I have been a catechist in the Level III atrium since 1992 at Christian Family Montessori School for both the in-school atrium and the after-school program. During this time, as I began to understand the needs and interests of the 9-12-year-old children, I developed a significant collection of materials for prayer and meditation. These materials, along with a selection of art supplies, have become the backbone of their work in the atrium. I ask them to begin their time there with prayer, supported by one of these materials if desired. They often return to these works later in the session or week as well. I introduce a few early in the year, and upon request throughout the year. Below is a description of the materials on our shelf at CFMS, as well as their use.
– Catherine Maresca
MATERIALS FOR PRAYER IN THE LEVEL III ATRIUM
- A selection of calligraphy pens, nibs should be 3.5 or narrower
- White copy weight paper
- A selection of prayers and verses from the Bible, written in calligraphy (and copied) on white copy weight paper and laminated if desired. These must be on thin paper to let the light through and are often copies of the selection of prayers and verses for the prayer table done on heavier paper.
- Practice sheets for lettering (available from CCTheo)
- Child should have completed a number of practice sheets (often done in Level II) before starting on the light table.
- Bring one child at a time to the light table. Show them the selection of prayers and invite them to choose one to copy.
- Tape model and one blank sheet of paper to the glass of the light table. Tape should barely touch two corners.
- Turn on light.
- Choose a pen to carefully write over the model, creating a new copy.
- If desired, child can also add a decorative border or capital letter of first or important word to the work. (Books on shelf show possible borders.)
- Always keep cap on pen when using for balance, and close when finished.
- One child at a time.
- Be sure to remove tape from glass when finished
- A variety of laminated lined papers can be available for children to create their own original works. (horizontal and vertical orientation, different line heights)
- Bible and books of prayers and quotes to choose from.
- Child should choose quote, appropriate paper, and write quote lightly in pencil until satisfied with spacing and spelling, then write carefully in pen, adding illumination as desired.
- Box of Level III Maxims
- Maxim paper or calligraphy supplies or journal
- Have 1-3 children choose a Maxim, consider its meaning and copy into journal or write in calligraphy.
- May also choose to write a story or skit illustrating the Maxim, or illustrating it.
- Make a book of selected Maxims, with illustrations if desired
- Perform skit for class
- Choose a maxim to read and reflect on for a prayer service
- Music Maker, tuning wrench
- Supply of songs from the atrium written for music maker (available from CCTheo) as well as Advent/Christmas songs.
- Blank paper cut to same size.
Introduction (may not be needed if used in previous Level) to one child
- Bring Music Maker and tray of songs to table.
- Choose one song and slide under the strings.
- Using pick, pluck the string above each note, moving from left to right.
- Observe timing indicated by whole note (open circle), half note (open note with stem, quarter note (black note with stem) and eighth note (quarter note with “flag”)
- One child at a time.
- Play songs one note at a time, do not strum.
- Consider volume appropriate to the situation.
- Child may use blank paper to create a sheet for a song used in the atrium that is not in the collection. Begin with pencil and finish in pen. If useful, laminate and add to tray.
- Lidded box with sand no larger than one table space.
- Small rake (5-8” long)
- Basket of 6-8 small, decorative rocks.
- This is a meditation done in Japan in the gardens outside the home. A rake is used to smooth the sand and then create a pattern in the sand. Repetitive, slow movement stills the mind for prayer.
- Open box and remove all stones and rake.
- Demonstrate how the sand is smoothed – take your time.
- Demonstrate creating one or more patterns in the sand.
- When finished choose 2-3 rocks to place in the pattern
- Use table brush to sweep any sand into the dustpan and discard.
- One child at a time
- Work slowly and silently
- Use designated table (near prayer shelf is only table for sand work.)
- Clean up sand when finished.
- One or more labyrinths (sand, wooden, pewter, cloth)
- Booklet about labyrinths
Introduction to 2-3 children at a time.
- Introduce idea of labyrinth as the end of a pilgrimage, walked as a prayer for a particular decision or intention, especially when the Holy Land was inaccessible. Labyrinth in church floor (i.e. at Chartres in France) was the final steps of the pilgrimage. Walked prayerfully in, no decisions (it is not a maze). Paused to pray. Then walked prayerfully out again.
- Our finger or lap labyrinths allow us to pray in the same way. Trace path slowly with finger, preparing for prayer. Pause at center to pray. Trace path slowly out again, perhaps considering the work you would like to do with God today or other matters of life.
- One child at a time
- Should be done slowly and silently
- May reproduce labyrinths in journal or on larger paper.
- The Sand Labyrinth (sold at CCTheo) has a different pattern on the other side. Show child how to lift labyrinth without spilling sand, turn so one side is centered between two corners of the box, and tip sand out slowly into the box. Lay labyrinth down on the other side, center one corner oft the box above middle of the labyrinth and slowly make pile of sand in the center. Lift carefully back into box and spread sand into path. This labyrinth can only be used at the table near the prayer shelf. Sweep up sand with table brush when finished.
