"WORSHIP AND WONDER"©
by Marge Hampton
The fundamental purpose of a faith-based preschool is to provide an environment in which the young child can continue his faith development that began with the love of his parents.
First, the preschool must provide a safe and nurturing environment to establish the trust that is a necessary foundation for faith to grow and development. Second, the environment must provide the opportunity for the child to experience the wonder of God’s world. This includes the classroom and the playground of the school.
Third, the words spoken by the teacher to the children, as well as those spoken to other staff should be models for the children of how we care for one another as Christians. The actions also should serve the same representative purpose.
Fourth, each teacher must watch and listen for the “God moments” that occur throughout each day. These “God moments” are opportunities that many teachers miss that bring meaning to the child’s understanding of God. For example: A child is crouching down on the playground looking intently at something on the ground. As the teacher approaches, she sees that the child is watching a bug inching its way along in the sand. She does not interrupt what the child is doing, but soon he will notice her and want her to see what he has discovered. She must show her amazement at his discovery and encourage conversation with him about what kind of bug it is, what it is doing, what it might eat, and who made him. The child may show amazement when the teacher shares that God made the bug just as he made the child.
Fifth. In the preschool faith development must not take place only during chapel or during a Bible story. Interactions each day will add to the child’s knowledge of God. As adults, we know that going to church once a week does not make us a Christian. It is the presence of the Lord in our lives every minute of every day of every week, and the reflection of his presence in our lives throughout each day through our actions that make us Christians. It is the same with children. We must essentially immerse the child in His love for us.
Development of the center:
The “Worship and Wonder Center” can be designed by the teacher in many ways. I prefer it to be a small table covered with an appropriately designed cloth. What is placed on the table should change often. The children are encouraged to bring items to place on the table. These can be things such as leaves, rocks, fossils, flowers, pictures, etc. Of course the teacher will also place appropriate articles; Children’s Bible, story book about Jesus or God, mirror (so that the child sees his/her reflection as a child of God), nativity, Noah’s Ark, etc. The children are encouraged to play with and touch these articles and of course, the teacher should be aware and interact with the child who is in the center. She can explain that God made all of these things and talk about the wonder of God’s world.
Some experienced (but personal) opinions about scheduling a young child’s day:
- Children are more alert and attentive early in the day. Therefore I believe that special activities scheduled within the preschool day should happen in the morning and preferably soon after their arrival at the center. As the day goes on the young child becomes somewhat fatigued and less attentive. Going later in the day, after napping, will not benefit the child as much. I also believe that children should not be awakened from a nap for such an event as 1) if they are still sleeping they probably need the sleep, and 2) most children are not in the best moods when awakened from a nap. Neither of these suggest that the chapel experience will be as positive as if provided earlier in the day. I believe that the fewer transitions from their classroom the better the day will go.
- Chapel is an important event in any faith based preschool. I believe it to be more of a culminating activity to the daily activities of the faith development plan that occurs throughout the week. It should be a very special time for them and at a time of the day when they are most alert and attentive.