflicting advice and the lack of an approved vaccination for children mean that the disruptions associated with living through a global pandemic are far from over.

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Using Landscape Images in Spiritual Reflection

My youngest child loves Van Gogh’s Starry Night. In fifth grade, he picked out a t-shirt that had Albert Einstein’s head superimposed on that image.

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Using Virtual Rooms to Strengthen Community

Over the past year, teachers, therapists, librarians, and others have created virtual rooms with bitmoji to engage children and create connections.

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Spiritually Rich Virtual Interactions

As we slowly move back to regular in-person contact, part of a new normal will likely include virtual presence for many activities.

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Guided Play

When it comes to educating young children, we’ve all heard that play is an important part of learning. And yet,

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Unbundled Spirituality

Once upon a time, families turned almost exclusively to religious congregations to meet their spiritual needs. They relied on programs and services provided by a specific faith community,

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Young Children and Connectedness

The other day, my tween son and I were talking and laughing as we sorted through piles of nursery artwork I have stored in the basement.

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Helping Families Navigate Multiple Spiritual Traditions

Many children are growing up in families that have ties to multiple spiritual traditions. In a household where one parent is Muslim and another parent Unitarian,

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How Labels Undermine Spiritual Identity

“Where are all my helpers? It’s time to clean up our room for storytime.” 

Many adults use the title ‘helper’

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Relationships as Roots

Dr. Eugene Roehlkepartain has noticed that when adults say relationships with kids matter, they really mean parents should care.

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Helping Families Talk about Death during a Pandemic

The pandemic has brought death to the forefront of family life. From news stories to changes in daily habits so that family members do not infect others with COVID-19,

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Race & Gender Bias in Children’s Media

Children consume a lot of media. They watch videos, play animated games, and have favorite streaming television shows. And as they watch,

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Spiritual Story Books

My children love to read. From a young age, they knew that I would rarely deny their request to buy a book that caught their eye.

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Addressing Diversity

Creating a supportive learning environment for all children is a goal held by many organizations. Yet how to accomplish that goal is debatable.

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Class Bias in Religious Resources

Pandemic business closures, safer-at-home orders, and the move to virtual schooling have hit all families hard, but some are struggling more than others.

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Supporting Healthy Media Use

A mom I know is struggling with the amount of time her 7 and 10 year olds are online. They spend their school day in virtual classes and then another 2 or 3 hours watching YouTube videos and streaming TV shows.

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Helping Children Identify as Spiritual People

When parents name a child, they do so with high hopes that the name will somehow influence who that child becomes.

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