The following lesson activity discussion is an example of what our "Low Hanging Fruit" lesson-writing article is talking about: letting the actual words of scripture itself inspire your lesson activity brainstorming.
On first look, that "Mt. Sinai Parfait" looks like a great Ten Commandments lesson activity, doesn't it?
The Mt. Sinai parfait image and idea comes from an online lesson about the Jewish Festival of Shavuot. Shavuot celebrates the giving of the Ten Commandments (and more widely the Torah) during the Exodus. Shavuot is celebrated seven weeks after Passover (with its bitter herbs and unleavened bread), seven by tradition being the number of weeks it took to get to Mt Sinai from Egypt. Originally a wheat harvest festival, Shavuot evolved to feature dishes with dairy and honey to remember the journey to the "promised land of milk and honey" -- a journey which stopped at Mt. Sinai for the giving of the Law. A major Shavuot activity is the reading of the Law -- the Ten Commandments plus much of the rest of the "laws" in the Book of Exodus.
The graham cracker is supposed to look like Mt. Sinai and the yogurt the "desert." The article didn't say, but I'm guessing that the red jello represents the (fire) presence of God that appears in various places in the Exodus story. And... if I was writing a lesson about celebrating Shavuot and the desert journey, I would definitely consider having my kids make and eat these tasty looking Mt. Sinai parfaits.
But let's be honest...
As tempting as it would be to write this fun and simple parfait-making activity into a lesson about the Commandments, it would be wrong to do so for these reasons:
- The parfait doesn't tell us anything important about the Ten Commandments.
- The parfait merely reinforces a TANGENTIAL POINT about where the Ten Commandments were given.
- While the use of dairy in the parfait might be an interesting "tradition" it is non-scriptural and does nothing to teach about the Commandments.
- Making a mountain out of graham crackers is hardly high-quality, hands-on instruction.
(And yet, this is exactly the kind of "tangential activity" we tend to see in many publisher's lesson plans -- lesson activities that vaguely relate to the scripture or point, or merely illustrate some visual in the story (like Mt. Sinai made out of graham crackers). This happens all the time with arts and crafts too. Activities that don't focus on the scripture and life application, but rather, pick up on some visual in the story and have the kids reproduce it. That's not "instruction," it's "construction.")
So obviously I think the "candy heart" is a GREAT "food" activity for teaching the Commandments. In fact, we came up with it for the Writing Team's "Ten Commandments" Lesson Set's "Cooking" Workshop (NOW AVAILABLE, and it is open to everyone and is formatted for families at home as well as classroom use).
Here's how and why the heart project is a great "food-related" teaching activity for the Ten C's...
Where did the "heart candy" idea come from?
Merely reading Exodus 20 you would most likely never think "let's make heart candies." In fact, the word "heart" doesn't appear in the Mt. Sinai story at all. But the words "heart" and "love" appear in many other scriptures that DO REFER TO the Ten Commandments, including two very important verses from Jesus, and three describing God's ultimate desire to write the commandments on our hearts! And that's where the inspiration for using "conversation hearts" came from. (See the scripture passages below).
- We saw the words "heart" and "love" in the scripture verses about the Ten Commandments.
- We agreed (with Jesus!) that they were great summaries of the Ten C's for teaching purposes
- We recognized that the terms "heart" and "love" were powerful symbols (metaphors) that were nearly synonymous, and thus would make great memory hooks as to the meaning of the Commandments.
- And so we began looking for "foods" and or "food-making processes" that matched these key teaching points.
- And when we realized that the kids could WRITE commandment words on the "commandment hearts" -- we did this:
(See the first article in this series about letting the word of the scripture inspire your creative ideas.)
Here are the verses that inspired the heart-activity:
- "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you" (John 13:34)
- "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:36-39)
- “I will put my laws in their hearts” (Paul in Hebrews 10:16 quoting the Old Testament)
- “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33)
- “write them on the tablet of your heart” (Proverbs 7:3)
Making, writing on, and sharing the hearts is not only a great "food-related" activity for understanding and remembering an important lesson about the Ten Commandments, it's also easy and fun and tasty. Check out the Ten Commandments "Cooking" Workshop Lesson we wrote using this wonderful idea.
In a picture...