PMR - Vacation Church School

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Fr. George:
See: "An experiment - Parish Ministry Resource threads" for more info - http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,15087.0.html

I'm interested in hearing what kinds of VCS programs the various parishes run - not only for new ideas for our Akron-area VCS, but also to see how these programs and concepts can be more integrated into the year (rather than being merely an intensive course over the summer).

What would be great to include:

1. Theme / Title
2. Day-by-day breakdown
3. Parts of the program (i.e. class, music, activities) that are fully integrated into the curriculum.
4. Additional notes (e.g. "they loved the whole program," or "this worked better with younger kids than with the older ones.")

LizaSymonenko:

We held our VCS for one week straight, June 22 - 26.  Kids were just out of school, so still in the "school" frame of mind, and families had not yet left for vacation.
Class went from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  This way the parents could just drop the kids off and go to work, etc.

The VCS curriculum rests solely on me.  I do not follow any "packaged" class, such as the alligator, etc. that I have seen advertised.  I make my own materials.  I am honestly a stickler for Orthodoxy, and wouldn't want to use a prepackaged "class"

I had children ages 3 - 15 (15 total).

Theme:  Fishers of Men.

The kids were all given bags, hats and sunglasses to match.

I actually made a 100 page booklet and had it spiral bound for the kids.

My goal was to teach the kids good ethics and morals.  Being "Fishers of Men" does not only include preaching, but, living a good Christian life.  Being an example for others.  I stressed that they teach by example.  Do good, be good, stick up for those who are wronged, etc.  By being examples of good Christians, by supporting someone in need, by helping the helpless, they just might turn that individual to Christ.

Since it was just me and the kids, I didn't really have to stick to any set time table.  I simply had the materials I needed to cover and if we were reading, and it was going well, then instead of just 45 minutes, we go at it for a full hour.  Therefore, I can't give you a precise breakdown.

As close as I can remember:

Monday:

•   Opening prayer
•   Classroom studies - Review the 10 Commandments.  Each child had to read one.  Since they seem "old" in a sense - Old Testament, I made sure I wrote out current life examples for them.  Situations the kids might find themselves in daily, that pertain to the
•   Commandment, and how they need to react and act in such cases.
•   Recess - I had purchases (Oriental Trader) many simple games.  First day was these little plastic disk shooters.  However, they never shot straight, and were too hard for the three year old.  However, the kids still had fun outside.
•   Craft - sticking with the "FISH" theme, the kids had fish crafts.  First one was a 3-D fish mobile and decorating a fish bag to keep.
•   Lunch (packed from home)
•   Kitchen duty - kids LOVE to cook.  Had about 5 stations.  Made chocolate chip cookies.
•   Clean up
•   Craft - scratch fishy craft, where they scratch off the black layer and reveal the colors beneath.

Tuesday:

•   Prayer
•   Classroom - continuing with the 10 Commandments
•   Recess - this time they played with plastic propellers on a stick.  You twist them between your hands and let them go.  They fly high and far.  Way more fun than the disks had been.
•   Craft - little fishing rods
•   Lunch
•   No kitchen duty because the kids had made a mess in the restrooms, and I made them mop the floors and wash the mirrors, and no kitchen fun today.
•   Craft - only for those not busy swabbing the decks, was another scratch art - fishbowl.
•   Craft - fish magnets

Wednesday:

•   Prayer
•   Classroom - review the 10 Commandments and begin on Proverbs.  I had copied out some of the Proverbs which gave strong moral messages.  Each child read a page and this was followed by discussion.  They had examples in their books and had to choose the correct "path".  Proverbs are great.  I, myself, learned so much in preparing for class.
•   Craft - day 1 of drawing icons on glass.  A week prior to VBS, I had attended a class given by a Romanian priest on drawing icons on glass.  Perfect timing.  I had gone to the dollar store and purchased certificate frames, which come with glass.  I made "backwards" copies of line drawn icons for the kids.  The first day they put the glass over the drawing and traced the image with a permanent marker.
•   Skit writing - I split the kids in to groups.  Each had to write about a scenario in which they would be a good "Fisher" of men.  The kids actually had a blast doing this.  I had been worried they would not be "into" writing stories, but, they had great fun.  They laughed and giggled and wrote and wrote.  Then they made props, etc.  This was one amazing activity.
•   Lunch
•   Kitchen duty - cupcakes.  The kids got to make cupcakes and then frost them.
•   Recess - the temps were in the mid 90's and I asked the kids to bring a change of clothes.
We set up a slip and slide, sprinkler, water pistols and water balloons.  The kids shrieked and had fun for over an hour.
•   Ice cream truck came by.  Amazing how much kids enjoy ice cream from an ice cream truck!  Best $25 I ever spent!
Clean up.  Had to help the kids get changed, then mop the floors.  There were little wet footprints everywhere!

