When retired teacher Marie Pousson stumbled upon teaching materials in storage of her home church Hope Episcopal Church, 1613 W. 43rd St., she recognized them to be Montessori-based.
The materials had been packed away after St. Michael’s Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation, a mission of St. Michaels previously located in Acres Homes, merged into one church with the new name of Hope Episcopal Church.
These Montessori materials are part of a curriculum called Godly Play, which gives spiritual education hands on materials for kids to learn with. Or, as founder of Godly Play Rev. Dr. Jerome Berryman wrote, Godly Play is, “an imaginative method for nurturing the spiritual lives of children.”
Finding these materials inspired Pousson to revive the curriculum at Hope and she is set to begin teaching this fall.
“(Godly Play is) stories from the bible told in a Montessori fashion, with hands on material,” Pousson said. “It’s not just going into Sunday school and remembering a bible verse, but it’s introducing the language Christians use and finding awe in the message of God’s love.”
Some of the materials children will get to play with as they learn include a box full of sand and wooden figures, as most of the Old Testament stories took place in the dessert. Pousson mentioned that the children will be able to imagine the wooden figures in the dessert as Abraham and Sarah, who were promised by God that a nation would come from their lineage, which the bible says is the nation of Israel.
The materials included with the story of Noah’s include a wooden ark and pairs of wooden animals. Other stories included in the Godly Play curriculum include a range of topics from Israel’s exodus from Egypt and the ark of the covenant to liturgical practices in the church.
“After the presentation there’s a creative response,” Pousson said. “The children can choose if they want to use the materials or choose to do art using crayons, paints, or clay.”
Pousson said Godly Play is more contemplative than most Sunday school programs. Tthe children are asked “I wonder” questions that are meant to guide. For example, “I wonder what was the most important part,” “I wonder if there’s any part of the story we could leave out and still have all the story we need.”
Parents can learn more about the program at parent orientation on Sept 2 or 9 at 7 p.m. The goal is to begin the teaching the program on Sundays from 10:15-11:30 a.m. to ages 3-12. However, Pousson said that she is open to change if the parents need flexibility for when their children can attend.
“I think it will give them a solid grounding of scripture and let (children) think about it in a way that is imaginative and creative, and hopefully give them the language to speak about the wonder they have,” Pousson said.