In increasing numbers students in our schools no longer experience
involvement in the practice of a faith whereby they share an experience
with those who have made an act of commitment. They do not explore
at first hand what it means to be a member of a faith. For them,
the use of materials borrowed from a resource centre can bring
some measure of shared participation through sight, touch, sound
and the written word. Alternatively, for the minority for whom
religious experience is an integral part of their home life, there
is a need for a deepening of that experience through an affirmation
of its worth in a shared exploration with others. Pictures, slides,
tapes and especially artefacts are of increasing importance in
this area of the curriculum. The R.E. Resources Centre must become
an integral part of any school which takes seriously the study
Funds are seldom available for individual classroom collections.
A rich central source, from which a moderate amount of material
can be borrowed, should give teachers confidence, motivation and
inspiration. Ideally, curriculum development and the provision
of resources will take place side by side — but I suspect this
is seldom possible. Therefore, certain questions must be asked.
Should the centre concentrate initially on building up materials
for an exploration of several different faiths, or themes, or
both? Should it concentrate progressively over periods of one
or two years on one area at a time? Should it compromise and select
a few areas for development? Should the resource person concentrate
on a theme within a faith rather than adopt a ‘blanket’ approach
— Jewish festivals, Christian symbolism, the Sikh amrit ceremony,
Muslim pilgrimage, Hindu puja? Or on a ‘blanket’ theme — pilgrimage,
initiation rites, weddings, funerals, buildings, sacred books?
Or on more general themes — people whose lives have highlighted
religious questions and responses, the challenge of suffering,
violent and non-violent action, light, water, beginnings? Or,
should the resource person collect material wherever he or she
finds it, evolve a method of cataloguing, and leave the teacher
to decide how it shall be used? The nature of the material must
also be considered. Should different types of resources be collected
together — slides, film strips, cassette tapes, books, artefacts?
Or should there be a concentration every one or two years on one
particular form of teaching aid? Or should there be a careful
balance between the different kinds of material?
Lastly, should one choose, in each area, a beautiful central
object, worthy of the reflection of deep commitment, together
with a few inexpensive items? Should there be a small collection
of moderately expensive objects? Or should one concentrate on
quantity and the inexpensive? Individual teachers, or teams of
teachers will have their own preferences tailored most meaningfully
to their own situation. My own predilection would be to make an
initial choice of three or four areas, e.g. the Sikh religion,
Muslim pilgrimage, worship in the home, beginnings, the use of
story in R.E. Thus, colleagues would be prompted to consider different
ways of building up material (and possibly to re-think teaching
methods!). Hopefully they would consciously, or unconsciously,
respond by collecting much supportive material for their own use
— or for that of the centre — travel brochures, advertising material,
magazine articles, radio or TV broadcasts that could be taped
— treasure from holidays or the loft! The centre should inspire
personal collections a well as be a supportive loan service, however
impressive. The following comments may be helpful.
1. Artefacts should inspire deeper understanding
and exploration on the part of teacher and student, as they
inform, awake interest, give a feeling of reality and sensitise
to experience. They should help children ask relevant questions
about what it means to be committed, and through their use and
symbolism help them to articulate important questions about
their world, relationships within that world, meaning and purpose.
Artefacts must not merely be shown. They must push teacher and
students steadily along that road we call insight. As objects
they are dumb; as artefacts aiding faith, they speak.
2. Muslim prayer beads not only lead to an
exploration of the concept and value of prayer. What understanding
of God do Muslims capture within The Excellent Names? Select
two or three. How should their recital reflect a believer’s
behaviour? If we were to believe that God is Mercy, Just, Light,
how would our behaviour be affected? List specific examples.
There should be no lack of material for incisive, thought-deepening
3. What does the symbolism of a Hindu statue
tell us about the possible mind-defying description, who creates,
cares for (preservation) and controls our changing lives (destruction)
as in the Trimurti? How should people live their lives if they
believe God created them, their world and wants to help them
4. What does the Christian baptismal candle
tell us of the power we each have to be lights in a dark world:
what does the Paschal candle, placed beside a Christian coffin,
tell us of the possible power of love over evil, life over death?
5. Artefacts should be part of a chain of
illustrative materials. The Passover plate leads to a discussion
of the meaning (or non-meaning) of suffering when used at the
seder with the Haggadah, the spilling of drops of wine and the
story of God rebuking the angels who rejoice over the Egyp-
tians suffering . . . a retelling of the Passover in the Warsaw
sewers in Leon Uris’ Mila 18, a record of children singing Passover
songs, an exploration of a Holocaust Haggadah — a discussion
of forgiveness, justice, revenge.
