What's In A Name?

Using Our Senses to Learn God Knows Us By Name | by Wendy Olson

Wendy writes, "As a long time SS teacher, I became increasingly frustrated with the curriculums available...Most curriculums depend on Bible stories, rather than the Bible itself... Many times I do not get the author's connection between the point of the lesson and the Bible passage chosen to 'support' it. I was also frustrated with the material as being geared to the traditional verbal/visual/auditory learner. Education is recognizing the kinetic, musical, and interpersonal learner, and SS eventually follows suit. The activity based curriculums use too many consumable supplies...I wanted a curriculum which uses readily available materials, uses recyclables, was creative and active, where children use their Bibles and their brains.

When I worked in Early Childhood Family Education, we used a concept called Storybook Journey. A story is read, discussed, and then the children and parents are turned loose to stations which target each learning style, using activities which complement the story.

I have now applied this to our Sunday School program. We are going through the entire Bible, including the minor prophets and the Epistles. I anticipate it will take 3 years. Some lessons, like Genesis 1, take several weeks. We did an interpretive drama/dance for the story of creation using masks, hand puppets and a narrator.

Much of our curriculum is still in the works. I want to start class the way we start the Kindergarten classes in public school, with a calendar. Our calendar will have both the Gregorian and the Hebrew juxtaposed. I want the children to have an appreciation for how Bible people kept time, the holidays they celebrated, and how their calendar follows the seasons. We read our story from the Bible, verse by verse, with questions asked to help the children think. Background information is introduced. To help the children keep attention, I keep hands busy with an art activity. Blank paper and crayons and markers to draw what we are reading about, clay to model with as I read. Busy hands actually help children listen and pay attention.

Then I explain each station and let them 'go to it', mingling around to offer encouragement, read a story, mediate a conflict, etc. I am a consultant, and watch how the children process the story in their own ways, and process their lives. Half of the children in my class are from divorced families and are brought to SS by non-custodial dads. Sometimes the processing of family life becomes part of the class. Which is exciting - the Bible at work, being quickened by the Holy Spirit to work in the lives of the children right here and now! I hope my ideas can be adapted for use by poor congregations and missionaries. 

Story: What's In a Name?

Reading: Genesis 5:1-32

Memory verse: "The hairs of your head are all numbered." Matthew 10:30

Concepts/Theme: God knows us by name. Everything in the Bible is relevant.

Storytelling prop: Name the Baby Book - preferably a Christian one with Bible verses for each name, big city telephone book with lots of names.

Background: In the Bible there are many names. Some are familiar because we know the stories. Like Daniel in the Lion's Den or Noah's ark. Others are just names to us, because we don't know their stories. But God knows them. God knows the person behind every name mentioned in the Bible and the person behind every name there ever was or ever will be. God knows your name.

These names in Genesis 5 are special. They are a genealogy from Adam to Noah. These men are listed from father to son. These are also men who are ancestors of Jesus. What is really cool is when you read the meanings of the names from Adam through Noah, it forms a sentence which describes Jesus.

Prepare for the lesson by rolling paper on the floor (newspaper printers donate rolls of newsprint or charge a very small fee). Also have a stamp with 10 marks and a stamp with one mark (I made ours with a block from the nursery and bits of 1/4 inch rubber band glued to one side). It is nice to have at least 5 colors of ink, but two colors will also work, as will markers on the rubber. Also have a rubbing alcohol pad and clean paper to clean stamps between colors. As each name in the lesson is examined, stamp a row of squares to represent the years of the person's life. One 10 mark stamp equals one decade. So for Adam, 93 squares represent the 930 years of his life. Start the next person where he was born in his father's life. For Seth, his life line begins at square #13 of Adam's row and goes on for 91 squares and 1 small stamp. Enosh, Seth's son begins at square #10 and continues for 90 squares. And so on. Label each row with the person's name at the beginning and the total number of years at the end. 

Also prepare 10 cards each with the name of the person, the verses in Genesis 5 which refer to the person, the birth and death year in Hebrew calendar reckoning, total age all in black ink. In another color or type face write the meaning of the name. (Also, Art activity #1) Attach magnets to the back so they can be lined in order on the magnet wall. (I painted one wall with magnetic wall treatment, magnets stick to it. This can also be done by taping the cards to a wall). When all are up in order, add in the articles, conjunctions and punctuation to make the meanings of the names into a sentence. The sentence describes Jesus. 

I had typed these on my computer, formatted to fit on business cards, but the information can be hand written on index cards, scrap paper, or backs of used envelopes:

Genesis 5:1-5
b. 1 -930
930 years
A Man,

Genesis 5:3,6-8
912 years
born when Adam was 130
the Appointed Substitute;

Genesis 5:6, 9-11
815 years
born when Seth was 105
Subject to Death

Genesis 5:9,12-14
910 years
born when Enosh was 90
and Sorrowful;

Genesis 5:12, 15-17
895 years
born when Cainan was 70
From the Presence of God

Genesis 5:15, 18-20
962 years
born when Mahalalel was 65

Genesis 5:18, 21-24
b. 622-
365 years on earth
born when Jared was 162
Dedicated to God;

Genesis 5:21, 25-27
b. 687-1656
969 years 
born when Enoch was 65
Dying He Shall Send

Genesis 5:25, 28-31
born when Methuselah was 187
the Poor and Lowly

Genesis 5:28-29, 32
950 years
Comfort and Rest.

Hebrews 11 is the Heroes of Faith Hall of Fame. Two of the people from this list are in the Heroes Hall of Fame. And Abel, who is Seth's brother, is also listed. Read Hebrews 11:4, 5 and 7. Give those persons a gold star or other special mark of distinction. God gives these people special recognition because of their faith. 

