Create a indoor garden for use as a visual prop when retelling the story.
Prior to teaching this workshop, construct a garden box in your workshop.
Make a 2" x 6" x 4' long box and line it with heavy plastic.
Add topsoil, plants, and weeds and thorns from your garden. Depending on the location of your garden and factors such as lighting, you may create a 'fake' garden or include real plants from the garden store. (See note below about the problems of planting a real garden indoors).
NOTE: This doesn't have to be a "real" garden. It is a hands-on visual demonstration.
You may choose to have your older students help you construct the box on your first week in Rotation. Place a large canvas tarp underneath the garden box to protect the floor and give the class a place to sit "in the garden".
Divide your garden into 3 or 4 sections according to the Parable.
You can use ribbons or string to do this. You can invite children to make the divisions each week as you read through the story.
Invite the children to tamp down the loose soil --making it a hard path. While they do it, talk about the things which can make it difficult to believe or follow God's word. What makes us like this hard-packed soil? Sometimes we are beat down.
Use a decorative bird from a craft store and place it on the top of a small cane which fits into a small eye screw (bracket) attached to the frame. You will add this bird on a cane during your storytelling. (Always let the kids do as much of the adding to the garden as possible).
Have a BAG of seeds marked "Word of God" Fill it with large colorful seeds to sow with. They make a better visual against the soil. Prior to the lesson, soak some pumpkin seeds in food coloring (or other type of large seed) and let them dry.
In the FINAL section of your garden, you are going to have the kids PLANT the "Good Things That God's Word Grows". These are not real plants, rather, you will have the kids plant a variety of fake flowers/plants and make CARDS/labels for each one as you would in a garden. In fact, you can purchase garden card holders to give your garden a more finished look.
Remember: In the parable the plants are the WORD IN US. They are the good things which the Word/seed produces in our lives. You could say that they are the "fruits of the Spirit": love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. What could you add? How about "seek justice" and "do mercy" (Micah 6). The Word growing in us enables us to "Speak out against evil. Stand up for our faith. Guide others. Overcome trouble. Serve Others."
Create and Add "WORD PLANTS" to your garden...
Have students write these "fruits" on green leaves made out of green vinyl. Cut them out and leave a bit of a stem on the bottom of each leaf. Now take a STICK and hold a leaf against the stick and wrap floral (green) wire around it tightly. Cut the wire and add another leaf. Top the branch with a flower (plastic). (Think corn or sunflower stocks.)
These plants can be a group project, or, they could be created in your Art Workshop, one to plant, one to go home.
Note: Your garden box needs to be at least 4" deep with soil in order for your sticks to be able to stand up. And don't make your sticks too long or too heavy or they won't stand in the shallow soil. You may want to put some floral clay or styrofoam under the soil in the section of the garden where you will be sticking your plants. This will help them stand up and allow your stick/leaf Word Plants to stand tall!
These should be large enough to write on. Write their answers to questions: What is hard about following God? What temptations make you stumble when you're trying to be good? You could add a sharp-pointy rock and talk about how sharp words and cutting words out of your mouth hurt the growth of God's Word in you and in others.
Each week you will want to RESET THE GARDEN for the next class.
I hope you like this lesson sketch. If you want to wrap a lesson plan around it and repost it here, be my guest!
[P.S. Years ago we tried to actually have the kids grow things in the garden. Didn't work too well because it took too long, and we had a lack of sunshine and tending during the week. Some churches have planted gardens outside but the problem with that is that it can take a lot of work during the lesson time, and seeds can take a long time to germinate. Thus, the lesson begins to lose its impact.]