6. Reproductions of many objects can be made
by the resources person, colleagues, and of course, the students.
There is very little which could cause offence, although of
course, you will not make a statue of Mohammed! Judaism is especially
rich here, as there are so many excellent books provided for
Jewish children for exactly this purpose (e.g. Jewish Holiday
Crafts by Joyce Becker, pub. Bonim 1977). Apart from models
of synagogues, reasonably able fingers can produce scrolls,
phylacteries, mezuzahs, tallits, passover plates, miniature
succahs, festival cards, Hanukah menorahs, etc. — even a ram’s
horn can be produced.
Festival cards, wedding garlands, candles, prayer beads, prayer
mats, models of buildings, puja trays, are all helpful provided
they open doors and are not ends in themselves. Students themselves
can produce many charts to help teach others — a sequence of
pictures showing how a Muslim washes before prayer, or illustrating
a creation myth; photographs taken by the family of a wedding
or festival; a set of slides related to the symbolism of the
7. Cut up film strips into slides and assemble
them into themes. Strips are usually far too long for effective
use in a 30-minute lesson. If carefully chosen, eight film strips
can produce twenty sets of slides when thematically re-arranged,
e.g. Muslim pilgrimage, hands, the child in the Christian church.
8. Perceptive, forward looking booklets, or
work-cards, will help colleagues and students to move away from
the descriptive ‘Here are people praying’ to ‘What can be learned
from the symbolism of the action in its relationship to commitment?’
9. Sheets of card are expensive but are well
worth the outlay. Holiday postcards rare a treasure! Pictures
are given authority by firm mounting and become much more effective
as a vehicle for shared experience and understanding.
10. Try and produce edited cassettes for thematic
purposes (very time consuming but very valuable). Long tapes
may be of great value as background to colleagues, but students
usually want sharp, short extracts. The involvement of others
in individual assignments could lead to a more involved use
of the Centre as a whole.
11. Some resources are very expensive — e.g.
video tapes — yet very important. If four or five schools could
collaborate, and each contribute to a particular topic, a simple
exchange system could be evolved. Such an exchange system might
be used, if conditions were favourable, for many other resource
12. Invest in one or two expensive glossy
books. So much can be gleaned, e.g. by studying faces in good
For specific help, consult your local R.E. Centre or R.E. Adviser.
- A small icon or pictures from a calendar individually mounted,
- Candles — for advent, Christmas, Easter (especially the Orthodox
Easter), funerals, weddings, baptisms, daily prayer.
- Chalice and patten — a simple pottery goblet and plate will
suffice; also small individual glasses.
- A packet of Eucharist wafers
- Confirmation presents; prayer book, Bible, cross and chain.
- Cards with ‘teaching’ pictures and words for feasts and family
- Sticker badges — ‘Jesus Saves’, ‘I Love You’, ‘Why Hate Me’,
‘It’s Good to be Alive’, ‘Peace’. A tambourine.
- Small shrine figures: Krisna as cowherd or with Radha.
- Saraswati, Ganesh, the Trimurti — God as creator, Preserver,
- The Puja tray with dishes, incence holder, bell, lamp, wedding
- Divali lamps.
- Cards for communal and family festivals. A decorated elephant.
- Prayer carpet — try to find one with a mihrab motif upon which
one stands and a picture of Makkah etc.
- A Qur’an stand.
- A small, carefully wrapped copy of the Qur’an (If this is
unacceptable to your local community, use a book Of Qur’anic
sayings or stories from the Hadith).
- A compass which can be fixed to point to Makkah.
- Prayer beads.
- A tape of a call to prayer.
- Two pieces of white towelling for pilgrimage dress.
- Calligraphic wall hangings.
- Chart of the Excellent Names of Allah.
- A capel (skull cap)
- A boy’s tallit (prayer shawl)
- A small Torah scroll
- Two candlesticks for Shabbat
- A wine cup/glass for Shabbat and Passover
- A braided Havdalah candle
- A mezzuzah, not containing the scroll
- A Passover plate
- A packet of Matzos.
- Let the children make their own Hanukah menorah
- Family and festival cards.
- A small statue of Guru Nanak
- A small statue of Guru Gobind Singh
- A photograph of the Golden Temple of Amritsar
- A rommala — any bright, attractive piece of material is appropriate
- A length of turban material
- A comb, bracelet and dagger (3 of the 5 K’s)
- Festival cards
- Small statues of the Buddha in various symbolic positions
- A lotus flower (from paper craft)
May the list inspire another — and better — list for your classroom.