by Joyce Claus, M.Ed.
The Workshop Rotation Model is spreading like wild fire across the country. Churches large and small are embracing the model as the most exciting thing that has happened to Sunday school in a long time.
What is the Workshop Rotation Model (WRM)?
WRM is a fresh and exciting framework for Christian Education (K-6) that involves the use of multiple intelligences in multi-media and multi-dimensional workshops. Kids study Bible stories and concepts through diverse experiences with God’s Word. Classes study one story or biblical concept for four to six weeks, rotating to a different workshop each week. Spiritual connections are made to kid’s daily lives through challenging and engaging workshop activities in art, cooking, science, drama and more. Kids are able to experience the lesson in the ways they learn best; while volunteers are teaching within their giftedness.
How do kids learn best?
Through a multiple intelligence approach
Educational research conducted by Howard Gardner indicates that we have multiple intelligences. Gardner has identified nine intelligences: verbal/linguistic, logical/mathematical, musical/rhythmic, visual spatial, bodily/kinesthetic, intrapersonal, interpersonal, naturalistic, and existential. We learn best through our dominant intelligence and can strengthen our weaker intelligence through experiences in that area. Traditional teaching generally focuses on the verbal approach with passive listening. Some children do learn this way. However, many do not. In WRM each workshop incorporates different ways of learning through the multiple intelligences. Workshop experiences reflect and honor the myriad ways children learn. (To find out how you learn best click the link at the end of this article to take a multiple intelligence survey.)
Through engaged learning with connections to real life
Engaged learning experiences are learning experiences in which children are actively involved in their learning and making connections to their lives. Traditional Sunday school may have children listening to a story followed by working in a learning center. The make-it, take-it activity may relate to the story but most likely does not integrate with the story or help children make spiritual connections to their daily lives. In WRM the workshop experience encourages children to interact with the Bible story and discover how it applies to their lives.
What does this kind of learning look like?
Kids in one church were learning the miracles of Jesus through a six-week rotation with each workshop focusing on a different miracle. The concept threading through the rotation was faith. In the Science Workshop children heard and participated in the miracle of Jesus walking on water. The teacher then presented them with an orange and asked them, “How do you think this orange is connected to the story?” The teacher challenged them to discover the answer to the question by performing a ‘sink or float’ experiment. Will the orange sink or float with its peel on? Will the orange sink or float with its peeled removed? Kids discovered that the orange floated with its peel intact and sank when it was removed. The lesson was that the orange peel is like our faith, when Peter kept his peel (faith) on and kept his eyes on Jesus he was able to walk on the water but when he took his eyes off Jesus and looked around at the swirling waters he started to sink. Following the experiment the teacher engaged the children in a discussion of troubled waters in their lives.
Claire’s Spiritual Connection
Three months after her experience in the science workshop, Claire came to Sunday school jumping up and down shouting, “I kept my peel on!” Claire told the story of how she arrived home from school one very cold winter day only to discover she had lost her house key. She started to cry and panic. With tears streaming down her cheeks, she sat on a bench in her backyard. It was then she remembered her PEEL! She wiped her eyes and immediately began praying. A next-door neighbor happened to see her and helped out. Because of the engaging learning experience Claire made a valuable spiritual connection from the miracle to her own life.
Workshop Rotation Model – making a difference in kid’s lives
At its heart the goal of ministry to children can be summarized as: Teach the Bible, so that it brings about spiritual transformation of children’s minds and hearts, leading them to maturity in Christian faith.
To that end WRM emphasizes transformative learning experiences connecting the Bible to real life with a substantive learning process.
Children learn the Bible and experience spiritual transformation of mind and heart. Children are encouraged to put their faith in action through a curriculum rich with mission projects and lessons with depth. Through WRM children are often found initiating their own mission projects.
In a church in Charlotte, NC the kids initiated a Pillow Case Ministry. The ministry was born in an art workshop of a Christmas rotational unit. The rotation was based on the prophecy in Isaiah. In the art workshop kids learned how Jesus was their Wonderful Counselor. They made decorated pillowcases to remind them that when they go to bed at night, they can talk to Jesus their Wonderful Counselor. One child asked if he could make a pillowcase for his grandfather who was very ill so that he could know that Jesus was his Wonderful Counselor. The request was the beginning of the Pillow Case Ministry. Requests kept growing each Sunday. They asked for donations of pillowcases, placed them in a huge basket, and as needs arose the kids made pillow cases for those in need of Jesus’ love.
Workshop Rotation Model – reflecting the Body of Christ in your church –
In the WRM there is a shift in the roles of adults. Being a part of the Body of Christ, each adult has unique multiple intelligences, gifts, talents, and abilities that can serve children and the church. Discover those in your congregation who are talented in art, cooking, science, drama and other areas. They enrich the workshop with their gifts. Teachers teach the same lesson for 4-6 weeks to a different age level of children rotating each week. With the lesson being the same each week, teachers gain experience with the lesson. The teaching experience is meaningful for them as they are teaching using their best gifts.
In Conclusion, the Workshop Rotation Model
The WRM affirms that children are created in God’s image and each child has unique God-given gifts and intellegences. Children do not learn the same way. They have different learning intelligences, spiritual gifts, and capabilities. Through the Workshop Rotation Model, we can equip children with biblical concepts that become spiritual tools to use throughout their lives. These concepts guide children toward a growing faithful vision of who God truly is. By giving children multiple ways to experience God how they learn best children can be guided toward a personal relationship with God. Children will learn biblical concepts so they can develop attitudes and actions for faithful living in everyday situations.
Multiple Intelligence Survey: www.surfaquarium.com/MI/inventory.htm
Workshop Rotation Model Curriculum: www.potters-publishing.com
Joyce has 26 years teaching experience at the elementary level. She has been a leader in developing multidimensional curriculum at the elementary school level and has trained teachers at the university level. Joyce develops and creatively writes children’s curriculum for Potter’s Publishing, a publisher of workshop rotation curriculum. She has presented workshops at the National Conference on Workshop Rotation Model in Chicago since 1997 and numerous seminars each year around the country. Joyce and her husband, Rev. Dr. J. Robert Claus, were among the initial developers of the workshop rotation model in 1989 at Southminster Presbyterian Church in Arlington Heights, IL. Joyce has served in children’s ministries and taught lay teachers.