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Storytelling, Science, Music, and Other Lessons, Ideas, Activities, and Resources for Teaching "Jesus' Birth Through the Eyes of the Shepherds, Angelic Host, and the Stable" in Sunday School.

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Manger, Luke 2:8-20, Heavenly Host, Shepherds, Keeping Watch by Night, Glory to God in the Highest. Birth of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Nativity, Inn, etc.
Bible lessons for "Jesus' Birth Through the Eyes of the Shepherds, Angelic Host, and the Stable" -with science experiments, demonstrations, object lessons, magic tricks, presentations, etc.

Last edited by Neil MacQueen
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Jesus' Birth through the Eyes of the Shepherds, Angelic Host, and the Stable


Storytelling and "Science" Workshop  - "Snow Playground" Workshop

Summary of Lesson Activities:
Ahead of time, create a "snow playground" by filling a room with at least 6" (deep) of white packing peanuts. The children will explore the 4 elements of the shepherd's encounter with God (Fear, Trust, Discovery, and Praise) in a very memorable way.

Scripture Reference:
Luke 2:1-20

Memory Verse:
“Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.”  Luke 2:10 (NRSV)

Concepts

  • God cares for us all.
  • Explore the 4 elements of the Shepherd’s Encounter with God:
    • Fear upon HEARING the news.
    • TRUSTING God.
    • DISCOVERING the Christ Child
    • PRAISING God
  • We can learn from the shepherds about how to respond to God

Lesson Objectives

  • Use the room full of packing peanuts to help us create gestures and actions to represent and think about the story.
  • Discuss the meaning of the story
  • Learn where to find the story in the Bible.

Leader Preparation:

  • Read the scripture passages and review curriculum sheet
  • Have already hidden a few or several small bibles in the peanuts before arrival.
  • Have already hidden the small item in the peanuts for the DISCOVERING section. (Maybe a coin or other small object)
  • Have vacuum ready at the entrance.

Materials List:

  • Lots of packing peanuts
  • Bibles
  • Coin or other small object
  • Vacuum
  • Whiteboard or Chalkboard


Lesson Plan

Opening- Welcome and Lesson Introduction

  • Before going in the Snow Playground, meet and introduce yourself to the children in the Hallway.  Remember you are dealing with a new group of students each week.
  • Go over the rules of the Snow Playground.
  • Tell the children what they will be doing inside the snow playground and that they must be paying attention throughout the lesson.

Dig- Main Content and Reflection

  1. Before entering the Snow Playground, ask…

  • Can anyone look up in their bibles the story of the Shepherds and Angels? (the kids more than likely don’t have a bible in their hands)
  • What? You don’t have a Bible?  Well, there are a few buried in the Snow Playground… Lets go find them! (let them go find the bibles buried in the peanuts) 

  2. When all the Bibles have been found.

  • (grades Prek-2) Help or explain to them where the Story can be found; New Testament, Gospel of Luke, etc.  Read the story to them
  • (grades 3-6) Make them find it even if it takes forever.  They should naturally help each other if there’s a struggle. If they need extra help finding the chapter, tell them something like, “how does a book usually go?  Beginning = birth, end = death”  When they find it, make them read it TWICE out loud taking turns reading. 

  3.  After the story has been read...

discuss what happened in the story.  When someone says one of the 4 Key Elements (Hearing, Trusting, Discovering, Praising) write it down on the board.  When all of them are up on the board, tell the class we are going to do some more activities to help us remember them.

Hearing and Trusting

  • What happened when the Angels appeared to the shepherds?  (the shepherds were filled with fear)  When we get scared, sometimes we fall backwards. 
  • Have everyone find a partner to make a big pile of peanuts, then take turns falling backward into the pile.  After everyone has done it a few times… have everyone freeze.
  • Ask, “Did falling into the snow hurt?” (no) Why?  (God catches us when we are scared and comforts us)  So if we fall, can we TRUST God to catch us? (yes)

Discovering

  • When the Shepherds trusted God and the Angels, did they do something about it? (yes, they went to go find Jesus in the manger) 
  • Tell them to find a difficult to find object that you hid.  If it’s really well hidden, have them all work as a team to find it.

Praising

  • After the shepherds discovered Jesus, and after they returned back to where they came from, what did they do? (They glorified and praised God) 
  • So lets praise God with the peanuts for sending Jesus to us!  Throw the peanuts in the air!  Praise Party!

Reflection Time:

After a few minutes of having a praise party, have everyone sit and review the actions that we did. 

  • What were the 4 things the shepherds did in the story?
  • What did we do for Hearing? and Trusting? Discovering? Praising?
  • How do we hear God in our everyday lives?
  • When we hear God in our everyday lives, how should we respond?

Closing:

Prayer: Thank you God for keeping the promise of long ago to send the Savior of the world, the Prince of Peace.  Thank you for the shepherds who brought this great message to the world.  Help us to learn how to respond to You when You call us.  Help me be a good shepherd and share the good new of Christ.  Amen.

Tidy and Dismissal: 

  • Have the kids push back the peanuts away from the entrance area. 
  • Have them line up at the door and have them brush off as much of the peanuts as they can, using a partner if needed. 
  • Have the teacher at the door with the vacuum and one at a time get as much off with the vacuum as possible. 
  • When all the kids have been cleaned, they can get their shoes back on. And be dismissed.

Resources:

St. Elmo's Choir Rotation Writers Group. "Drama Workshop: The Shepherds and The Angels." 2001.  Web.

Faith Challenge Lesson Sets at Kirk of Kildaire Presbyterian Church.  "Shepherds and Angels." 2005.  Web.


