If you could design religious education experiences for kids that were so memorable and compelling that they’d continue to seek out those kinds of experience as adults, what would they look like? I’m convinced, after asking dozens of people about their best memory of learning in church, that it should be as hands-on, as innovative, and as creative as possible.

Around the country, “Maker Culture” is developing.  Even public schools are setting up Maker Spaces that encourage kids to use their minds and hands to design, collaborate, and create. But what does all this have to do with Sunday School? William Ellery Channing said that “The great end on religious education is not to stamp our minds upon the young, but to stir up their own.”  It seems to me the best way to do that is to hand them tools now and let them know we expect them to come up with great ideas that will change the world.

Tony Wagner, current expert in residence at Harvard University’s new Innovation Lab and the founder of Harvard’s Change Leadership Group says, about MakerSpace classrooms: “That’s the future.” According to Wagner, the idea of school as a place where knowledge is transferred from teacher to student, whose success is measured by the accuracy of his/her regurgitation of it, is antiquated. This instructional model does not foster what Wagner believes is the most essential skill in today’s world: the ability to innovate.

In his most recent book, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, Wagner profiles some of America’s great innovators and observes a pattern in their youths: A childhood of creative play led to their development of deep-seated interests and curiosities, and these passions fueled their intrinsic motivation to set and achieve career and life goals. Another trend Wagner found was that the adults in these innovators’ young lives nurtured their imaginations and taught them to persevere and learn from failure. Read the related Newsweek article here.

My own previous career as an educator in a children’s museum showed me that kids love to create and build and invent, and learn, quite by default, while doing so. So as I consider what to do for our kids on Sundays this summer, I can’t help but gravitate toward this approach.

My question for you is, what would you like to bring to this endeavor? We have one volunteer already planning to support a small group in setting up an A/V system downstairs. I plan to work with the kids to set up a vermiculture system (worm farm!) and a container garden. Would you like to help them build birdhouses, bathouses, or something else for the playground? Learn to make their own toys from recycled objects? Work on community artwork for display in the church? Make and edit a video about RE that new families or potential members might enjoy seeing? The key: projects they can actively MAKE and call their own.

What makes your heart come alive?
Can you share that on one or more Sundays this summer?

Our kids thrive on learning to do things.  It changes their brains, and the way they see themselves: when we make things, we are more confident, more willing to experiment, less anxious about failure and perfection. We naturally collaborate and take risks, and we begin to see ourselves as creators of the world around us, not passive consumers.  Let me know how you can help MAKE this happen.

Read more about Maker Culture here.

Photo credit: http://philippe.ameline.net/images/IAmAMaker.png