Our time line is about 13 feet long and is displayed in hallway. It is used by the adults as a reference. They have learned more about the Bible and its people from our lesson. 

Music: Jesus Loves Me - (We are learning it in sign language. An interpreter visited our church and she taught the signs for it. We sing Jesus Loves Me every week to learn and memorize the signs. I love the sign for Bible - 'Jesus Book". This is another culture thing - learning sign language to communicate, awareness and sensitivity of others who cannot hear.)

Math: #1. The graph is an excellent math activity. Use it to calculate who was alive and would know who.

#2. For older kids, pass out the extra credit sheet. Acknowledge the first student to get the correct answer in some way special, our resident math expert had the honor of carrying Enoch's birthday cake out to the congregation. Extra credit problem: How old is Enoch? How many candles should we put on his cake?

A. This is the Hebrew year 5761.
B. According to our graph, how many years after creation was Enoch born?
Use these numbers to calculate how old Enoch is today. A - B = answer
Answer - 365 = how long Enoch has been living in heaven

Stump the grown-ups. Ask them, "Who is the oldest person on record? (The Bible is a written record) Answer Enoch. He is _______________ years old right now and still going strong. 

Who is the second oldest person in recorded history? Elijah. He was born hundreds of years after Enoch, but like Enoch, he didn't die but entered heaven without dying. God sent a chariot and horses of fire to bring him to heaven.

The third oldest person on record? Methuselah. He was Enoch's son and lived 969 years.

How many people did you trick? We stumped 95% of the grownups we asked. They all said Methuselah. A few knew the correct answer.

Science: #1. Check garden and pull out weeds. Draw and record changes. (We have a Bible garden, a 6 foot diameter circle, where we planted plants mentioned in Scripture.) Deer and rabbits have ravaged it and Purslane has taken it over. We check it each week and draw it. This week we had a potluck after service. We picked the Purslane, washed it, tossed it with Italian dressing as our contribution to the potluck. Purslane is not native to the Americas. It was brought over by European immigrants for food. It is a very nutritious green. We have long since stopped cultivating it and eating it, treating it as a weed instead. This led into a discussion of culture and change and adapting to cultures and personal tastes and prejudice, which is something for the future missionaries in my class to think about. I am interested in wild edibles. The best resource is "Edible Wild Plant- A North American Field Guide" by Elias, Thomas S, and Peter A. Dykeman. ISBN 0-8069-7488-5.)

#2. The Bible says all the hairs on your head are numbered. Did you know your finger prints are unique? No one has your finger prints. Even identical twins do not have identical fingerprints. To make finger prints dab fingers on an ink pad. Press on a piece of paper. Look at the prints with a magnifying glass. 

Book Corner: WWJD for Kids, Name the Baby books, stories where children need to choose between right and wrong.

Art: #1. For each card with a name pass out a person shape. Also pass out Eve, Cain, and Abel. Let the children decorate as the lesson is read. Tape on time line at birth year. Write notes about the person on the back. 

#2. Fold paper in half the long way. Along fold write the child's name in cursive with a #2 pencil. Fold so writing is on inside. Trace on wrong side to make pencil carbon on right side. Go over with waterproof black marker. Color with crayons, watercolor, markers, pencils.

#3. God Knows Me By Name! Prepare coloring sheets with this written across the top. Prepare for younger children by writing their names in Balloon letters. Let the children color and decorate. Some choice: Sponges dipped in paint. Alphabet stamps and ink. Crayons, pencils, markers. Cutting pictures from magazines and pasting on letters. Cutting letters from colored paper and pasting on coloring sheet. Gluing on alphabet macaroni or alphabet cereal. OR write "God Knows Me By Name!" on a piece of 3 inch round card board with a hole punched in the top as a necklace base. Can do the same cutting, gluing, coloring stuff. Run ribbon or yarn through the hole, slip over head. It is so awesome! God knows us by name!

#4. Make letter beads out of clay, alphabet macaroni, and toothpicks.

Language Arts:
#1 Genesis Book quiz questions. (Using a SSTN idea, I have a video case covered in felt and labeled Genesis, I create question and answer cards for the lesson. I also include appropriate cards from Bible Quiz pack as some of our home-schooled students are on a quiz team. I also have a "Where Did the Bible Come From?" book with question and answer cards about apologetics of the Bible lesson which kicked off our new curriculum. I will have a video case book for each book of the Bible. A local video stores gives us the cases.)

#2. Continue garden journal with words and sketches.

#3. Play with magnet letters or magnetic poetry words on magnet wall. 

#4. Write the meanings of each student's name on a 4x6 cards. Arrange them in different ways to try to make sentences. Sentences can be silly, and they can be creative and meaningful.

Snack Ideas: 
God Knows My Name GORP: Mix alphabet cereal, raisins, peanuts, and/or any other ingredient like dried fruit bits, candy covered chocolate bits or peanut butter bits, other nuts or small candies.

Make a birthday cake and decorate it for Enoch. We did this as our second contribution to the church potluck. Don't forget candles, maybe one for every 100 years! And don't forget to sing 'Happy Birthday'!

The kids loved the lesson. It was chaos, some kids worked on various art activities while others really got into the stamping of the timeline. They loved decorating the cake. They had fun stumping adults by asking 'Who is the oldest living human being on record?" They are proud of the fact their timeline is used by the adults as a Bible study aid. The congregation is lavish with their praise and appreciation.

It is work, but teaching is fun! I am actually energized by this work.
YSIC, Wendy Olson

Copyright 2001 Wendy Olson 

Learn the Names of God!

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