Fifteen adults (consisting of Directors of Religious Education, Sunday School teachers, parents, and members) and ten children gathered in Stony Point this past November for the annual American Ethical Union Religious Education Fall Conference and Family Weekend. Participants came from six societies (Bergen, Brooklyn, Chicago, Northern Westchester, St. Louis, and Westchester). The weather and the children were terrific.
Our weekend was preceded by enticing teasers and assignments created by Trish Cowan of the St. Louis Society. We were invited to begin talking about the topic and trying some activities out at home before the weekend even began. The conversation started on our listserve. If you would like to join our listserve, send me an email at aneumann.aeu[at]gmail.com.
We started the weekend with a delicious meal and our inclusive inter-generational ice breakers, led by Alan Berger of the Rockland Society. We enjoyed some old-time favorites like lining up in various orders (height, alphabetical, age), save the Earth, cooperative musical, and the human knot. Alan also brought many multicultural instruments, and we all participated in a drum circle, "Listening" and "Communicating" without words.
Our main program was based on the book How To Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. Trish Cowan and I led our session using a combination of video, worksheets, and discussion.
Our first session was "Dealing with Children's Feelings and Engaging Cooperation." Concurrently, Nicky Pierce from the Northern Westchester Society and Otis Cotton from the Brooklyn Society led the children in engaging activities. We gathered four our inter-generational scavenger hunt and lunch before our second session, "Alternatives to Punishment and Engaging Cooperation." The third session was "New Ways to Praise and Freeing Children from Playing Roles."
Our final hour was spent with our DRE/Teacher/Parent exchange where individuals asked general or specific questions, shared what is working at their societies, and delved into deeper problem solving together.
Our talent show included juggling, piano, a puppet show, and more! Sunday concluded our weekend with our colloquy, closing, and a special platform led by Diane Kirschner. Diane has participated in many Non-Violent Communication activities. She was able to introduce the idea to us and relate it to our work from the previous sessions.
We had a great time, learned a lot, and were energized for another year shaping the minds of the next generation of Ethical leaders. We hope you will join us November 2–4, 2012 at the same location for a fabulous weekend. Thank you to the AEU for its continued support of religious education!