The story of Daniel might be quite familiar to the children. Almost all of their children’s Bibles cover the story and there are many movies and songs about the story. When we know stories well, it can be tempting to think that we know everything there is to know about that story, but ask you students to look more closely. Remind them that important stories (like those they hear in church) are told over and over because they are so important and there is always something more to learn. Challenge them to learn something new about the story and find something out that they might never have imagined. If that is too difficult, remind them to enjoy the story for it’s own sake. This is the wonderful story of God!
Daniel is the story of a person who is faithful to God in spite of how dangerous it is to be so. Daniel challenges the King and the Kings advisors, all of those who do not yet know that God is the only one who ought to be worshipped.
By Anonymous (Chatzidakis. Byzantine Art in Greece) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Hear the Story
You may want to spend a minute or two talking about Daniel’s prayer and fasting (these themes are similar to the Lenten prayer and fasting undertaken by some in the church).
Since we are doing something a bit different for our response time this Sunday, for the story, Let’s focus on the popular bit, Daniel 6, Commonly “Daniel in the Lion’s Den.”
Focus on telling the story well. Try presenting the story without an agenda for what you might want the kids to get out of it (we want to leave their responses as free as possible for the response section below).
Respond to the Story
Periodically, it is good to offer open-ended response opportunities to your students. As adults we often have in mind something that we would like students to get from a particular story, perhaps a moral lesson. While these objectives are often good (and we should definitely seek to work toward them), we can inadvertently assign meaning that we find meaningful, but that our students do not. In other words, open ended exploration helps us ask the question: What do you find meaningful in the story? More importantly, it helps the children recognize that this story belongs to them (though not only to them). If none of the ideas below stand out to you, use the resources on the Hearing and Responding to Stories page to generate ideas, you may also find some simple activities and crafts on the Old Testament story responses on our Pinterest page (You can use this link or click the pinterest logo in the left hand sidebar); I’ll continue to post Daniel crafts there over the next day or so.
Open-ended response: Choose one or two of the response types below, then set up your classroom space. After you share the story, tell your students that they can respond to the story at one of the stations. Allow students to work independently or in small groups with a teacher overseeing smaller groups to help them coordinate, and check in as their work progresses, asking them to share what they are working on with you. Encourage them and help them if they get stuck by asking questions. You may want to ask them about the content by saying something like, “tell me about your picture here.” Keep all of the art at the end of the class so that we can hang them up. The biggest prep for this is the way you tell the story and lay out materials, so think about items that you know are in the supply closet, and how they might encourage open-ended exploration.
1. Body Response: For this station, set out costumes, and objects that represent materials from the story and encourage your students to act out the story together. You might grab a lion costume (I think we still have two) from our Pageant photos. Yellow and red play silks from the nursery would make great lion manes. Cardboard bricks from the supply closet closest to the nursery might make a great pit/den and a pillow could be used to cover the top. A crown from the box of Epiphany materials would be a good crown for King Darius. Different children might be great at playing King Darius, Daniel, lions, or an angel of the Lord. It might be especially helpful to ask them about the different characters in the story and how they reacted–What did Daniel do in response to the decree from the King? What did the King and his advisors want? What about the lions–how did they feel when their mouths were shut?
2. Artistic Response: Provide blank pieces of paper, a variety of materials, and something like paint or colored pencils. Ask them to think about the part of the story that is most important to them. Then, invite students to create an artistic depiction of that part of the story.
3. 3-D Artistic Response: Offer play-doh or modeling clay from the supply closet. Cover the tables with brown craft paper and allow them to work with an image or theme from the story that was important to them. Ask questions and offer a listening ear as they work. Sometimes this activity can invite some unexpected silence and focus from younger groups. You might want to play music from an ipod or laptop in the background while students work.
4. Written Response: For this response, provide writing materials and a couple of prompts to choose from. Encourage students to illustrate their writings. Here are some suggested prompts:
What part of the story is most important and why?
If you could change one or more things about the story, what would it be and why?
If you were asked to tell this story to someone, how would you tell it?
Ask your students to help you clean up the space before snack and closing in prayer.