I have now presented the Plan of God, I don't KNOW how many times just this year alone (ok, yes I do know). And I have at least one more official first-presentation coming up in December when two children return to a level 3 atrium after a several-week hiatus.
This has been an interesting experience. In the past, I have had time to present a series to one set of children - going through various moments with them; before having the opportunity to go back and begin again. So just working with one group of children, in sequence --- then a few months later starting with another group or multiple groups.
Due to space constraints, this last month represents the first time I have actually presented the Plan of God to *children*. I have summarized the booklet for children, provided images and connections; and done all the work with adults who are trained at level 1 and 2, and spend most of their lives in the atrium ;)
The experience this time around is distinctly different: having presented the Plan of God at least 6 times over the course of the last 3 weeks has not provided the same reflection as my previous experiences would have provided. Now I am presenting to children "for the first time" several times quickly in succession. I have had two children come back for a repeat presentation when I invited "all the 5th graders and anyone who who would like the presentation again" (a 4th grader and a 6th grader came as well).
How has it been different? I have made changes, tweaks, noted the different responses and highlights in more striking comparison. I have had instant feedback on varying the presentation for the children in front of me, versus establishing a pattern that may or may not work with other children. My very first group this year were VERY interested in studying the various civilizations right away, with two children delving into research into Hammurabi's Code - other groups not so much. Another group was much more interested in exploring the timing, cause and outcomes of particular wars as they were represented on the timeline, seeming to represent particular clashes between particular civilizations.
Otherwise, it was more sub-groups within each group: instant and intense interest in the Sacraments. Well, what about this Parousia business? What more does the Bible tell us about it? (we have a work for that!)
Another group was more than ready to begin typology when they began to consider how each event or image on the timeline affected their lives TODAY and how it will be fulfilled at Parousia. We discussed that in order to understand these "clues" to delve more fully into the "mystery" of the Kingdom of God, we need to understand how things were understood in their historical context, then consider what meaning or teaching it has for us today, as well as into the future.
All the children commented on how simple and yet so complex the Plan of God really is.
Many of the children have followed up by working with the mute strip, exploring the possibilities of placements, comparing to the control and discovering that there is more than one right answer -- that just because their answer didn't match the control, there is still something more to be discovered, sometimes about one's own self. "Why did I place this particular item here, when it is so OBVIOUS it belongs in this other place? What was I thinking? (in a positive sense) What is then also revealed to me by placing it in matching spot to the control chart?"
And I have had the experience of working with two versions of the Plan of God. In the straight-level-3 atrium, the Plan of God contains year numbers starting with 3000 BC to emphasize that we don't precise dates before that. We have some evidence that makes suggestions, but the scientific understanding of these dates continues to be developed and we just don't KNOW with certainty - it is an area we can explore, but it is not an area we will give answers to in the atrium itself, because these are NOT matters of faith.
In the combined levels 2-3 atrium, we have a Plan of God material that does contain dates going back about 10,000 years I believe? I will have to double-check those dates. I still brought out the same ideas to the children about "This is an estimate and only at about 3,000 BC do we have very strong definitive evidence to more precisely pinpoint ages."
The first Plan of God has the stole for Holy Orders, while the second Plan of God has the studded cross. There are other minor differences, that make for thought-provokers in my presentations and in my own heart. I am learning (struggling) to not hold SO dear to my "one way" of doing things and embrace more than one way! I preach this, but sometimes, it is very hard to practice ;) For some reason, I find it so easy to accept the children's adaptations - to "follow the child". I can present the "keys" and allow for the child to unlock the doors and flesh out their presentations. But when it comes to using someone else's materials in someone else's space, it is so hard to adjust. I have COMPLETE RESPECT for any and all differences - it is just that almost every time, I think I have checked it for differences ahead of time so I am prepared, yet I am almost always thrown off in the middle when I realize there is something I missed ;)
The children in that atrium, I think have become very used to me saying, "Oh, look at this! This is new for me!" and "Oooh - this is interesting - let me explore it a bit more before we continue our conversation!" and "Ooh! let me take a look at this and we'll come back to it later!" --- and the most prevalent one: "Let's just explore this work together and see what is here!"
It is really fun to do it this way! It can be a bit physically and mentally draining, but spiritually I feel so enriched when I just explore WITH the children - and learn it right along with them!
But back to the order of presentations... I wonder how it will go this year. Will I be able to keep track of interest-groups as I have been able to do in the past? Typically, once I have gone through an entire sequence once or twice, I can keep everything organized in my mind; but it takes that first time or two through to get the framework in place on which to hang the interest-group tags.
I wonder. Or will I have to trust more? Trust the children. Trust the Holy Spirit.