- Selection of postures conducive to work and prayer in the atrium from a box of Yoga cards.
- Space appropriate for floor and standing yoga postures.
- Invite a pair of children to choose 5 cards from the set and place in order they would like, ending with a breathing or resting posture.
- Children may start with one reading the card while the other does the posture. Then reverse. Do all five cards.
- Return cards to box.
- Use only if space is available.
- 1-2 children at a time.
- Work should be done slowly and quietly
- Selection of stones with one word written on each: peace, joy, healing…
- Invite a wandering child to choose a stone that will focus his/her thinking and prayer, sit in the rocker or other quiet space, and silently consider the word, perhaps saying the word silently with each breath.
- One stone at a time. This is not a group activity.
- Choose an appropriate stone to pass around for prayer service, inviting each child to offer a prayer inspired by that word.
- Box of selected art cards illustrating the life of Christ, parables of Jesus, texts from the Hebrew Scriptures studied in Level III. (These are available at CCTheo.)
- Art supplies, paper or journal
- Invite 1 or more children to choose a piece of art and create their own piece of art inspired by the original. May add title or prayer.
- This is a quiet prayer work.
- One piece of art/child.
- Clean up well when finished.
- A small selection of good prayer books – be picky about these.
- Paper or journal, and pens and pencils
- Show small group the selection of prayer books.
- Ask children to find one prayer they like and copy it into their journal.
- Singing bowl with cushion and “striker”
- Show one child how to place bowl on cushion.
- Slowly move striker around the outside of the rim until the bowl begins to sing.
- Allow child to do this as long as he/she likes
- Return to shelf
- One child at a time, without talking.
- A basket of 3-5 rosaries
- A book such as “The Mysteries of the Rosary” by Cy Speltz (Available at CCTheo)
- With a group of interested children use book and rosary beads to show the children how to pray the rosary.
- Pray together a decade led by catechist or child, with rest of group responding.
- One leader/decade.
- 1-3 children at a time, unless part of prayer service
- Introduce the mysteries of the rosary, especially during the appropriate liturgical season.
- Mesh for needlepoint, cut into 4” squares
- Yarn needles in pin cushion
- Needle threader
- Selection of colors of 4-ply yarn, cut into arms length sections
- 4” square patterns of Christian symbols
- Permanent marker to transfer pattern
- Have child choose a pattern and lay mesh over it.
- Trace pattern onto mesh with permanent marker.
- Choose color for the shape, (and a contrasting color for the background.)
- Thread a needle, using needle threader with first color of yarn
- Demonstrate how to stitch needlepoint.
- Have child begin to tell you what to do and where as they understand the process, then let child begin to sew as you observe and guide.
- Working in rows, cover all colored portions of the mesh with first color of yarn.
- When thread is as short as their hand, show them how to end, trim, and start a new thread.
- Use background color when pattern is complete.
- Use either color to “wrap” around the border (one stich/hole, two in the corners)
- Remove needle and leave in pincushion when not working.
- Work needlepoint in atrium only.
- Leave ongoing project in folder.
- One project/child at a time.
Knitting Prayer Shawl
- Needles #12 or larger and heavy yarn for practice.
- Needles #12 or larger and 3 skeins heavy yarn for prayer shawl.
- Know how to knit.
- Figure out how to help a child learn to knit.
- Let them use the practice needles and yarn with about 20-30 stitches until they can knit smoothly without dropping or adding stitches.
- Then let them begin to knit on the prayer shawl.
- The prayer shawl is available for any knitter to work on.
- If a problem develops bring to catechist ASAP to sort out.
- Bind off and add fringe with 10” lengths of yarn, doubled over and looped through stitches with crochet hook.
- When someone in the community is need, class can pass around the finished prayer shawl, praying for that person. Add a card and wrap for delivery.
- Use “knitting machine” to create prayer shawl.
Knotted Prayer Beads
Supplies and Preparation
- #18 Nylon thread in two colors. Several lengths of one for practice, (each about an arm’s length.) Dip both ends in clear nail polish, or burn quickly to create stiff ends to work with.
- Reserve second spool for cutting a length for children to keep after they can successfully create the knots. An arms length creates about 10 knots.
- Knotting instructions can be found on line at http://www.instructables.com/id/Making-a-Knotted-Rosary/
- Practice until you can do this well yourself
- Demonstrate knotting to 1-2 children at a time
- When child can knot well and manage tight spacing (less than ½” between knots) cut a length of thread to make ten beads for prayer.
- Untie practice knots so the twine is ready for the next child
- Keep personal thread in folder