Freedom to Wonder - York St John University

‘Freedom to Wonder’
Developing Children’s Spirituality: Reflections
on Practice
Heather Black
Accredited Trainer, Godly Play UK
Our Context
 North Ormesby a community close to the centre of
 Population approx. 4,500
 North Ormesby Community Primary School, approx.
200 pupils
 St Alphonsus RC Primary School, approx. 230 pupils
Reflections on
• Five years working with local
community primary school
• Sept 2009/10 a year-long
longitudinal study for MA
Dissertation, Durham University
• Three years of supporting local RC
primary school
• Four years working with local
special needs school
In the beginning….
There was nothing!
Something was created
Key findings
Sowing some seeds
School RE Coordinator
 Wondering
 Respect for others
 Understanding that others
may see things differently
Pilot study with a Year 2
class over two terms
Benefits were seen across
the curriculum
 Inner peace
 Ability to concentrate
 Ability to work
independently and
discover for themselves
The weekly sessions
 Tuesday afternoons for 1.5 hours
 All sessions in Godly Play room at Holy Trinity Church
 Lead by accredited Godly Play leader with support from
class teacher
 Year 2 class, mainly white, almost all have little or no
experience of church or the bible, one or two children
from other faiths each year
The weekly sessions
• Crossing the threshold
• Building the circle
• Sharing the story
• Wondering together
• Freedom to wonder
• Sharing a feast
• Saying goodbye
Creating space to wonder
Creating space to wonder
 “I wish I could live here all the time”
 “I’m not ready to go in yet, can I go to the back and get
ready again?”
 “I love looking out at the garden and watching the
 “I can hear the voice of the Good Shepherd all the time
when I am here.”
You are special
and you are welcome
 The Good Shepherd knows
each of his sheep by name
 Nurturing the call to relate to
ourselves, to others and to
Sharing the story
 The focus is on the story and the ability of the narrative
‘to speak’
 The significance of the artifacts
 The attention of the children
 Sharing the story from the heart
 Which part of the story do
you like the best?
Wondering together
 Which part of the story is
most important?
Four key questions
that help to develop
I wonder……
 Where are you in the
story, or what part of the
story is about you?
 If there is any part of the
story we can leave out
and still have everything
we need?
Wondering together
 I wonder…..
 Creating a space to discover together
 Being attentive to the children in that moment
 Being prepared to go to places you didn’t expect!
 Being comfortable with maybe not knowing
 Wondering becomes a way of being with children
Wondering together
 Making meaning with the
story of the Exile
 The chain is like a prison
 I think a prison can be
anywhere, my dad was in the
army in the Gulf and it was
like that for him
 My grandad has a prison in
his bungalow (grandma had
recently died and now
Granddad was housebound)
Wondering together
 Exploring what is truly
“The pearl of great price is a
home, because if you have ever
not had a home, that is what the
pearl is.”
Wondering together
 I wonder where the joy (of
Easter) comes from?
“I think the happiness of Jesus
being born and the sadness of
Jesus dying is all mixed together
to make the joy of Easter.”
I wonder which of the disciples
was the most important?
“Judas…. because if he hadn’t
betrayed Jesus would Jesus still
have died for us?”
Wondering together
I wonder where the 10 best ways (commandments) are
kept today?
“In our hearts”
“They are kept in love”
Freedom to wonder
 Time, space and resources
to continue wondering
 Freedom to choose their own
The community of the circle
 Sharing a feast
 Learning to listen and respect each other
 A community of grace
 A taste of a spiritual feast
Shared reflections
“For me its giving the children the time and space to
become aware that there is a spiritual dimension to their
Teacher Community Primary School
Shared reflections
“The awe and wonder element is something that reaches
far into other areas, the class keep ‘wondering' all the time
in science.”
Teacher Community Primary School
Shared reflections
“I have learnt more about the children in my class on
Tuesday afternoons than in all the rest of the week”
Teacher Community Primary School
Shared reflections
“I am so looking forward to this school year with the
opportunity to bring the children over to 'Godly play' it
certainly alters the whole dynamics of a class.”
Current Year 2 teacher Community Primary School
Shared reflections
“What I have learnt is that it is OK to not have all the
answers. Godly Play is for the children, they have the
answers inside and can usually explain it a lot better than
I could!”
Teacher RC Primary School
Shared reflections
“The impact on the school has been amazing. Our Ofsted
inspection report commented that ‘what goes on inside
the Godly Play room is remarkable.’”
RE Coordinator RC Primary School
Shared reflections
“We knew the stories because our teachers had taught
them and read them from the bible, but now they are our
Year 6 pupils RC Primary School
With thanks to
 North Ormesby Community Primary School
 St Alphonsus RC Primary School
 Holy Trinity Parish Church, North Ormesby
 Godly Play UK
 The Diocese of York
Diocese of

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