Movement and drums and Sunday school

This past Sunday, I got a chance to teach in our tiny Sunday school. Just one girl showed up, A—; my co-teacher was A—‘s grandmother.

We have been using the curriculum “Stories about God” by Mary Ann Moore, a curriculum which exposes children in the primary grades to a wide range of God-concepts. Moore is especially interested in feminist theology and non-orthodox God-concepts. On Sunday we did the session on “God as Mother of Us All.”

In this session, Moore has the children do a creative movement exercise. Creative movement is not one of my strong suits. Over the years, I’ve led a fair number of creative movement exercises with children, and even with teens and adults, but I’ve never been satisfied with my efforts. Suddenly I was not looking forward to teaching Sunday school.

But then I remembered that the old “Haunting House” Sunday school curriculum came with a little booklet by Barbara Kres Beach on doing creative movement with kids, and I remembered that in that booklet was an idea that might help me out. I dug out my bootleg copy of “Haunting House,” and found the photograph I remembered: a picture of children in a sunlit room doing creative movement exercises, with a woman in the background holding a frame drum and a drumstick. Kres Beach suggests: Use a drum to set the pace and tone when you do creative movement with kids. Ah, ha! — all of a sudden I was ready to try creative movement.

By chance, I own a bodhran (an Irish frame drum), and I brought it in on Sunday. The creative movement exercise starts out with the children lying on the floor, breathing peacefully and quietly — I made circles on the drumhead with the beater, a soft and meditative shh-shh-shh sound. Everyone stands up and takes a big step! — a tap on the drum, and A— and her grandma were on their feet, stepping forward and reaching to the sky! I did a slow beat on the drum when that was called for, and a faster, wilder beat when that was called for. At last we finished up back on the floor, with me making the soft shh-shh-shh sound with the beater again.

It was magical. The simple addition of a drumbeat made it so. A— had a blast (so did her grandmother, and so did I!).

Then it was time for the story, and A— was ready to settle right down and listen. “Stories about God” is a good curriculum, and the story built on the creative movement exercise. I felt that A— really understood the God-concept I was trying to get across, and the simple addition of a drumbeat meant allowed me to pull it off.