Tuesday, December 29, 2009

St. Mary Church Religious Education Program - Bristol, PA

Bethlehem Graffiti

As part of the parish St. Nicholas Celebration, four students enrolled in St. Mary Church Religious Education Program participated in a unique lesson. They built a gingerbread inn, decorated it, and “graffiti-ed” it. The sign outside the Bethlehem inn read “NO ROOM.” The students’ homework assignment was to cross out the unhappy message and write their own, “more inviting” message. The students had ample time to ponder the assignment as they were told of it on the Sunday before Thanksgiving and the celebration was four weeks later.

“We were very excited about this project,” admitted Mary a fifth grade student who is home schooled. “Grace and I built the gingerbread house the night before at home, then brought it to the church hall for everyone to decorate.”

Mary’s sister, Grace, a seventh grade home schooled student, added, “most of the class brought the words of their signs to class a week early. I think we wanted to see Pete’s reaction, but he tricked us. Pete was not going to be the judge.”

Religious Education coordinator and Catechist, Pete Letenauchyn enlisted three highly qualified parishioners to judge the contest. Linda Buchannan is a member of the Parish Advisory Council, Scott Saunders, Jr. is public school teacher, as well as one of the first students to go through the religion program fifteen years ago, and Joan Kravchak is the president of the League of the Sacred Heart and a member of the Parish Advisory Council.

“Judging this contest was difficult. Each of the students made clever signs”, said Ms. Buchannan afterward. “Pete gave us a tough job, but provided distinct criteria for judging the contest.”

Ms. Kravchak explained, “We took our judging responsibilities very seriously. This contest was very serious for the participants. The kids tried to do their best work. The prize was the right to take the gingerbread inn home and bragging rights.

“The rules sheet said that entries were to be judged on originality, message, and neatness. Eventually, that meant that my favorite was not as good as the winner,” said Mr. Saunders. “Nick made a great sign. It was certainly original; however, it did not contain the message about welcoming Jesus that the others had.”

Nick is a homeschooled eleventh grade student. He literally put the icing on the cake and never complains when asked by practically everyone to help at St. Mary Church. Nick’s sign added modern, practical information: “Free Continental Breakfast and WIFI.”

Kaitlyn, who is a fifth grade student at St. Martha Catholic Elementary School in Northeast Philadelphia, made the winning sign. It read, “NO ROOM … for Jesus at the inn, … yet he welcomes us inn.”

“Yes, I am happy that I won,” said Kaite. When asked if she thought she would win she replied, “I hoped I would win, but I did not think I would (win). The other students are smart. Nick and Grace are older, too.”

“This contest was not just about skill at writing slogans,” observed the teacher behind the contest. “It’s about the message which is written on our hearts.”
(click on pictures to enlarge)

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