Storytelling and Science Lessons, Ideas, and Activities for Teaching the Story of Joseph in Sunday School

Post your storytelling and science Sunday School lessons, ideas, and activities for the Joseph Story here.

Joseph, Egypt, Pharaoh, Joseph's Brothers, Coat of Many Colors, Well, Potiphar, Dreams, etc.
 
Bible lessons and ideas about Joseph  -with science experiments, demonstrations, object lessons, magic tricks, presentations, etc.
 
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Joseph in Canaan

Science Workshop

Summary of Lesson Activities:
The children will learn the story of Joseph. They will then use two experiments to explore how Joseph’s brothers were feeling. They will observe how friction creates heat just like friction in a family can make situations “hot.” They will then observe how carbon dioxide bubbles can be “ignited” and explode when the right object is added to a Diet Coke; similarly, we explode when too many annoying things happen to us.

Scripture Reference:
Genesis 37:1-36; 39:1-6b

Memory Verse:
Romans 8:28a

Key Concepts and Life Application
The children will:

  • Identify Genesis as the first book in the Old Testament; locating the story in Genesis.
  • Retell the story in their own words – identifying story characters and their feelings.
  • Explain how jealousy erupted in Joseph’s family. Learn how feelings can grow inside us and make us feel like we are going to explode.
  • Understand that God loves us and is never separated from us, that he is always there to help us through any situation.

Leader Preparation:

  • Read the scripture ahead of time.
  • Gather the materials.


Supplies List:

  • Bibles – minimally one for every two children. See Arrival Setup.
  • Yeah and Boo Melodrama originally written by Steve and Brenda Klusmeyer. Find an adaptation of this melodrama by Cathy Weygandt here.
  • YEAH-H-H and BOO-O-O signs, one each on different color cardstock.
  • Whiteboard markers

Friction Experiment

  • For every 3-4 children, the following are needed. They are reusable each week.
  • Coffee can with tight fitting lid or paint can
  • Sand to fill can 1/2 full
  • Bulb-style candy thermometer
  • Masking tape
  • Optional, egg timer that ticks.

Mentos Geyser Demonstration

  • Optional, “Be Amazing Geyser Tube.” Otherwise, use a tube of paper covered by your thumb to insert.
  • Rain poncho for teacher

For each class, the following are needed. Not reusable.

  • 2-liter Diet Coke
  • One tube of Mentos

Filler Materials: Sticky Verse

  • Craft sticks: 4 sets of craft sticks. Each set should contain one stick with the following:

• We know
• that God
• is always
• at work
• for the good
• of everyone
• who loves him.



Presentation 

Opening:
Greet the children and introduce yourself. Wear your nametag. The Shepherd will be taking care of attendance, etc. This can all happen quietly while you are starting your lesson. Have students come in and sit in a circle on the floor.

Overview:
Say:
Let’s take a quick poll. You may want to record on the white board.
Raise your hand if you are the only child in your family. Count.
Raise your hand if you are the oldest child in your family. Count.
Raise your hand if you are the youngest. Count.
Raise your hand if you are somewhere in the middle. Count.
Say:
We all know it’s hard to live with brothers and sisters, especially when everyone wants his or her own way. Today, we’re going to see how hot families can get when brothers and sisters start to rub each other the wrong way. 

Dig:

Bible Story:
Distribute Bibles to each child or every two children.
Say:
We are learning about Joseph and his relationship with his brothers.
Ask:
Where in the Bible would we find this story? (Old Testament, Genesis)
Have the students find the book of Genesis, chapter 37, verse 1, in their Bibles. Make sure it is noted that Genesis is the first book in the Old Testament.
Note: Even though you’ll be telling the story to the students, the exercise of finding the story is still important. We will do this every week. Most 3rd through 5th graders have been given a Bible by Saint Andrews. Encourage them to bring it every Sunday.
Say:
Today, I’m going to read you a different version of this story and you are going to provide some sound effects. I will read a short part of the story. If something good is happening, say “YEAH-H-H.” If something bad is happening, say “BOO-O-O.”
Read the following story, pausing between sections to allow the children to respond appropriately with YEAH-H-H or BOO-O-O). For younger ages, you may want to ask the shepherd to hold up the YEAH-H-H or BOO-O-O signs to guide them.

Use the Yeah and Boo Melodrama originally written by Steve and Brenda Klusmeyer. Find an adaptation of this melodrama by Cathy Weygandt here, (If link goes dead, use SEARCH on Yeah Boo.)

