Sunday, December 15, 2013

Nativity Photo Booth

 Do you have some Nativity costumes lying around your church or school for those one-time-a-year Christmas plays for the kiddos?
 How about the props for the plays?  You know, gifts of the Magi, animal ears, angel's halos?

Does it seem wasteful to only use the costumes and props once a year and then put them in storage?

I thought so.  I also was looking for a main activity for our Advent Family Celebration last weekend, so I thought I would play off of the the photo booth trend and use all of these great costumes for some family fun.

Cue time for a backdrop:

We were having this event in our Youth Group room, which is a wonderful space, but doesn't have a single blank wall.  So I used my favorite ambiance changer, the plastic table cloth.  They are amazing and cheap.  You can create many of the same effects that you might want to do with fabric at a small fraction of the cost.

I bought a roll of black plastic table cloth (cheaper and can be cut to length than individual table cloths).  I picked a corner of the room and cut long pieces of the plastic.  I love drop ceilings for this purpose, because it makes it so easy to hang things.  We just lifted the tile a bit and shoved (gently) the plastic in.  It doesn't budge, and you don't have to worry about tape on the walls.  When you are ready to take it down, you just lift up the tile and the plastic drops.
To make the background a little more interesting, I added the star of Bethlehem using a foil star from those Christmas play props and some yellow crepe paper.

Zoomed in, it worked as a backdrop for a fun photo booth.  Zoomed out, it was just a corner of a basement room. 
Add a baby Jesus, and you are ready to go!
This guy's name actually used to be George, I think.  
I asked my mom to dig through our old toys for a doll, and she brought a Cabbage Patch.
I can imagine that Baby Jesus had cute chubby cheeks, though. Can you?

The event went great!   I had whole classes act out a scene from the Nativity, and families pose for a picture, and some of the kids come back time after time and try on just about every costume.  Who doesn't like dress up, right?  Hopefully this inspires you to think of a new way to use those Christmas Program costumes you have!  

Monday, December 9, 2013

Feasting with Archbishop Sheen

Today marks the unofficial feast day celebrating Venerable Fulton J. Sheen's birth into heaven.  While not yet named a Blessed or Saint, God willing, Sheen will be declared as such by the Church very soon, at which time his feast day would become official.  At the very least, we can honor him now as a man who loved Christ and His Church and desired for all souls to have that same love.  So while unofficial, I will still be celebrating today!

Bonnie at A Knotted Life has been posting a novena leading up to Sheen's Feast Day, and hosting several guests who share a love for Sheen.  Bonnie and Sheen are pretty tight, considering she and her family believe that it was through his intercession that God miraculously healed their stillborn (pulseless for 61 minutes) son.  You can read all about that here (trust me, you have to hear this story!). 

Bonnie and I are good friends in real life, and while I knew about Sheen and had read a book or two of his before, my desire to "meet" him was kindled in the witness of what God worked in their infant son.  In the past few years, I have read many of his books, watched his You Tube videos, listed to Mp3s and CDs of his talks, and I have gotten to the point where I feel like we are friends.  That friendship between the people of God's Church here on earth and in heaven is something that I am so grateful to have an understanding of.   And last year, it became something that I wanted to share with my 5th grade students.  I created a curriculum to teach them about his life and about the things that he taught.  Today, this year's class of kids is going to begin their Fulton Sheen Notebooks and get an introduction on the upcoming journey that we will share with Archbishop Sheen.

Bonnie asked me to come over and be a guest (her first) on her very fun new blog video series, which she is calling the "Knot Bad" Videos.  I love it.  Kuddos to Bonnie for making this video so professional looking, because between a lost and found camera, lots of dead batteries, an ipod, two laptops, five kids, five non-overlapping nap times, and about five hours (not really), I was pretty sure she was going to call me later to say we had to do it ALL again.  She did an awesome job, and I appreciate her asking me to share some ideas for celebrating Sheen's Feast Day as a family or classroom.

So give the video a watch, visit Bonnie, and maybe try some of the crafts that I mention in the video: A Sheen Lapbook, the Pop-up Marian Shrine, the Monstrance Craft, and lots and lots more.

Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, Pray for us!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Hello, Advent!

Advent is here!
A time for waiting and watching, as we look toward Christ's coming at Christmas as well as His coming at the end of time

Here are some ideas for you to use with your kiddos this Advent:

Seeking our Savior: An Advent Detective Journey based on Scripture, showing how Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled in Christ.  Printable coloring book, Scripture cards, mini craft projects, and a leaders guide.

 Advent Jeopardy Trivia games here and here.

 Party Like a Saint- A December-Saint-Themed Advent Party with crafts and games.
What if they had email?  Youth Group Advent lesson idea putting the Christmas story in a new perspective.
 A Stocking For Jesus: Activities to go along with the book, including some Advent printables.
More to come this month, including starting a new tradition with your Wise Men, teaching the Names of Jesus as part of Advent, and the O Antiphons!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Empowering Kids to Help with Tornado Relief in Illinois

I am sure that most of you have already heard about the devastating tornadoes that hit Central Illinois last Sunday.

