"Big Questions" Curriculum - Creation

Question: How Did the World Begin?

Unit Goals

  • To think about how and why the world might have begun
  • To experience creation stories from world religions and science, including Genesis and the Big Bang
  • To thing about learning from stories as parables.

Background

This question aims to introduce the idea of creation stories and myths as parables – in fact, religious stories are usually parables for answers to big questions. It also aims to introduce the Biblical story of Genesis and the scientific story of the Big Band and evolution.

Preparation

Find a children’s Bible that you are comfortable using during this curriculum, one that has pictures and uses language that you think the children will understand.

Session List

  • Creation Session 1 – Traditional Stories
  • Creation Session 2 – The Story of Genesis
  • Creation Session 3 – Creation in Science

Creation Session 1 – Traditional Stories of Creation

Goal

To introduce the idea of creation stories, along with the idea of each of us being a creator.

Materials

  • Box of art materials.
  • Creation myth book. There are several good ones in In the Beginning, by Virginia Hamilton, and in A Stepping Stone Year. "Raven, Pea-Pod Man" and "Woman Who Fell from the Sky", available in picture book also, are great. The Origin of Life on Earth, by David A Anderson/Sankofa.

Gathering

Do Joys and Concerns. If the children need a prompt, ask "What did you create recently?"

Story

You might say you have a favorite story to share, and that for a few weeks you'll be sharing stories about creation, asking a couple of children to define "creation" - what have they created? Think for a moment about the idea that the entire world, the entire universe must have come from somewhere, or might not always have been as they are now.
Read creation myth, telling its origin.
Circle-time questions: What did you like in the story? What did you wonder about?

Activity

Divide the children into groups of two to four and ask them to create their own worlds. Provide prompts, like:
  • What does your planet look like? How many suns and moons in the sky?
  • What oceans and continents does your planet have?
  • What the climate (wamr or cold, wet or dry)?
  • What are the landscapes (flat, mountainous, forested, prairie)?
  • What plants and animals are there?
  • What are the people like? What the culture? Are there special things that they do?
  • Are the people civilized? Are there buildings, governments, or organized groups? Where did they come from?
  • What is the name of the world?
Have paper and drawing materials, modeling clay, or other art supplies.
Or, show the materials in the art box, point out books, and ask the children to draw a picture or write something from the story or something about their own idea of creation. For younger children, offer to take dictation.

Closing

Gather and show, each group showing the world they created

Creation Session 2 – The Story of Genesis

Goal

To introduce the creation story of Genesis

Materials

  • Children’s Bible, grown-up Bible.
  • blue cloth cut in a circle (the earth) with green "land" areas already glued on (not like real continents - just representing land masses), about 4' by 4'
  • white cloth pieces about 4" by 4"
  • pencils, colored pencils, markers, scissors, glue sticks

Gathering

Do Joys and Concerns.
Pass around a Bible, with Genesis creation story marked. Explain that there is a creation story in it that is a kind of parable shared by three world religions - Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

Story

Read Genesis creation story with pauses, asking the children to picture what is being created. The Children's Bible has a good version, and there is a good version in a beautiful picture book by Jane Ray. Don’t read the version with Adam's rib. You may want to define a few words, like firmament.
Circle-time questions: What is something you pictured? What in the natural world do you love? (animals, plants, land, water, weather, sky, seasons)

Activity

Using the cloth, pencils, markers, scissors, and glue sticks, draw, color, cut, and glue to water or land areas items that are important about our world or about the worlds they created at the previous session. (Felt could be used but it's easier to draw on cotton.)
Or, add something from nature that each of you loves.

Closing

Each person points out what she/he put on the earth.

Creation Session 3 – Creation in Science

Goal

Introduce the scientific story of creation.

Materials

  • An elegantly told story about a scientific explanation of the creation of the universe, or a part, one that provides wonderful pictures for the mind and imagination. You could choose one from A Stepping Stone Year, Unit 2. Or, use materials from the Great Story curriculum (http://www.thegreatstory.org).
  • Cloth earth from session 2, glue sticks, materials to glue on.

