Backyard to the Universe
UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST ALPHABET: OVERVIEW
Welcome to the revision of the curriculum that was first published in 1989. There are changes in format, the addition of sessions, and additional activities for older children in some sessions. With the curriculum on the website, revisions can be made and sessions can be added, so please check the site periodically.
The materials from this curriculum may be copied as needed, with a notation of the source on the material as it is used.
The focus of the Unitarian Universalist Alphabet is to provide a comfortable environment for children and the adults who are working with them in the congregational setting, while providing content that can be built throughout this and subsequent years. The Alphabet
TOPIC: The order in which the letters are used is variable. However, “All About Us” and the Letters A, B and C contain basic information about the curriculum and about developing their own group community, so are suggested to be used at the beginning.
The Curriculum Overview Chart notes suggest content by letter, including cross-references. For example, Emerson is also mentioned in the stories about Chester Daniel French and Henry David Thoreau. In addition, the Timeline gives a quick reference to contemporaries.
GETTING STARTED: This format is suggested in all of the lessons as a way of establishing continuity. It is a time for welcoming each other, for getting a sense of what is going on with the children, and for introducing the letter and activities for the day.
Welcoming. In the “All About Us” session, attention is paid to what names they want to use. This also establishes the attendance sheet. The Letter A session talks about attendance and absence in the sense of being glad to see each other. The welcoming that is done in the first session can be repeated as a ritual, basically saying each person’s name, followed by “Welcome, (name)” by the group. The advantage to doing this each week is that each person is acknowledged and each person’s voice will been heard at least once during the session.
The welcoming includes leaving an empty chair for someone in the group who is not present, and for someone who has not started coming to the group. A stuffed animal may sit in the chair, or a "Welcome" sign may be placed on it. A person who comes for the first time or to visit may sit in the chair, or they can have their own chair and still leave a chair empty.
Having letter necklace of the letter of the day for the person with that letter as an initial increases personal identity with the letter. The necklaces can be made by cutting out letters or having large letters drawn on construction paper squares, with yarn through the top. If a person is not present to wear an initial, the letter can be sent to him or her, recognizing the letter connection and acknowledging that the person is missed.
Talk about the things that the children have brought related to the letter, such as pictures, stuffed animals, or puppets. These will be returned at the end of the session. To the degree possible, link the items to the church setting, and note things that may be mentioned later in the session (like animals with the specific letter). In the session on Letter A, there is a discussion of a special place as an altar. After the presentation, things can be put in this special place until the closing. Children do not have to bring things in order to be part of the group.
Having a letter bag is another way of presenting items. Discuss the items related to the letter as the leaders or the children pull them from the bag. Take time to think of other words for the letter that may not have been part of the presentation. Only a few words will become the focus of a specific session. The focus in the sessions is generally on nouns that are concrete and likely to be known to the children. However, geographic areas have their own names for things, and local usage should be encouraged as it relates to understanding of the church community. Local differences will also be evident in the animals used and snacks that are available.
SPECIAL PERSON: This is a brief story about the person from our Unitarian Universalist heritage. More than one person has been used for a few of the letters. It is important in presenting the people that the Unitarian Universalist connection be verified. For example, Jane Addams was included in the first edition of this curriculum. Important as she was, Unitarian or Universalist connections could not be confirmed. Therefore, the person in Session A was changed to Susan B. Anthony.
For the sake of this web site, individuals are identified as Unitarian Universalists if
People are selected for inclusion based on:
There are two variations from the usual pattern. For the Letter Q, "Quillen," which is a first name, was used instead of the last name. For the Letter J, Jackson, I could not verify the membership of Helen Jackson in a Unitarian or Universalist church. However, she is noted to have "Unitarian connections," and was a friend of Emily Dickens and Oliver Wendall Holmes, both of whom were Unitarians, and Ralph Waldo Emerson carried one of her poems in his packet.
The people included in the curriculum are suggestions. People from the local faith community can be used with or in place of these suggestions. The letter V is a demonstration of this. William Vaughan was a member of the Augusta congregation. For all of his prominence in the community and the congregation, the children knew him through their visits to his farm. People from the congregation can be included in several ways. The stories can be told about the person, the person can come to the session and tell his or her own story, or a person with the same initial can come and present the story that is in the curriculum.
For many of the people included in the curriculum, pictures are available from various sources. These are noted on the Curriculum Overview Chart.
AFFIRMATIONS: The Affirmations are from the Bylaws of the Unitarian Universalist Association, Principles and Purposes that provide guidance for learning about our faith community. Various versions have been developed for children. The inclusion of the Affirmation is for beginning recognition, rather than deep discussion that will come throughout life.
The Affirmations will be noted at various places within the lessons, usually following the story. It is suggested that the Affirmations be posted in the room. In addition, specific ones could be noted in specific parts of the room, such as
See the Affirmations Chart that can be hung up in the room. (Separate file)
The second part of the Principles and Purposes is the Sources from which we draw in our Living Tradition. The awareness of these Sources is a basis for the selection of materials in this curriculum, but the sources are not mentioned in every session. One session that will include these will be the discussion of sacred books in Session B.
Following the Affirmation, there may be specific activities or discussion related to the Special Person or the Affirmation. For example, in Session A, the Affirmation relates to the "democratic process," The activity is development of "Guidelines for Living Together," using the democratic process.
THE LETTER IN THE CHURCH
There may be key words starting with the letter of the session that are important in the church community but which do not directly relate to the Special Person or the Affirmation. For example, Session B includes a presentation of books from different religions, and the Unitarian Universalist Hymnbook.
A variation for older children is to think of/find other words starting with the letter in the church setting, and discuss the place of that item in the life of the congregation. Congregations will have their own unique spaces and items.
A-B-C: Additional parts of every session:
Animals--Care for the universe: Each week there will be a focus on animals, both domestic and wild, common and endangered. If possible, create a space for animals to be remembered, such as a bulletin board for pictures or a net for stuffed animals. At the end, letter Z, there will be a focus on zoos and other kinds of animal conservation areas. While we will name several animals each week, we will focus on only a few, considering
Body--Importance of each person and taking care of ourselves as part of the interdependent web: Sessions include awareness of respective body parts. Each week, a part of the body that starts with that letter will be noted and labeled on the Body (Session B). Talk about the function of that body part, and what happens when it does not work. This includes varying abilities, and how to help people who may have special considerations or needs.
Calendar: Each session takes time to consider things related to the calendar:
SNACKS: To the degree possible, snacks can match the letter of the day. This is an optional part of the program, and is not noted in a specific sequence in the lesson plans. Allergies that children may have, such as lactose intolerance or allergies to nuts need to be considered in planning.
CLOSING: A standard closing is suggested that acknowledges the learning from the session, and an acknowledgement of the activities for the next session. This is also the time to make sure that the things that have been brought for sharing are returned to be taken home.
VARIATIONS FOR OLDER CHILDREN
While the curriculum focuses on Preschool and Kindergarten children, additional activities can be used to expand the age range of the material. Congregations have used the material with older children, and there is an expressed need for material that can cover several ages, particularly for smaller congregations with wide age span of children. Therefore, a new part of this curriculum is "Variations for Older Children" at the end of the session plan.
EVALUATING MATERIALS FOR USE
Following are some questions to consider in deciding whether and how to implement the Unitarian Universalist Alphabet in your setting.
The session plans are written so that they can be used independent of the curriculum as a total. The focus would be on the Special Person and related parts of the congregational life, possibly not using the Animals, Body or Calendar sections.
Each session can be put into a large bag with the all of the items needed. The bags can be stored in a box for quick use.
© Helen Zidowecki 10/2007