Today I saw first hand a small portion of the damage done in Washington after the F4 tornado, and it just makes me sick. You cannot even imagine the destruction, and pictures don't do it justice.  Washington is getting a lot of news coverage, as it well should, but Pekin, the town where I teach, was also hit by a tornado from the same storm system.

First thing Monday morning, less than 24 hours after the tornadoes, I drove to work in Pekin, not knowing what to expect.  Again, I only saw a small portion of the damage, but it was astounding.  I didn't know what I would encounter as my students were dropped off at school...but praised be to God, they are all ok and basically unscathed.  The same is not true for all of the homes of the families at my school.  It took a good portion of our morning just to hear each student's update on where they were, what they saw, and how they were dealing with the tragedy.

What to think in the face of such devastation?
I am currently thinking of the ways that people are pulling together.
The way facebook is connecting tornado victims with their lost belongings miles and miles away.
The way rival football teams don't seem to be rivals in the face of something bigger than a game.
And the way I saw hundreds of people out cleaning debris today, despite the freezing temperatures.

I also learned more about my students this week.  That despite loss of power and water, major cleanup, displacement out of homes, living out of suitcases...each of them knew that it could have been so much worse.  And their first thoughts were "We're ok.  What can we do to help the people who are not?"

I know that there are lots of ways to be helping those affected in Pekin, Washington, and other locations.  Please do whatever you feel called to.  But please also remember to pray.  Pray for the injured.  Pray for those who feel lost.  Pray for those who are still in shock and will deal with emotions later when support might not be as available.  Pray for those working to clean up and rebuild these lives, especially in the conditions Central Illinois usually has in late November (today it was 18 degrees outside).  Pray for healing.  Pray in thanksgiving for the way that communities pull together to support one another.

Speaking of support, one of the first contacts I received checking on my school and students was from KidKnitsI wrote earlier this year about KidKnits, which is our class service project.  Coupling the skill of knitting a hat on a round loom with handspun yarn made in Rwanda by impoverished widows, KidKnits has made a strong impact on my kids and my school.  It teaches that "you are never to young to change a life on the other side of the world."

However, KidKnits is also very much about changing a life right across the state, or town, or block.  We have a KidKnits community here in Pekin, and there is also a KidKnits presence in Washington.  Impacted by the tornadoes in both communities, KidKnits is currently raising funds to help.  You can read about their thoughts and reasoning hereDonations of at least $10 will get the donor a KidKnits backpack tag kit, a cool reminder of remembering to think outside of ourselves.  What's even better?  KidKnits is going to take the donations towards tornado relief and let the KidKnits kids in Washington and my KidKnits kids here in Pekin decide how to best use the money- adonation to a family in need, straight to the Red Cross, etc.  The kids may not be able to make a significant donation on their own, but with the help of others, we can empower them to help those who need to be extended generosity the most.  If you are interested in helping with their campaign, please click here.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Georgia Peaches

Last month, I was blessed to visit these lovely people (my baby sis and bil):
Who now live in the lovely state of Georgia (ONLY about 15 hours away).

And now we typically only see each other using lovely Google Chat:
But it is so much better to be together!
After my quick and (delayed) but uneventful flight, I was picked up at the airport, hugged a lot, fed lunch, and ushered into their new Army Post home.

I was welcome by this lovely drawing, created by my (no-big-deal) sister, just because:

If you can't read it, the sketch is joined by the Fulton Sheen quote "Mary was not full of grace because she was beautiful; she was beautiful because she was full of grace."
And greeted by my lovely new puppy-niece:

We visited the National Infantry Museum:
...where I learned the basics of many things, including Airborne School...
...and almost got Luke kicked out of the Army.  (but not really):
We also saw this movie:
(Intensity alert: I don't think I have ever nearly jumped out of my seat as much in a movie theater, nor have I gasped as much in 134 minutes. Cow.)

However, I was much more excited when I saw this preview, for a movie about a book that I love, that is being made into a movie that I didn't know was being made into a movie and I am so excited...take a breath (!) looks so good.

We ate some de-li-cious food at this place:
Luke and Emily also thoroughly embarrassed me at this restaurant, but that is a story for another time.
(Forgive all the double pictures...three people...means we were never all in the same picture at the same time.)

I enjoyed so much our spending time together eating and relaxing in their home, which does feel so much like a home.  (Good job housewife Emily!)
More good food:

And then...we left Luke and the puppy behind and flew back to Peoria

Em was so excited to have cool air, less humidity, and trees with changing leaves.

You know how there is always a formal and somewhat stern voice in airports that announces every 8 and a half minutes "Attention travelers!  Airport security requires that all passengers maintain control of their luggage at all times."

Emily was having trouble maintaining control of her luggage...

But it was still good to be back.

Later in the week, our other sister Steph joined us and we did fun things like celebrate our dad's birthday and paint pottery and watch Hallmark movies.  You know, sister stuff. 

