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Director of Religious Education Board Reports

April 2017

This year, we have 91 students enrolled in the RE Program. This is a 14% increase from last year. The last time we reached this number was in 2012 and before that, 2005. In total, our Religious Education Program is represented by 46 families. Our average attendance is 38 students—a 19% increase from last year.

The RE Committee and I understand how busy you all are and we are so pleased that you choose to spend your Sunday mornings with us. Our volunteers strive to present classes your children will enjoy. The RE Committee strives to make sure your children learn something new about our faith each week. We want our students to feel like the RE Wing is a second home.

We have 30 volunteers this year, a pool of 13 substitutes, 6 Coming of Age mentors, and at least half a dozen congregants who have volunteered at different points throughout the year. Truly, we are lucky to have a group who cares so deeply about religious education.

RE Committee

This year’s RE Committee consisted of Candace Crew (Chair), Brenna Kupferman, Susan Lang, Nikki Zander, and Alison Rainey. Together, we planned and orchestrated: Sunday Sundae, the Halloween Party, Intergenerational Day, the RE Service, the Easter Party, Social Justice Activities, and Culture Camp. We are having our spring retreat next week and we will be joined by two new members: Jim Stewart and Sara Stees. This is a talented group! I’m so thankful for everyone’s support and I know we will have even more success in the future.

Bullying Workshop Sleepover

MJ Price assisted me in the planning and hosting of the Bullying Workshop Sleepover with 13 middle and high school students. We watched a documentary-like movie called, “A Girl Like Her,” in which a high school bullying victim begins secretly recording the incidents and all who are involved change after a tragic incident.

After the movie, we had a discussion, acted out ways of coping with bullying scenarios, played a round of bullying jeopardy, and watched “How to Eat Fried Worms” (a lighter movie about bullying). The event was well received and next year, we will host a similar event for elementary aged students.

Chris Tabone, Assistant State’s Attorney for Harford County, graciously answered some legal questions I had about “A Girl Like Her.” After the workshop, I emailed his explanations to the parents. Both parents and children received a lot of information from the workshop. All in all, it was a successful event. I learned a lot about how bullying is handled in the school system, how to write a proper jeopardy question, how to improve the next workshop, how to create one for elementary age students, but most importantly, how bright and resilient your children are. It’s clear they are the product of loving families and I’m honored to know them.

Coming of Age

Every four years, our Youth participate in the Coming of Age program. While the program was developed by the UUA, the curriculum we use for this program was designed by former UUFHC DRE, Lisa Chenoweth. With this year-long curriculum, the Youth study Unitarian Universalism and learn to articulate their own beliefs by developing their own credo.

Our high school students spent the year reading, writing, and volunteering, organizing, fundraising, working with mentors, and having fun. They went on a heritage trip to Boston during spring break. Kim and Rod Bourn, Tammy Gappen, and Diane Ditrick chaperoned the trip. The Browns and the McCarthies provided the minivans. On their trip, they went on a tour of the UUA, Arlington St. Church, King’s Chapel, the Black Heritage Trail, the Salem Witch Museum, and Walden Pond. We will hear about their adventures during next week’s COA service, so please be sure to join us!

Social Justice

This past summer’s social justice focus was Project Nurses. We were visited by Nurse Laura, Pre-Op/PACU nurse from Johns Hopkins. She told us all about the important work nurses do and then we spent the next few weeks collecting crazy socks, decorating pens, and making cards to thank the nurses of Johns Hopkins. Nurse Laura returned at the end of the summer program to collect the gifts and cards. The children were proud of their efforts and are learning that it is possible for them to make a difference in the world.

Culture Camp

For one week in July, the kids learned all about a different country each day. They learned all about what it is like to grow up in another culture: food, games, school, holidays, celebrations, and traditions were explored. We had a different guest every day—someone who grew up in the country they were studying. We were all fascinated and learned so much while having a terrific time. This year’s camp will run from 9:00am-12:00pm, July 24 through July 28. We currently have 11 students signed up—10 of the 11 are from outside this congregation. People are hearing about our amazing camp and they want their children to be a part of it. Please don’t forget to register!

Training

This past year, I attended two Renaissance Modules (DRE training courses). I also took a semester-long course through the UU Institute called Healthy Leadership 101. I also spent the weekend in Columbia to participate in training for elementary school level OWL (comprehensive sexuality education).

Parent Support Group

For the past three years, we’ve been meeting once a month for a family meal and then a discussion while the kids play and watch a movie in the RE Wing. Our regular attendance is up to 10 families. We meet the second Friday of each month, so please consider joining us.

New Initiatives

I am working to make our program more inclusive for children with special needs. This is a challenge, but I am gradually finding resources. The RE Committee created the UUFHC Family Page on Facebook and it has been quite popular.

Over the summer, we will create a contemplation space in the RE Library for children who need a place to center themselves.

Assets

I continue to learn our congregation’s history and strive to meet its aims for the future.

To continue to improve my skills, I have made use of the free webinars through the Central East Regional Group and uua.org. Other educational sources have included books and university courses on audible.com, podcasts, and blogs. YouTube provides an incredible amount of information as well.