Say:
Earlier we talked about families rubbing each other the wrong way.
Ask:
What things in the story about Joseph and his brother show that they rubbed each other the wrong way?
Say:
Friction is the term describing two things rubbing against each other. When two people don’t get along, they are said to create “friction.” Today, were going to do an experiment to see if things really do get hotter when they rub each other.

Friction Experiment
Divide the children into two or more teams of 3-4 children each. You need at least two teams.
Give each team a coffee can filled about two-thirds of the way with clean sand.
Help each team take the starting temperature of the sand by putting a thermometer in the center of the can (don’t touch the sides).
Record each temperature on the white board.
Make sure the top is on each can securely. You may use masking tape if you choose.
Give each team three minutes to shake their cans as furiously as they can. They can toss it back and forth, shake it up and down, roll it along the floor. Ask them to be careful not to let any sand escape or to take the top off.
Set a ticking timer to make the competition more suspenseful.
When the time is up, help each team take the temperature of their agitated can of sand. They will probably even be able to feel the difference in the temperature of the can. The team that creates the most heat in its coffee can of sand is the winner! (No prizes)
Ask:
What caused the sand to get hotter? Accept all answers but get the kids to understand that it was because the sand was rubbing against other grains of sand.
What caused Joseph’s brothers to get hot? Accept answers.
Say:
Often, when we get rubbed the wrong way, we get hot! Not physically but emotionally.
When someone bothers you, do you feel hot? Feel like you are going to explode?
Let’s go outside and discuss this further.

Mentos Geyser Demonstration
Take the children to the parking spaces just outside the Fellowship Hall.
Hold up the bottle of soda.
Ask:
Have you ever shaken up a bottle of soda? What happened? Why?
Explain:
This bottle of Diet Coke is like the brothers. Inside, the brothers were bubbling! When they saw Joseph coming, they felt like they were going to explode.
Let’s let the Diet Coke represent the brothers. In this tube, I am going to put seven Mentos mints. They represent how the brothers felt about Joseph: Put a Mentos in the “Geyser Tube” as you say each of the following:

  • Joseph is a tattletale!
  • Joseph is spoiled!
  • Joseph got a coat and I didn’t!
  • Why does Father like Joseph best?
  • Why doesn’t Joseph have to take care of the sheep?
  • Joesph thinks he’s better than we are!
  • Joseph even thinks he’s better than his Father and Mother!


Then they see Joseph coming. They are bubbling inside. They aren’t thinking clearly. They are just reacting. So Joseph comes into their camp and they react!
Ask the children to step back. You may want to put on the poncho.
Put the Geyser Tube on the Diet Coke. Pull the plug! Be prepared to move back quickly as the Diet Coke shoots into the air.
Ask:
How did the brothers explode? Accept answers.
Explain:
In our experiment, the bubbles in the soda were attracted to the Mentos. It turns out that Mentos are very bumpy so there are lots of places for the bubbles to form. But the bubbles want to go to the top of the soda and the Mentos wants to go to the bottom. So more and more bubbles keep forming and WHAM! The soda blasts!
The brothers were bubbling too. When Joseph walked into the camp, they reacted. They didn’t think.
Go back inside.

Reflecting:
Say:
Joseph’s brothers were frustrated, jealous, and angry. Just like the sand, Joseph rubbed them the wrong way. Just like the soda, they were feeling the need to explode.
Ask:
We all feel that way sometime. What are some things you can do to remain calm instead of getting hot or exploding? Accept answers. Offer suggestions (talk to an adult or friend, count to 10, go off by yourself).
Say:
Because God is with us, we can always turn to him. We can pray. We can read the Bible. We can recite verses that we’ve memorized. All of these things can help us when we are frustrated, jealous, or angry.
Let’s say a prayer asking God to help us when we have trouble controlling ourselves.
Tidy and Dismissal:
Ask children to help tidy up. Close the door and turn off the lights. Store your materials back in the cabinet.

Filler Time (Use only if you need it): Sticky Verses
If you have time, use the following to help the children learn the Bible verse.
Divide the class into three or four groups. If using just three groups, remove one set of sticks.
Mix all the sticks up and distribute seven to each team. They will get duplicates.
Have groups arrange the sticks they have in the verse order.
Pick one stick they don’t need (hopefully a duplicate) and pass to group on their right. Play continues until a group has the entire verse in order.
Repeat as necessary.


References
This lesson was created by Ann L. Wright, Children’s Ministry Director, Saint Andrews Presbyterian Church, Raleigh, NC, using information from the following:

  • Yea/Boo Melodrama
    Kusmeyer, Steve and Brenda. "Joseph, The Dreamer: Storytelling." October,2002. (The original version is no longer on this site.)
  • Friction Experiment
    Ferdinandsen, Caroline. Fun Science That Teaches God's Word for Tweens. Colorado Springs, CO: © David C. Cook, 2008.
  • Mentos Geyser Demonstration
    Spangler, Steve. Naked Eggs and Flying Potatoes: Unforgettable Experiments That Make Science Fun. Austin, TX: Greenleaf Book Group, 2010. Print.

