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This forum is for Sunday School lessons and ideas that cover the Exodus - Moses -Red Sea Crossing, Wandering in the Wilderness, and towards the Promised Land found in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  Lessons and ideas are organized by teaching medium: arts and crafts, video, drama, puppets, software, cooking (foods), games, music, and more. Supporting Members: Be sure to check out our Writing Team's extra creative set of lessons:  Exodus: Through Water and WildernessGlean what you need, share what you can.

This thread is open for ideas and discussion about the "Smoke by Day and Fire by Night" story of God leading the Hebrews through the Sinai Wilderness.

Editor's Note: It is important to note the various translations and theories behind the terms "pillar" "fire" and "smoke" or "cloud". There is some debate about the terms which affects how you think of God's "present-ness."

For example, if you go with "smoke" then you do not want to be doing an art project that makes "clouds".

Artistic depictions of these phenomenon sometimes make them large spectacular events, i.e, a whirling fire tornado, or a large pillar of clouds. However, there's a large visual difference between "smoke" and "cloud" that can lead one to different lesson ideas and discussion questions. (The attempts to scientifically explain these phenomenon as "electricity in the clouds" are interesting, but miss the point that GOD leads and doesn't need lightning to do so.

Bible scholars suggest that smoke and fire could be referring to items from the Tabernacle's altar being carried by the priests who led the people. This interpretation could 'lead' you down an entirely different reflection about how "worship" leads us. Just sayin.

If you are looking for SIGNS OF GOD up ahead in your life, then what you expect to see matters: a giant cloud? or a wisp of smoke on the horizon? (Contributed by Neil MacQueen)

Cloud - Science Experiment


  • Wide mouth gallon pickle or food jar
  • Heavy duty clear plastic bag (large Ziploc freezer bags are wonderful)
  • Rubber bands or masking tape 


  • Place about 20 ml of water in a wide mouth gallon pickle jar
  • Place a lit match into the jar.
  • Quickly place a heavy duty clear plastic bag over the mouth of the jar and secure a firm seal by placing a rubber band/masking tape around the top of the jar.
  • Push the bag into the jar quickly, then pull the bag out.
  • Cloud!


A representative of reformatted this post to improve readability.



Last edited by Lesson Forma-teer
Original Post

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Another Version:


  • Wide mouth gallon pickle or food jar
  • A plastic bag of ice that will fit over the jar opening
  • A pitcher of warm water


  • Sheet of black paper
  • Flashlight


1. "We are going simulate the forming of a cloud."
2. Have a student tape the black piece of paper onto one side of the jar.
3. Ask another student to pour the warm water into the jar until it is one third full. (you might want to mark the jar beforehand)
3. (Teacher) Light a match and hold it in the jar for a few seconds and then drop it in. At this point, have a student ready to quickly cover the jar with the bag of ice.
4. Have another student shine the flashlight on the jar.

With older students (4th graders and up), I would let the kids do this in small groups, but have an adult close to each group or every two groups. (In this setting, I would only allow the adult to have the matches.)

Last edited by Lesson Forma-teer

Pillar of Fire Art

What about the an actual "night light" type project for Pillar of Fire? Maybe an inexpensive flashlight with some type of orange and red tissue paper. However, it would have to be simple because of the ages. Instead of individual projects at this age, maybe a group project -- giving them small pieces of tissue to glue onto a cut-out side of a large box that has been covered with sturdy plastic. (plexiglass?) You can get heavy sheets of plastic cut to exact sizes. 

When the project is complete, you can place a bright flashlight, etc. inside and let the kiddos look at the "pillar of fire" with the classroom lights off. (needs a lot of work to refine this "hair brained" thought) 

Crayon Melt Project(An Individual Project): Each child makes a "story folder"


  • manila file folder
  • sheet of blue paper
  • sheet of black paper
  • white crayons
  • a few grey crayons for accents
  • orange and red crayons

Teacher materials:

  • waxed paper
  • iron
  • towel and hard surface away from children
  • an adult who does nothing but iron (and stays by the iron so children will not get burned)
  • glue


  1. Children use orange and red crayons to color a cloud onto the black sheet of paper
  2. Adult places a piece of waxed paper over the "cloud" and irons it so the crayons melt somewhat
  3. Children use white, with small amount of grey, crayons to color a cloud on the blue sheet of paper
  4. Adult irons the blue sheet
  5. When sheet is cool (doesn't take long), glue the blue sheet on one side of the manila folder (inside).
  6. Glue the black sheet to the other side of the folder (inside). 

Retell the Bible story and encourage the children to hold up or point to the correct side of their folder as the story mentions the could by day and pillar of fire by night.

Last edited by Lesson Forma-teer
Like you Neil, reading through these posts piqued my imagine. Perhaps that is the purpose of an idea thread. Being led by God is a key concept for children, and adults. How does He do that today? Kirsten

The following 'review' of the lesson ideas here was posted by Neil MacQueen during this forum's renovation. Reviewers suggested that Neil's review of the lesson be included with the posted ideas as a means of sharing how Rotation teachers/writers look at GOOD ideas in a post, and begin to question/modify the ideas for their own purposes.

We invite you to RESPOND TO THESE POSTS to flesh out the possibilities.

Originally posted by Neil MacQueen:

The ideas in this thread are good example of ideas that could be ADAPTED by a STORYTELLER to make the storyteller's words more visual and engaging.

For Pillar of Fire...
The idea of a flashlight is a good quickie prop in a storyteller's hands, but as an "activity", it is a bit underwhelming for older kids. But it DOES raise to this lesson writer the question: WHAT WAS, and how WOULD you depict pillar of fire, ie, the iluminating presence of God, in our storytelling?

How does God show his presence out ahead of us today?

Artists have classically depicted the pillar as something "big" in the sky. But some Jewish scholars suggest it originally described the smoking fire pot carried by the priests from Tabernacle location to Tabernacle location. The coals from the altar.

This makes me wonder: Is there a material like INCENSE that could be used in this lesson to help enhance the students' lesson memory by involving their senses?

And regarding the "torchlight-pilar procession of God's presence in this story,
I there some way to depict "fire" in the dark of a classroom -that's better than flashlights- to add a true sensory quality to the retelling and mory of this story? Flaslights would be the "backup" idea. I'd be looking for something more dramatic, and perhaps, something the KIDS could help create/provide/act with.

How and WHERE God is leading today?

Where's the Smoke up ahead marking the trail?

Where's the Light in the Darkness?

Last edited by Lesson Forma-teer


A more intense response in cloud making simulating the atmosphere can be found at using a bit of 70% alcohol and a bicycle tire pump, the "cloud in a bottle" kit is $30. 

"By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night."  Exodus 13:21-22

After the science experiment demonstration, students can make pillars of clouds and fire using pool noodles, cotton balls, and red and yellow construction paper flames.  There are many pictures of Pillar of fire and cloud projects on Pinterest. Our students' creations are going to be used as VBS decorations for "Wandering in the Wilderness" theme.

Heidi Weber and Jeannie Middleton

Noel Memorial UMC, Shreveport LA

Last edited by CreativeCarol

Hi Jean,

Thanks for sharing your find. I had edited your post to add a link to the kit at Steve Spangler's site.

Come back and share photos of your VBS decorations!

-- Carol

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