Peer Support

It is still a struggle, out here in Harford County, to meet with other DREs. I have met several times with the DREs from Wilmington, Towson, Columbia, and Cedarhurst. They’re all more experienced than me, so it’s a great opportunity for me to ask them many questions. I’ve also been enjoying the Unitarian Universalist Religious Educators page on Facebook.

Summer

This summer, we’ll have more fun classes for the kids, including another social justice activity. I plan on reading a bunch of those wonderful books that are on the shelves of my office. I will also run Culture Camp. I’ll map out next year’s program, and organize the OWL curricula for fall. If you are interested in being part of the RE Program as a volunteer, please don’t hesitate to contact me. The RE Committee and I are always on the lookout for people willing to share their talents with the students of the RE Program. We have a great time back here in the RE Wing and I can’t wait for you to join us.

Thank You

Thank you to Rev. Carol, the Board, our secretary, Karen Kurrle, the RE Committee, the DRE Relations Committee, all the many volunteers, the children who brighten every Sunday, and the rest of the congregation. You all make me love my work. The RE Program is growing and flourishing and I know it’s because UUFHC is a very special place. Next year is going to bring more change, which can be scary, but we are strong and we are together. I have no doubt that we will experience more joy and success. I am happy to be on this journey with you.

March 2017

We held the first Bullying Workshop Sleepover from February 25 through February 26. MJ Price assisted in the planning and execution of the event. We began with an ice breaker activity, since we had several newer teens in attendance. Then we settled in to watch “A Girl Like Her,” a documentary-style movie on a high school bullying incident. The students and parents who stayed for the movie were truly engaged in the film. After the movie, the parents left with a complementary book, “The Ultimate Anti-Bullying Solutions Guide: The Sure Fire Way to Stop Bullying Now!” by Anita Telle. MJ and I gathered the students to discuss the film, then we broke into groups to act out solutions to different situations, and then we played a round of Bullying Jeopardy, which I created for free using jeopardylabs.com. Next, we watched “How to Eat Fried Worms,” a light-hearted movie about bullying. Throughout the evening, we had snacks, some healthy, some not, but all appreciated by the teens. Three parents graciously volunteered as chaperones for the sleepover portion. A few days later, I sent more information to the parents regarding the legal questions raised by the film. It was a highly successful event with 13 teens in attendance. We hope to hold an elementary age bullying workshop next year.

The RE Committee had its monthly meeting on March 5. We discussed making tie dye t-shirts for the Serendipity Auction, the Easter Party, the RE Committee retreat, the JYG sleepover, the Glow in the Dark Party for Pre-K through 5th Grade (with a sleepover for 3rd-5th Grade), Culture Camp, and the summer social justice program. We also have one new member who will join us for the RE Committee retreat.

Parent Support Group met on March 10 with some newcomers! There were two sitters, 12 parents, and 14 children. We had excellent conversation and food as we built our UU community.

On March 12, we had the Pot Luck Sunday Trifecta: Children’s Worship, JYG, and the COA Meeting with Mentors. In Children’s Worship, we talked about migratory songbirds and how we can help them. We made bird feeders and decorated the RE Wing bulletin board in their honor. JYG and Youth students made over 100 tie dye t-shirts in a little over an hour. The shirts will be displayed and available for purchase on March 26. The COA meeting centered on shaping the COA Service scheduled for April 30.

The COA students, parents, and advisors met before the COA mentor meeting to discuss the trip finances. We are on target and have enough money to finance the trip, which runs April 13-17.

As always, I am listening to podcasts and reading to further my education.

November 2016

On October 30, we had our annual Halloween Party. We had an attendance of 35 students plus 12 adults. The students rotated from classroom to classroom learning about Halloween, Samhain, and Dia de los Muertos. The Youth created a Star Wars Cantina instead of a haunted house. This encouraged more participation among the younger children and I am thankful to the Youth for trying something new and creating a more welcoming environment.

Chalice Making Night was November 4. 27 congregants were in attendance. We had music, a pot luck, and lots of creativity.

The RE Committee had its monthly meeting on November 6. We planned Intergen Day, discussed the RE Service, debriefed the Halloween Party and Chalice Making Night. We clearly have a lot in the works.

Parent Support Group was on November 11. We had 21 people in attendance plus two sitters. We spent a somber evening together discussing post-election feelings. We talked about how to move forward. It was good to be together.

Children’s Worship on November 13. We spent the class rehearsing for the RE Service. Members of the UUFHC House Band joined us to run through the music. Fun fact: the kids love all the songs except for “Stand by Me.” I think we can change their minds, given time. We rehearsed the skit for the first time and hilarity ensued.

JYG met on November 13. The students worked on their speeches for the RE Service. Ten students will speak as the sermon on Sunday. You already know we have bright and talented students here, but you are going to be even more impressed after the service.

Our COA teens met with mentors on November 13. They discussed the heritage trip in April and fund raising events and opportunities. They are offering a Holiday Fun Night on December 16 from 6:00pm until 10:00pm. It’s a night for parents to drop off their children and for kids to have a blast with the Youth. So far, we only have two children signed up. Please keep the event in mind when speaking to families. An announcement is forthcoming.