Thursday:

•   Prayer
•   Classroom - continue with Proverbs and workbook.
•   Recess - just ran around outside with their propellers.
•   Classroom - continuing with the "fish" theme, we learned about Michigan fish and how to identify them.  I taught them how to rig their rods, how to set their bate, and how to reel in the big one.  They learned how to tie knots and where the best spots for fishing were.
•   Lunch
•   Review skits on stage - rehearsal.  They actually did great.  I think I might have a few thespians in the bunch.
•   Craft - continued with the icons.  Today they began painting.  They have to work "backwards".  In other words, they had to fill in the whites of the eyes, the lips, any shading, or highlighting, before they put in the background colors.

Friday:

•   Prayer
•   Kitchen duty - brought in a freshly caught fish and taught the kids how to clean it.  Scales, gutting, filleting.  Preparing to cook.
•   Classroom - reviewed 10 Commandments and Proverbs. 
•   Classroom - continued with the end of the book where I had printed a number of pages of "fish" jokes.  What's the most expensive fish?  Gold fish.  Why did the salmon cross the road?  Because the chicken was on vacation.  What did the boy octopus say to the girl octopus?  I want to hold your hand, hand, hand, hand....
•   Craft - more scratch art (which they LOVE and is easy on me), Slap bracelets - the kind that lie flat until they are put on a wrist, and then they curl.  Fish bags and mobile.
•   Lunch
•   Kitchen duty - made brownies, cooked the fish, plus more for "luncheon" for parents on last day of class.  I have the kids put on a "program" for their parents, who have been asked to come an hour early to pick up the kids.  The parents were served the fish, fish sandwiches, sussi, brownies, salad, chips, etc.  Plus a lemonade fountain.  VBS fell during the Apostles Fast, so this worked out perfectly.
•   Recess - more water games, slip and slide, etc.
•   Clean up
•   Craft - finish the icons.
•   Parents showed up
•   Program - the curtains were drawn and each set of kids made a big deal of acting out their skits, while the parents sat in front of the stage, munching on sandwiches and brownies.
When the skits were over, the kids all got on stage and read all the fish jokes - to the parents' great amusement.
•   On schedule the ice cream truck arrived and the kids again squealed with joy!

That was it.  I was left to clean up what mess was left.  I think it was a success.  The parents seemed happy and the kids were overjoyed.
The 3 year old didn't get much out of the class, and I tried to set the youngest age at 6, however, he was no real trouble.
Favorite games - propeller
Crafts - scratch art, slap bracelets and the icons.
Activity - besides the water games and ice cream truck was the skits.  The kids LOVED doing skits.

Hope this helps.
Let me know if you would be interested in any of my materials.

Liza



Fr. George:
Liza, that's great.  Anything you would want to share with the board is welcome (including any past years' themes/materials).

LizaSymonenko:

This was only my second year.  It went way smoother than the first year.
However, the first year did show me which crafts the kids found "fun"...which is why I focused on scratch art and slap bracelets.

The first year, our theme was the Theotokos.  Our parish is St. Mary the Protectress, and as such, I thought it important for the kids to get a good understanding of who she is and why she is due such honor.

I can't give you class break up for that...too long ago.

However, I still have the documents I printed off for the kids.  Mostly it was about the life of the Virgin, prayers, and then discussion on various icons styles of the Theotokos and what they mean.

If interested I would be more than happy to provide the documents.  Not sure how to do that, though.

Fr. George:
Don't worry about the documents.  If people would like them, they now know you have them, and will PM you if they need them.

Our Akron-area Orthodox VCS's theme is the Theotokos, but we're using an existing curriculum for it.  I don't have the info close to me, though, so I don't have any more details at the moment.

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