Through my own experience with Godly Play and young children, I’ve found it most effective to present The Great Family the week immediately following The Flood and the Ark. The very first words of The Great Family establish a link. It’s a long story, and it also is the first one each fall to require the desert box. The Flood and the Ark seems to help get us get ready to experience this explosion of new life. This year our Godly Play session calendar and my “logical calendar” conflicted, and it seemed better to present the Great Family on Oct. 13 even though we did not have a GP session on the 6th. I totally forgot to consider that some children might be away at a beach retreat the Sunday before that, when the Flood and the Ark was presented. We began our sessions in September differently too, with a sign on the desert box lid “Closed until Oct. 13” … so we could begin this year’s desert journeys with more pre-journey preparation, more scene setting.
But how do we “fully” set the stage? The introduction to the desert box in each desert box presentation is very important! But even with this background information, most young children still see this as a box with sand. A sand box. I would place my own sandbox hours and months near the top of my childhood experiences. A sandbox usually (and wonderfully) invites free play. Once, several years ago (before we began keeping the desert box on a surface easy for children to sweep), a large amount of sand was lost – deep into the carpet – during a Godly Play session. During feast I mentioned my concern that if we kept losing this much sand, it wouldn’t be long before all the desert in our room would be lost! One child very helpfully offered that his dad just bought sand for his sand box at Orchard Supply Hardware, and the store still had a lot left! But the children seemed to hear something in my reply, which was “But it wouldn’t be the same sand!” The children in the circle pondered this.
Just this weekend, while reading Jerome Berryman’s most recent book The Spiritual Guidance of Children, I finally realized why it wouldn’t, and couldn’t, be the same sand. As he writes about the desert box being so much more than a sandbox, this sentence on pg. 99 explains it very simply… “The sand here, however, is part of this story.”