Gathering

Do Joys and Concerns.
Remind children of the creation stories told so far, and of how ancient the stories are. Today you'll read a story from more recent times, the story that is currently believed by most scientists. Ask "I wonder what parts of this story will seem like a parable in a hundred years?"

Story

Read the scientific story of creation. Use a picture book about the Big Bang and evolution, or from The Great Story (http://www.thegreatstory.org).
Circle-time question: What would you change or add if you could create the earth/universe?

Activity

Do The Cosmic Walk, choosing from material at http://www.threeeyesofuniverse.org/public/cosmicwalks/TheCosmicWalk.html or http://www.thegreatstory.org..
OR
Talk about the controversy between Intelligent Design proponents and teachers of evolution.
OR
Add to the cloth earth: something each already does to make/keep the world beautiful or something you hope to do in the future. The earth could be attached to a big white piece and future ideas could be put on the white border. This would also make it easy to hang it up for a time in the church if you wanted to.

Closing

Tell the kids that next week we will start talking about a new big question: What happens when we die?

Bibliography

  • The Children's Bible, Golden Press - not badly written but crummy pictures (blond Jesus)
  • In the Beginning, Hamilton, Harcourt Brace – world creation myths
  • Keepers of the Animals, Caduto, Fulcrum – Native American
  • People of Corn, Gerson, Little Brown - Mayan
  • A Taste of Earth, Thich Nhat Hanh, Parallax - Vietnam
  • Persephone and the Pomegranate, Waldherr, Dial
  • The Woman Who Fell from the Sky, Bierhorst, Wm Morrow - Iroquis
  • Musicians of the Sun, Mc Dermott, Simon and Shuster - Aztec
  • Brother Earth, Sister Sky, Jeffers, Dial - attributed to Chief Seattle?
  • All God's Critters Got a Place in the Choir, Staines, Dutton - song with illustrations
  • The Book of Goddesses, Waldherr, Beyond Words
  • The story of the creation: words from Genesis. 1st American ed. New York : Dutton Children's Books, 1993, c1992. The story of the creation as recounted in Genesis. As the seven days of the creation unfold, the reader is reminded of our stewardship over the world and its creatures.
  • Let there be light : poems and prayers for repairing the world. 1st ed. Dutton Children's Books, c2002. Presents a collection of poems and prayers from different faiths from around the world.
  • Pilling, Ann. Realms of gold : myths & legends from around the world. 1st American ed. New York : Kingfisher Books, 1993. Iyadola's babies (West Africa) -- Naming the winds (Iroquois) -- How Maui stole fire from the gods (Pacific) -- Water, moon, and sun (Nigerian) -- The death of balder (Norse) -- Persephone (Greek) -- Bedd Gelert (Welsh) -- The hare in the moon (Indian) -- The unicorn (Celtic) -- The willow pattern story (Chinese) -- King Midas (Greek) -- The wishing fish (Russian) -- The giants who couldn't swim (Irish) -- How Perseus killed the Gorgon (Greek). A collection of fourteen myths and legends from Greece, West Africa, Russia, and other parts of the world.
  • Hutton, Warwick. Persephone. 1st ed. New York : M.K. McElderry Books : Maxwell Macmillan International, c1994. Retells the Greek myth in which Persephone must spend six months out of every year below the Earth in Hades.
  • Couper, Heather. Big bang. 1st American ed. New York, NY : DK Pub., 1997. Explores the big bang theory of how the universe may have begun.
  • MacDonald, Amy. The spider who created the world. New York: Orchard Book, c1996. Spider needs a firm place to set her egg which is about to hatch, but since sun, moon, and cloud tell her they have no room for it, she creates the world.
  • Sneve, Virginia Driving Hawk. The Navajos. 1st ed. New York : Holiday House, c1993. Provides an overview of the history, culture, and ways of life of the Navajo Indians. Contains a creation myth.
  • The Great Story. UU programs and curricula about the scientific theories of creation and evolution. http://www.thegreatstory.org.