Possum tells the old story of Easter

Possum decides he’s going to tell the old story of Easter this year. His friends Rolf, Birago, Nicky, and Dr. Sharpie help him out.

Click on the image above to view the video on Vimeo

As usual, the script is below the fold. (The script has not been corrected against the actual video, and may vary in minor details.)

Continue reading “Possum tells the old story of Easter”

Behind the scenes

Since 2020, I’ve been filming stories-for-all-ages in a puppet studio I put together in the nursery at the Palo Alto church. We’re about to resume infant and toddler care, so it’s only a matter of time before I have to remove the puppet studio from the nursery. But I managed to take some behind-the-scenes photos of puppets and puppeteers in action while filming a few last videos.

When we’re filming, the puppeteers mostly watch the action on the computer screen. Sometimes looking at the screen is disorienting and we have to look up at the puppets. We tape the script to the back of the puppet stage at our eye level. Puppets who are not in the current scene lie on the table next to us (you can see Possum in the lower left corner of the photo.)

Puppeteer view

This is what the camera sees when the zoom is set to the widest angle:

Camera view

A wider view, from behind the camera. We sometimes have up to seven lights aimed at the stage. Props are laid out on the table to the left of the puppet stage. When not needed in the current scene, the puppets stay in cloth bags, and you can see Rolf’s head poking out of the dark blue bag in the lower right corner of the photo.

View from behind the camera

I’ll miss the puppeteer studio when it’s gone. But I won’t miss sweating in that small room on hot days, with the doors closed to keep outside sound out. I won’t miss having to reshoot a scene because a helicopter went overhead, or someone started talking on their phone right outside the door, or the cello class started up unexpectedly, ruining the sound. I won’t miss having a carefully-constructed set suddenly decide to fall over in the middle of filming. I won’t miss spending fifteen minutes trying to level the camera, only to find that somehow, mysteriously, the stage has gone out of level. I won’t miss shooting video on a tight deadline with little margin for error. But… I will miss bringing Sharpie and Possum and the other characters to life.

Webpage with links to all videos, plus “Meet the Stuffies”

Ecojustice Class curriculum now online (finally)

We’ve been teaching Ecojustice Class — a hands-on environmental justice curriculum for gr. 6-8 — since 2014. But much to the frustration of the teachers, there has never been a written curriculum for the class — until now.

Here’s the general curriculum plan for Ecojustice Class. There should be enough material there to fill approximately two dozen sessions over the course of a school year.

However, you won’t find a completely scripted curriculum, because that’s just not possible due to the nature of the program. This is a hands-on curriculum that gets the participants outdoors as much as possible. That means you have to have back-up plans in case weather doesn’t allow you outdoors. And you have to adjust the program to your specific climate and seasons.

I still have a few more successful lesson plans that I haven’t had time to put online yet. So expect minor upgrades to the curriculum over the next few months.

(And thanks to the many talented Ecojustice Class teachers who contributed to the class over the years, including Carol Steinfeld, Francesca Finch, Emma Grant-Bier, Ed Vail, Lorraine Kostka, Buzz Frahn, Mark Erickson, and others. I’m especially grateful to Francesca and Emma, who grew up taking the class and then went on to teach it.)

Thanksgiving with family, pt. 3

In the conclusion to the “Thanksgiving with Family” series, Muds and Possum talk over the Thanksgiving dinners they had with their relatives. For both of them, it didn’t go as badly as they had feared!

As usual, full text is below the fold.

Continue reading “Thanksgiving with family, pt. 3”

Thanksgiving with family, pt. 2

Dr. Sharpie, Rolf, Ms. and Mr. Bear, and Elephant share Thanksgiving dinner together. They wonder how Thanksgiving dinner went for Muds and Possum. Just then, Muds and Possum come home….

As usual, full text is below the fold. Part 3 coming soon.

Continue reading “Thanksgiving with family, pt. 2”

Thanksgiving with family, pt. 1

Muds and Possum are worried about going to visit relatives at Thanksgiving, because of uncomfortable conversations with relatives who have differing opinions about climate change, gender, and religion….

As usual, full text is below the fold. Go to Part 2.

Continue reading “Thanksgiving with family, pt. 1”

Gender-balanced kids’ book of Bible stories

An interesting new children’s book of Bible stories is being funded on Kickstarter. The goal: a kid’s book that’s gender-balanced. Why? Because for the majority of children’s Bible story books, “female characters are vastly underrepresented in both the stories and the illustrations.” The illustrations are also going to show racially diverse characters. Admirable, and I look forward to seeing the book — which sadly won’t be published till 2023.

The old Unitarian Universalist “Timeless Themes” stories, while not completely gender-balanced, had pretty good representation of women. It would be fun to update that with some multi-racial illustrations. And wouldn’t it be nice if we had a UU children’s book of Bible stories that recognizes that God is non-binary gender? Uh huh, that’s what it says in Genesis 1:27: “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Ignore the pronouns (nobody remembers ask ask God what their pronouns are), and it’s pretty clear that all genders are created in God’s image.

COVID games, online curriculum

I just updated the selection of games on my curriculum Web site. In-person games now either have adaptations to make them COVID-safe, or they’re clearly marked “not suitable for COVID.” There’s also a modest selection of field-tested online games for online classes and groups. There are games for all ages from school-aged children up to adults. These games can be used in Sunday school classes, youth groups, adult classes, and other small groups.

Games Web page with COVID-safe games and online games.

We’ve now been teaching my Neighboring Religions curriculum online since March, 2020. This curriculum has transferred extremely well to online teaching. Now I’m writing out the adaptations that we’ve used to make it work so well.

Neighboring Religions curriculum with online adaptations.

If you have any feedback or comments about either the games, or Neighboring Religions, please leave them here.