A joint study done in 2010 by the Guggenheim Museum and the U.S. Department of Education, called "The Art of Problem Solving," found that students who explored issues with the arts were more curious about the subject and were better able to connect the means with the ends of the concepts presented. This can be especially helpful when parents teach preteens about the Bible. Using the arts to help the young person explore the concepts of the Bible can bring spirituality off the page and into the child’s understanding and experience.
Before the advent of the printing press, the Bible was handwritten by monks. Many monks used pictures around the edges of scripture to illustrate or “illuminate” the words on the page. Today’s preteens can do the same. Ask your preteen to choose a short Bible passage. It might be part of a Psalm or a parable. Have him write the passage in the center of a large sheet of paper. After thinking about the passage, ask him to draw small pictures around the words that illustrate the passage. For example, he might illuminate the 23rd Psalm with pictures of a shepherd and green pastures. He can then share his work or bind several pages together to form a book.
This is an ideal activity to do with a pair of preteens or even a small group. Read the story of the Tower of Babel from the Bible. Talk with the kids about the importance of communication. Give the pair the materials to build a tower. This might be clay, building blocks or even cardboard and tape. Ask them to figure out how to build a tower of Babel together. However, no one is allowed to talk. Any communication must take place through non-verbal means, such as mime or signs. When the towers are completed, ask the preteens how it felt to work together without talking. Point out how important communication is and relate the experience to trying to build a friendship or a family without communication.
People have been dramatizing the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ since the Middle Ages. The early Christian church used Latin, a language not understood by the common people, so churches would show the people different aspects of the Life of Christ through a series of plays. Today’s preteens can use passion plays to explore the gospel and spread its message to family and friends, especially younger children. Gather a group of children from the neighborhood or your church. You can order scripts for a passion play or take the words directly from scripture. Costumes can be as simple as robes, or you can consider re-thinking the trappings by putting Jesus and the Apostles in modern garb.
A 2009 joint study commissioned by National Endowment for the Arts and Chorus America, called "The Chorus Impact Study," found that participating in singing with choral groups raised a child’s self-esteem, gave him valuable cognitive and social skills and helped the child become more self-disciplined. Encouraging your preteen to join the choir not only helps her explore the Bible through music, but it also allows her to share her talents with the larger community. There are a wide range of songs that explore Bible stories and concepts designed specifically for young people. If no choir is available, present your child with several choices. Ask her to listen to all the songs and choose her favorites. Practice the top two or three songs to share with the rest of the family.
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