I enjoyed my visit to GA so much, and also was glad to have (almost) the whole family back together for a few days.  All the togetherness was wonderful, and we were sad to put our baby sister back on a plane.  However, we took one more picture to document a first... something that we have always joked about doing but never actually done...

The three of us are now a blonde, a brunette, and a red head....feel free to comment with your favorite joke!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

St. Max is in the House

St. Maximilian Kolbe and I are good friends.  He is the patron Saint of my classroom, and I spend quite a bit of time teaching about his life at the beginning of the year.  You can read my original post, along with all of the links to my St. Max resources, here.

Something cool that the CCD program at our parish is doing this year is trying to encourage more collaboration between the school classrooms and the CCD classrooms.  I am certainly a fan of this effort, and was excited when I heard that one thing we were going to do would be to have the same patron Saints for grade levels.  The 5th grade catechist is a lovely young lady, and she and I met for the first time over the summer.  We quickly started sharing some ideas, and we have talked a few times about the happenings in our classrooms.  She used some of my resources to teach her kids about St. Max, but has also come up with a few of her own that she has given me permission to share on my blog (thanks Anna!).

So, one morning this week, after an evening CCD session, my kids found these awesome keychains on their desks.  To someone who doesn't know St. Max, these might not make much sense.  However, my kids immediately recognized a white crown and a red crown, both offered to St. Maximilian by Our Blessed Mother, representing his opportunity to either be pure of heart or a martyr.  He chose both.   Anna came up with this idea herself, and her students made these reminders of St. Max's life for us.  My students were very excited about this gift.

Then, the students noticed that we had a new member of the class... in the form of a life sized St. Maximilian Kolbe!
Anna painted his face, which is an incredible likeness:

He is dressed and accessorized just like his icon, complete with a Franciscan robe, striped prisoner uniform from his time in Auschwitz, a rosary, an Immacualta magazine, and even his prisoner number 16670.

They also made a neat sign to go along with the life sized Saint:
I took all of the students' pictures with St. Max, which they loved.  They then had a brilliant idea: "Miss Bogner, take a selfie with St. Max!"  Here is the result:
Me and Max.
And then he and I took a normal picture:
St. Max will be living in our room for most of the year, just another reminder to the kids about the Communion of Saints that we are all a part of, which includes everyone one in our parish (both school and CCD kids) and awesome Saints in heaven like St. Max.  I am so glad that St. Max is "in the house" of our Heavenly Father as well as in our room to serve a connection.  This makes him seem more real to the kids, and shows them that they all can strive for sainthood, also.

(I, however, need to get used to having a life sized cardboard cutout in my classroom.  At least 15 times in two days I glanced up and totally freaked out, thinking that there was someone in my "empty" room.  I also very nearly scolded him twice to "get in his seat" during the school day when I caught him out of the corner of my eye at times that the students were supposed to be working.  Several teachers have walked in and jumped before realizing it was him standing in the corner.  I imagine we will get used to him...eventually!)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

All Saints and All Souls Day Letters

Not one to abandon All Saints and All Souls Day to be overshadowed by Halloween, my classroom has spent this whole week talking about the Communion of Saints, praying for the dead, and eternity.  Our discussion led to the fact that we can ask the Saints in heaven to pray for us, and we can pray for the souls in Purgatory. 

Unfortunately for my students (not really) I am great at integrating subjects into each other, so our discussion turned into an official writing assignment. 

They could chose to write letter (yes, a letter, which should not be a dying art) to a Saint in heaven: (asking what heaven was like, mentioning what they admired about their lives, asking for their intercession...)
 ...or to a soul in Purgatory: (usually the kids chose to write to a dead loved one, so they wrote about how they missed them, told them about what was going on here on earth, an promised to pray for them, etc.)

This assignment could be made a little more fun by using this cute "stationary" for the letters and adding it to a notebooking project.  Click on the images for links to the printable.

In celebration of All Saints Day, why not play this Beatitudes and Modern Saints game?  Click on the picture below to go to the post:
And just in case you missed it, there is info about All Saints Day and All Souls Day in my coloring book Finding Truth in Halloween:

Happy Halloween, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Ideas for a Rosary Lapbook

Back in this post I talked about how much I like Holy Cross Family Ministries' Rosary coloring books.  They are reproducible for classroom use, so I used them to make a Rosary lapbook.

I started with a regular sized blue file folder, refolded so that the sides met in the middle.  I used a hole punch  to make a hole for every bead of the Rosary around the edges of the file folder, and used an exacto knife to cut out the cross.  You could run your finger along the edge of the folder and pray the Rosary if you wanted, and it looks really cool too :).
There is so much content available in the coloring books, so this one is just about the Luminous Mysteries.
Here is an inside view:
I included some info on how to pray the Rosary in a pocket:
I also copied the coloring book pages on a slightly reduced scale and then created a small coloring book inside:
The coloring book is on a cardstock hinge that opens to reveal activity pages below:

I also have pull out cards with all of the prayers needed to pray the Rosary.
And a little pocket for prayer intentions to remember as you pray.

On the back, I included a coloring page with all five mysteries to summarize the contents.
The possibilities are endless!