The First Day SchoolThe First Day School, meets from September to June, 11:00 A.M. to 11:45 each First Day (Sunday), and has three classes, roughly relating to the ages of the children: Bodies (4-6), Minds (7-9) and Spirits (10-12). Students are welcome for one day or every First Day as each lesson is designed as a united whole or as part of the overall theme. The committee strives to prepare children for participation in Meeting for Worship, and it is important that children see themselves as part of the larger Meeting community. Each year the topic is chosen by the First Day School Education Committee to appeal to all age groups with the leaders in the specific groups developing age-appropriate curriculum. We include the wisdom and teachings in New York Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice in our curriculum.
There will be a new curriculum in September, however, here is the curriculum for each of the classes last year:
The BodiesOur youngest children's class (approximately ages 4-6) is structured around the idea that it is useful and entertaining to teach one idea per class using several approaches. In class we will move or dance, use percussion instruments, draw, and possibly tell a story also to teach silent worship silence, sharing and resolving conflicts. We try to balance a child's need for self-expression with the group's need for sharing and learning. Parents are welcome though they need not attend. Using dance, art, and music we teach basic Quaker principles, such as worship by using our bodies and imaginations. We teach that there is that of God in everyone, and feelings are in our bodies and we can name them and accept them. We laugh, we share, we make friends. Currently the teachers are Ted Ehrhardt and Earl Whitted.
The MindsOur focus is on giving children (approximate ages 7-9) a foundation in Quaker beliefs, practice, and history. Through group-building games and activities children come to know each other, value their own and each other's uniqueness, and experience the joys of community. Through books, discussions, writing, drama, and art activities we explore our values and how to live them. Bible stories and stories from Quaker history expose children to the source of our values and beliefs, while community service projects and conflict resolution activities give children opportunities to practice "letting their lives speak." Movement and arts activities provide avenues for children to learn to center themselves and find peace in their bodies. Children practice centering themselves and ministering to a group in guided worship sharing sessions.
The SpiritsSpirits (approximate ages 10-12) are in the transition from being educated to wanting to help educate the next generation. We encourage independent thinking and class directed projects. We try to guide discussions based around monthly topics. For example, during the month of March we studied race and equality and brought in books and other materials to try to relate students' daily experiences to the beliefs of Quakers.We rely heavily on New York Yearly Meeting Faith & Practice as a source for our in class discussion.
The First Day School Education CommitteeWe have 7 Friends on our committee, which meets every other month. Each class has its own subcommittee. One or two of the committee members are with the children at all times. Other adults are encouraged to join in as well. First Day School starts at 11:00 and children into meeting to experience the silence and the worshipfulness of a gathered meeting.