Thursday, January 31

A Playful Story: Water Into Wine

I mentioned before that we are working our way through the first book of Telling God's Story
by Peter Enns.  It has been slow going as I keep pausing to follow the church year.  But, all the same we are making our way though and in December we read the story of Jesus turning water into wine.  One thing that I like about this curriculum is that it lets the words of scripture tell the story, just adding an intro and then some thoughts after.  Don't get me wrong, I love the careful storytelling of Godly Play and certain children's Bibles, I just love having both!

The way I presented the story brought up an interesting developmental question in our home.  I read the scriptures aloud with the boys about water turning into wine.  As I read, I poured water from a clear glass into a tall mug (that had an inch of grape juice at the bottom that they could not see.)  And then I poured the new mixture back into the clear glass.  Now, I want to point out that the intent was never to trick the boys or to make them think that I was turning water into wine, but simply to have something visual to encounter as we read the story.  It was beautiful watching the clear stream of water fall and then watching the ruby-colored 'wine' return to the glass.

After we finished reading the scripture and lesson, I did the illustration again and showed them how I did it (just to be clear that I was not turning water into wine).  Jonah (6.5) really enjoyed it, understood that I was just creating a picture to help illustrate the story, and found it interesting.  But Rowan (3) just asked me the other day (a month later) if I remembered when I made water into wine.  I asked him if he remembered the story and he did remember quite a bit.  I reminded him how I made the water look like wine and how Jesus really turned water into wine.  This has really made me think.  I could have told you that developmentally Rowan isn't ready for this sort of symbolic gesture and really had it more in my mind for Jonah (it is part of his curriculum after all).  It made me wonder if I wished I hadn't done it with Rowan present.  In the end, I don't regret doing it as I'm sure it will all be clear for Rowan eventually.  But, it has certainly made me ask if I would do it again and if so, in what setting.  In a classroom I would certainly hold off on this illustration until children were old enough to understand it as a symbol.  But, in a multi-age setting, I think there is a place to work with the older children's symbolic understanding (always being clear that it is just a symbol) and know that the younger children will sort it out later.  At least, thats what I think right now...

I'd love to know if anyone else has thoughts on this.  I certainly think this isn't a single answer sort of question.

We have a table here with a single drawer that I have godly play figures in and I've been attempting to have a story set up for the boys to play with occasionally... though the pieces are often removed rather quickly for other play.  

Wow, these pictures really show how smudged well-loved our little peg people are these days.  For this story I bought six dowel caps and painted them grey to be the six stone wine jars.  Small blocks made tables with some little wooden bowls for the wedding feast.


Storyteller said...

Thank you for sharing your experience, and some of the pros and cons you see about this "trick". I once overheard someone gleefully talking about doing this for a children's sermon at church and I was horrified. It was not clear to me whether she had explained to the children how she'd done it and/or made clear that in the Gospel story it is NOT merely a clever trick. I appreciate your explanation of what a beautiful visual it makes, but I'm still very wary about this illustration.

Laura Wingard-Plank said...

I think that your visual illustration is so very clever but yes, I think I would use it in a different context (my thoughts after you explained Rowan's memory of it). Would be fun to use as an illusion when telling a fairy story or other imaginative play (I can't think of what fairy story has changing liquids offhand, though) What an interesting dilemma! Your peg people are adorable! Have you tried varnishing or somehow sealing your peg people before play? Just curious, although there is something special about well-worn-looking toys. We certainly have a lot of wooden toys with chipped paint--especially their wooden cupcakes and the trains! I'm wondering if I should apply protective coatings before I even give the toys to the girls.

Watkins said...

I think you are quite right to be wary. It was beautiful and awe inspiring though - I was really moved by it and I think it worked in Jonah similarly. I would certainly never do it without a full explanation (maybe even before hand) and I think that age is crucial on this one.

I haven't varnished our peg dolls, but did recently buy some varnish for any new ones we make. I think it would be a good thing to try.

Storyteller said...

Thanks for the reply! I did appreciate reading what you thought the benefits of this visual were - it's helpful to know how awe-inspiring you yourself found it as well. I love it when bloggers are able to be honest about what does and doesn't work for them, even when it's a mixed report. I would hate to inhibit your sharing so I hope my original comment didn't sound too negative. God bless <3

Storyteller said...
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