Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Somerset Hills

Open minds, loving hearts, helping hands


Follow up to Religious Education Sunday 07JUN15- Workshop Rotation Model

Author Sarah Ahrens, Written Jun 12, 2015

Another round of thanks to all the Religious Education Volunteers who made religious education happen in UUCSH for 2014-15, and for all of the children and youth who participated!
And for those volunteers who could not be at RE Sunday on 07JUN15, be sure to pick up your hard-earned chocolate bar from the office- perhaps at the congregation picnic this Saturday June 13 or at one of the upcoming Sunday services.

After recognizing the volunteers during service on June 7, I made some brief remarks on the Workshop Rotation Model (WoRM) that I had learned about during sabbatical and plans for an experiment/trial run in 2016 at UUCSH.  I’ll reiterate some of what I said and expand on some of the details.

First, much of Religious Education for Children and Youth at UUCSH for 2015-16 will be similar to previous years: there will be approximately 20 Religious Education class days, with multi-age children’s chapels and multi-generational worship services filling out the Sundays in between.  The religious education classes will have a primary and supplemental curricula for volunteers to plan from.

Some changes are that the groupings are as follows: Nursery, Pre-Kindergarten & Kindergarten, 1st-3rd grades, 4th-6th grades, 7th & 8th grades Our Whole Lives with a Neighboring Faiths/Building Bridges component on certain Sundays offset from OWL, and a 9th-12th grades Future Leaders At Somerset Hills “FLASH” youth group.  Some groups are now 3 grades where they were previously 2 grades due to lower/sporadic attendance and by expanding to 3 grades it is hoped there will be a critical mass of children showing up out of the larger potential pool of students.

Another change is instead of looking at the classes and curricula as a yearlong endeavor, the schedule will be “framed” in shorter series.  For example, there are 8 RE Class days in the mid-September through mid-November time-frame that are being blocked as a fall series.  Moreover, the 8 RE Classes won’t do 8 different lessons, 1 lesson per Sunday, but in some classes use consecutive Sundays to explore a lesson.  With the integration of more of the Tapestry of Faith online curricula, volunteers who have used it thus far will especially note, that there is almost always more activities than one RE class day will allow to be done.  So the child who attends regularly will get a more in depth experience of a lesson, and the child unable to attend as often will hopefully get some exposure to more lessons, and be less likely to miss a lesson entirely because they are not present for the one Sunday it is being offered.  The framing in series is also intended to give families and volunteers more distinct timeframes to make a commitment.  If a child’s family/volunteer knows there are external commitments precluding them from participating/volunteering at certain seasons, the Religious Education Vision Team and myself can better know how to support volunteers and plan for classes.

There are several frames beginning in 2016 where we would like to try a workshop rotation series.  These would be 4-6 week series that might look something like this:

week 1: multi-generational worship service or children’s chapel introducing a theme
week 2: workshops A, B, C
week 3: workshops A, B, C
week 4: workshops A, B, C
week 5: multi-generational worship service or chapel to wrap up the series

Workshops A, B,C, could take the form of a workshop with art, a workshop with music, a workshop with games as a means of exploring the theme, principle, or source.  The PreK through 6th grade classes would take turns each week experiencing the theme through a different workshop.  PreKK in week 2 would be in the art workshop, week 3 in music, and week 4 in games.

The workshop leaders are asked to make the commitment to lead their respective workshop for those 3 weeks, making appropriate adjustments for younger or older children participating.  Workshop leaders get the benefit of getting more exposure for their workshop preparation, they can make additional improvements each week based on the previous week’s experience, and they have a very specific time commitment.

As Rev. Jennifer has used monthly worship themes for 2014-15 and new themes are identified for 2015-16, these workshop rotations may incorporate the worship themes.  Fortunately, there are a number of UU and non-UU congregations already using the workshop rotation model and I will look to those congregations for existing resources to start with.  While we can start with existing resources, the real excitement is to be found in using the creativity of UUCSH members and friends to develop new variations of workshops based on the skills, passions, hobbies of those in our midst.  Perhaps “workshop” is a misnomer- maybe “fun-shops” would be a more accurate term!

As eager as I am to roll out this experiment, it is important to take the time to keep educating and preparing which is why the trial periods are in 2016 and fall 2015 can be used for continued promotion and preparation.

The RE Volunteer Commitment form for 2015-16 includes a question for Workshop Rotation- please note what you might offer as a workshop medium- and if you don’t see your specialty, that’s why I included an “other” category where you can fill in the blank!

We know that the personal and professional circumstances of families and volunteers can vary widely.  This re-framing of the traditional RE year and experimenting with the workshop rotation model is intended to address some of those more challenging and unpredictable life circumstances.  Whether you are a regular, seasonal, or sporadic RE participant or volunteer, by these means (and perhaps others down the road) we hope to make RE as accessible to all as possible.

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