The Gospels provide authentic narratives about Jesus while picture storybooks, for example, can be a combination of narratives and interpretations of a particular story. It is paramount to use the Bible as the main resource and other forms of media as supplementary resources. Bible reading also brings the Word closer to the children. In teaching scripture stories to children, Mark Elliot emphasized the importance of using, first and foremost, the Bible to read and familiarize the story before using any other form of media like illustrated or picture story books, videos and images that are easily accessed online.
Elliot is leader of a team of senior Religious Education (RE) trainers from the Brisbane Catholic Education office facilitating a four day programme for 50 teachers, catechists and parent volunteers organised by The Archdiocesan Commission for Catholic Schools (ACCS). This is the second time, the four-day intensive course, designed to provide personal formation and pedagogical support that enhances the teaching of RE in the classroom, is being conducted. Emphasis is placed on the use of music, drama, arts and crafts in teaching Scripture and prayer to young students. The course is called Religious Education Access Programme (REAP) Singapore – it is a professional learning programme which forms one credit in the Masters of Religious Education degree.
Among the different areas covered are creating Prayer and Ritual resources such as rain sticks, prayer flags, finger labyrinth and prayer candles; Bible teaching strategies like Y chart, grab bag, frayer concept map, emotion maps, freeze frames and rolling freeze frames; Experiential Prayer Stations like praying in colours, praying with Apps and teaching children how to be silent and still for prayer. Designing rituals and sacred spaces were also among the topics discussed.
Br Nicholas Lye who sang and danced with the participants explained that “music is a language that touches deep into the heart. It connects us to that deep part of our soul where God may be found.” The team also talked about being a teacher in a Catholic school, on catholic identity, names & images for Jesus, about Mary and many more stories from both the Old and New Testament. Participants went home with an arm load of resources that will assist them in creating spaces for every child to meet Christ and grow closer with Him.
A thanksgiving Mass was celebrated by Fr Edward Seah, the Archbishop’s representative to ACCS, and he shared about the crucial role of educators in building and sustaining communities rooted in Jesus Christ. He encouraged everyone to be a positive presence in their places of ministry in order to bring about authentic witness to the Gospel of Jesus.
The event was a significant learning experience for Anthony Xavier who is a parent volunteer teacher at St Stephen Primary and St Patrick Secondary Schools. “I learned methods of making Bible stories come alive giving students the opportunity to actively participate. Teaching religion can be fun and fulfilling experience,” he said.
Ms Isabel Ho from ONE also shared that the REAP course was enriching in tools, resources and experience of the trainers. The teaching moments were not just about content and techniques but also times for the participants to encounter Christ – to give Christ, we must first receive Christ. After which, participants learned to set up opportunities for children to experience Christ through scripture and prayer, art, and drama. The trainers brought out the message that bringing Jesus to young people is an attitude and a way of being through their way of being witnesses of Christ.”
ACCS hopes that more training can be provided to RE teachers and volunteers in the coming days to respond to the spiritual needs of the young. As Pope Francis recently said to the plenary session of the Congregation for Catholic Education, “The educator in Catholic schools must be, first of all, very competent, qualified and, at the same time, rich in humanity, capable of being in the midst of young people with a pedagogical style, to promote their human and spiritual growth. Young people are in need of quality teaching, together with values not just enunciated but witnessed.”