"Many teachers, through the years, have shared stories of their own faith deepening through teaching others with this curriculum."
Building Faith is publishing a series of articles on the Episcopal Children's Curriculum: this is the fourth article. The ECC was one of the best-selling and most widely used Sunday school programs ever created for the Episcopal Church. At its height, thousands of Episcopal parishes used ECC, touching the lives of countless children, families, and teachers. ECC was created by expert educators at the Center for the Ministry of Teaching at Virginia Theological Seminary. Though no longer in print, the entire curriculum is available for free on the CMT website. Explore the ECC.
A Curriculum that Forms and Supports Teachers
The ECC was developed with teachers in mind. It begins with information about how to work with the specific age groups, it describes the typical characteristics of children at age 3, or 4, or 10. Using this information from child development experts and social scientists, the teacher’s guide then offers specific help in working with these children. For example, children can only sit still for the number of minutes twice their age. So—3 year olds, six minutes, 5 year olds 10 minutes and so on. When you know this about children you know that changing activities every few minutes is important for the children and the teacher.
The ECC contributors also knew that teachers need support before and after teaching each lesson. In the beginning of each lesson there is a summary of what the lesson is about. This helps teachers get an adult understanding of the biblical story, before presenting it to the children. At the end of each introduction is a prayer for teachers to center themselves and focus on the real purpose of this time with the children, which is nurturing their faith. It is important for teachers to know that God is always present with them as they prepare and teach lessons to children.
Fun for Students and Teachers
Everyone should enjoy their time together as they share stories, prayers, games, and music. These activities are a meant to capture the faith imagination of both teachers and children. There are many choices of activities to engage in and it is hoped that teachers will choose things to share that they enjoy. If a particular teacher does not feel gifted in art or music, they could invite another adult or teen to come and share their complimentary gift with the class from time to time.
The Importance of Reflecting and Looking Ahead
At the end of each lesson is an opportunity for the teacher to reflect on the time spent in working and praying with the children. By asking “Where did I see God at work in the classroom today? Was it the smile of one of the children, or the word of thanks from a parent, or even a sense of a time well spent?” the teacher is also invited into the world of the student.
Each lesson ends with a glimpse ahead at the next lesson so that teachers can begin to see where God is leading them in their teaching throughout the week. Seeing the following week's lesson allows the teacher to connect each week as an entire arc. It also prepares the teacher to invite questions of themselves throughout the upcoming week – a gentle sort of preparation.
Many teachers, through the years, have shared stories of their own faith deepening through teaching others with this curriculum. I know that writing and editing the ECC, and working with so many wonderful teachers has informed and deepened my own faith. I hope that will happen for others.
Amy Dyer, Ph.D is a Professor of Christian Education and Pastoral Theology at Virginia Theological Seminary. Throughout her career, she has been a public school teacher, Head Start trainer, Christian Education director, curriculum developer, Godly Play teacher, and more. Dr. Dyer’s interests include working with children, travel, and reading. During a recent sabbatical leave, she spent time in Ireland studying early Celtic Spirituality.
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