A lesson written by Ann Wright from: St. Andrews Church.
Raleigh, NC 

A representative of Rotation.org reformatted this post to improve readability.

I will be leading a small, multi-aged group of children whose parents are preparing to serve as missionaries for the United Methodist Church.  Your materials on discord within the family (though it may be parents rather than brothers) and the emphasis on God always being with us and always working for the good seem like just what we need.

Editor's note:
Member @Jaymie Derden sent us these two science (demonstration) experiments that illustrate Joseph's rejection by and forgiveness of his brothers.

In addition to demonstrating these experiments, you will want to teach your students to perform them at home AND be able to connect them to the principles in the Bible story.


1. Repelling, pushing away & bringing together, welcoming back

Pepper sprinkled on pan of water is repelled to the edge when a piece of soap touches the center of the water (breaks the surface tension).

Sprinkling sugar attracts the pepper back to the middle again.

What repels others? attracts?
What tools does God give us to be forgiving?
Which is Joseph like in this demonstration?
Jesus?

Demonstrate Joseph's rejection-forgiveness

See this demonstrations nicely described at Fun on a Dime's website
Images courtesy of funonadime.net, used with permission.


2. Magic Toothpick - What sinks the toothpicks? Causes them to scatter on the water?

What destroys the bonds between brothers? friends? Christians, nations?

In this experiment, touching the water inside the square of toothpicks -with a toothpick that has been dipped in soap, destroys the (surface tension) bond.

toothpick-trick

For details, see Floating Toothpick Trick (Kiwicrate is a maker of science toys/experiments packages). Their page has a good walk through and explanation (and a short video), as does www.kidzone

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Here are two science demonstrations about color and absorption. The water is absorbed, leaving the color changes. God uses our experiences to change and transform us.

Supplies:

  • clear plastic shoe boxes/containers with low sides – 1 per every 3-4 children
  • water based markers
  • clear plastic cups - 3 cups for every 3-4 children
  • white paper towels (thicker ones work better)
  • food coloring (blue & yellow show up best)
  • Pitchers of water
  • Table coverings

 
Advanced Preparations:

  1. Cover  tables with plastic tablecloths.
  2. Set out the cups and pitchers of water. You will need one set of three cups for every 3-4 children.
  3. Divide the markers into containers (lids to containers work well, or foam plates) and set out on tables within easy reach of each group of 3-4 children.
  4. Tear sections of paper towels and set aside. You’ll need one section for every 3-4 children for the first experiment, 1 sheet for every pair of children for second experiment.
  5. Make a sample sheet with marker dots to show children.

 
Walking Water #1
Source: allforkids tv season 4 episode 37 absorbing science (link removed - site no longer active)

Introduce the Activity:
Say: Today we’re going to do 2 demonstrations with water and color to remind us that God goes with us, just as God was with Joseph. God's presence changes us and transforms us.

Directions:

  1. Place two cups next to each other.
  2. Fill one cup with water and have children stir in several drops of food dye. Be sure the water is dark.
  3. Roll up a paper towel and demonstrate how to place one end in the cup with water and the other in the empty cup beside it.
  4. The blue water will travel up the paper towel and into the empty cup…eventually both cups will have the same amount of blue water!
  5. Next try the experiment with two colors.
  6. Give each child a third cup with water and add yellow food coloring. 
  7. Roll a second paper towel. Place one end in the new cup and the other end in the middle cup. The middle cup should have one end of each towel in it.
  8. As the colored water is absorbed in the towel it travels up and then into the middle cup. The two original colors combine to make a third color (yellow + blue make green).

    This experiment takes a little time. While the water is “walking, “ perform the second demonstration:walking water 1


    Walking Water #2
    Directions:

    1. Give each pair of children a section of paper towel.
    2. Show children the sample paper towel sheet with marker dots, prepared ahead of time.
    3. Have children work together using the markers to make a line of dots about 2 fingers up from the bottom of the paper towel. Fold the top of the paper towel over the container so the dots are inside the container but not resting on the bottom.
    4. Slowly pour in some water until it just covers the bottom of the bottom of the paper towel – not covering the marker dots.
    5. Watch carefully as the water slowly travels up the paper towel toward the dots. What happens when the water reaches the dots? (the color in the dots starts to rise and spread). Eventually the water will move through the entire sheet of paper towel.

    walking water 2

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