Several RE students have joined the House Band for the RE Service. They have met for rehearsals on both November 18 and 25. They are having a great time and we’re hoping there will be more opportunities in the future for them to be a part of the music community here at UUFHC.

On November 20, we rehearsed for the RE Service. The music went well, but the skit is still an adventure. I will be recruiting volunteers to wrangle children.

About a dozen volunteers and RE Committee members and I have been madly prepping for the RE Service and Intergenerational Day. Please come to Intergen. Day. We always need adults to pair with children. Please encourage others to attend, too.

I am still taking my UU Institute class, Healthy Relationships 101. I will complete it in late December. I’ve learned a lot about change, transitions within congregations, and how to create a memorable mission statement, like my favorite: Allegheny UU Church: Come as you are; become who you are inspired to be.

October 2016

October 9 was the first Children’s Worship and JYG of the year. Eleven JYG students spent a blustery morning at Harman’s Farm for a hayride and pumpkin carving. They had a good time and returned with some excellent jack-o-lanterns. Children’s worship had 22 students and we included the nursery children for the first fifteen minutes. They seemed to enjoy the visit and so we’ll keep including them. I tried a new approach that some DREs have had been exploring: creating a “makerspace.” We talked about creating a felt board chalice puzzle. The kids voted and discussed how to create the puzzle. They took turns drawing the chalice and the puzzle pieces within it. We did not have enough time to cut the pieces, trace them onto the felt, and cut the felt. (There were too many steps for a one hour class!) However, the kids were engaged and thrilled to have control over a project.

The COA students had their first meeting with mentors after pot luck on October 9. Even at this early stage, I witnessed bonds being forged between students and mentors. I am thankful for everyone involved in the Coming of Age program.

October 14 was the Parent Support Group’s monthly meeting. 20 parents and children attended (plus 2 sitters). We relaxed and shared experiences while discussing how to raise children using the UU Principles. Several people arrived looking worn out from the week, but by the end of the meeting, they seemed renewed. Let’s hear it for beloved community!

On October 23, we began preparations during class for the RE Service, scheduled for December 4. The students are practicing a skit, creating costumes, learning music, learning sign language, and writing speeches. We will present a service that will focus on the Third Principle: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.

On October 26, I will meet with area DREs: Columbia, Towson, and Wilmington will be represented. We met once a month last year and I look forward to renewing our meetings this year. I appreciate the opportunity to learn from their experience.

The Halloween Party is scheduled for this Sunday, October 30. The younger students will rotate between three rooms: Dia de los Muertos, Samhain, and Halloween. They will also get to spend time in the Star Wars Cantina in the Youth room. We’re all looking forward to a fun day!

We currently have 69 students registered.

We are learning new ways to integrate students with disabilities into the classes.

I am still taking my UU Institute class: Leadership 101. I am also reading and listening to podcasts on helpful topics like parenting, UU history, and leadership.

September 2016

We had a Parent Support Group meeting on September 9. There were 16 parents and children in attendance. The group is a great way to engage families on how to face issues using our UU faith.

September 11 was our Water Communion service with the first Blessing of the Backpacks. Several congregants told me they really enjoyed the blessing. The children seemed to really enjoy getting a key chain and now the RE Committee and I know that we should have enough key chains for the entire congregation. We had no idea how popular they would be!

After the service we had our first Open House. It was the RE Committee’s hope that the event would helped families to begin the year feeling connected to the Religious Education Program and UUFHC. By affording everyone the opportunity to speak with teachers, look at the curriculum, and see the classroom set-up, the RE Committee has put everyone on the same page with our mission.

Sundae Sunday followed the pot luck and we registered 41 students. Two middle school students helped with all the scooping and sundae efficiency and then they stayed on to help clean up. Their help was truly appreciated!

Joy Mullen made curtains to hang over the shelving units in the classrooms to protect our supplies from dust and curious hands. She donated her time and skills and fabric. The rooms instantly became brighter and cleaner as a result of Joy’s handiwork.

On September 18, we had the Commissioning of the Teachers. We now have 43 wonderful volunteers. This was also the first day of religious education classes. It was great to see so many familiar and new faces. More registration forms were turned in bringing our enrollment to 53 students.

Meanwhile, the Coming of Age students had a car wash at Applebee’s that brought in $340. Five students were able to attend. Their efforts are bringing them closer to their goal.

On September 24, the UUFHC House Band performed at the Greater Baltimore UU Cluster Music & More Festival in Towson. While we were there, I talked with the Towson UU Church’s treasurer and music director. They asked how many members we have. 144, I said. They asked how many students we have registered for RE. I told them we have 53 registered at the moment but expect about 80 once the rest of the registration forms come in. Their jaws dropped. The RE Committee has been working really hard and parents are spreading the word. Last week, we had two new families come in. One came in with registration forms already filled out. The children are building quite a community back there in the RE Wing and we are thrilled!

On September 25, our registration rose to 61 students. I am looking for two volunteers to assist two students with special needs.

I am still taking Healthy Leadership 101, offered through the UU Leadership Institute. The course will run from September 2 to December 9.