 

A lesson written by Chris Stuberg from:  St. Mark's Lutheran Church
Bowling Green, OH

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

Last edited by Luanne Payne

We used the above idea and it was absolutely amazing! 

We created a "pit" of 2 8' and 2 6' tables and then made a snowscape of sorts around it to cover the legs and be more inviting.

...found the recyclable peanuts through our local shippin/packaging wholesaler ($20 filled my back seat).  took us 2 bags to fill our pit -but worth every bit of time.  K-3 were delighted.  thanks for the idea.




Last edited by Neil MacQueen

We did the "Snow Playground" lesson last Christmas and I thought that I would share our experience--and some photos. 

We did not use an entire room.  I blocked off a corner of one of out rooms using some folded up tables and an old bulletin board!  I covered these with fabric.  I put a big painting tarp on the floor to contain the "snow".  I left a small opening so that the kids could enter the area as I didn't want them crawling over the barrier.

The peanuts were more expensive than I thought. I ended up getting a huge bag of them from UPS for about $20.  The prices at the U-Haul were way too expensive.  The best approach would be to plan farther ahead and get them online.   That's another reason why we used just a small space (which works because we have small classes)--it would have been too expensive to fill an entire room.

20151213_11153620151213_103042

The peanuts were supposedly static-free.  They actually were static-free for the first class.  By the second week, they were sticking to everything.  I used a lint roller to get the bits of fluff off. 

The kids did enjoy the snow pit--make sure you go over the "rules" before you get into the snow, since they just want to dive in and start throwing it!  The lesson mentioned using a small coin.  I thought this would be too small, so I used a small Tupperware lid.  Even so, it took a while for the kids to find it.  If I'd used a coin, we might still be there!  20151220_110747

Clean-up wasn't too bad.  We actually used a small snow shovel to get a lot of the peanuts back into the bag.  Then we used the tarp to pour more of the peanuts into the bag. 

Attachments

Images (3)
  • 20151213_103042: Lesson Time
  • 20151213_111536: Set-up
  • 20151220_110747: Clean-up
Last edited by Luanne Payne

I used packing peanuts once. I think it was just a box full and the kids had to feel around to find something. It definitely was a static mess!!!!

 

one suggestion for getting lots of peanuts: ask people to bring in what they have at home. I know I hate throwing them away; but if you ask far enough in advance, you can get some from the non-hoarders too.

Packing Peanuts - Static Problem Solution

From what I've read doing an internet search it appears only the pink foam peanuts are static free.

I searched the internet and found some suggestions that people offered to a mom (link dead) for cleaning them up off her living room floor after her kids had a blast, but then found herself in the predicament of trying to clean them up (white foam peanuts):

  • someone suggested she try a tablespoon or so of liquid fabric softener in a spray bottle and fill half way with water - gently shake to mix. Spray a bit of the mist over the peanuts and the static electricity should be gone.
  • someone else suggested spraying them with Static Guard.
  • the woman ended up spraying them (spray bottle of plain water) and she said that worked really well, and she also said she found when her hands were wet it was easy to pick them up.

So I'm wondering if you misted them (spray bottle of regular water) after you lay them out before the first use, and then again after each use, if that might solve the static problem.

If anyone tries this let us know if it helped with the static problem.

Last edited by Luanne Payne

Sounds like a good idea! But I would test on a small sample, as it seems they make some peanuts with a formula meant to dissolve in water (to keep them from lasting forever in landfills)?

Here is an interesting science experiment that creates a Christmas ornament to go along with the Jesus' birth story of Angels and Shepherds: Grow a Crystal Angel Ornament.

Crystals are grown on colorful pipe cleaners (chenille stems) from a saturated borax solution. Borax crystals grow faster than sugar or salt crystals. Crystals will start forming about two hours after shape is hung in glass of solution. This is probably not quick enough for an in-class project, but could be done at a special event or at-home.

For each cup of water (boiling) you will need about 3 tablespoons of borax (found with laundry supplies; dissolve as much in the hot water as you can). Make an angel shape from pipe cleaners and suspend the angel in a glass of hot borax solution and crystals will form as solution cools.

5 pipe cleaners in angel shapes

Notes from Rotation.org's Writing Team Brainstorming Sessions
for their "Shepherds and Angels" lesson set (open to supporting members)

Question:
How did we get "SINGING" angels?

Check your translation! According to Luke 2, the angels were "praising" not singing:

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (NIV)

The Greek word used in Luke 2 for "praising" does not primarily mean "singing" and there's another word in the NT that does mean "singing" ("psallo" literally to "make melody").

None of the major translations use the term "singing" ...so what was the multitude doing?  Funny how our imagination is affected by HYMN LYRICS and their "choir of angels."

So what OTHER ways our angels could "praise in" the birth of Jesus?

  • Chanting
  • Rhythm and Beat
  • Soft to loud
  • Making announcements in unison

Synonyms for praise:

Attachments

Images (1)
  • mceclip0

Notes from Rotation.org's Writing Team Brainstorming Sessions
for their "Shepherds and Angels" lesson set (open to supporting members)

Been thinking about "shone around" from Luke2:9  "An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them"

GLORY = "SURROUNDING" Glory is a visual of "embracing." In Ps 8, God's glory is described as the nighttime sky which "crowns" us embraced, surrounds with glory and honor.

Of course, LIGHT can surround, but SOUND can also surround and embrace us and RESONATE within us, Perhaps that's what Luke 2's host of angels sounded like, and their message certainly resonated and reverberated.

So here's a Sound Science experiment idea

Wonder if we could create a BIG BOWL and have all the 'angels' surround it and SING a Xmas Hymn to make the shepherds/believers get moving?    From God's voice to our mouths -- that's what the angels and shepherds were participating in.

How are YOU vibrating with the story this Advent?

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