Monday, February 06, 2006

The Lotus Sutra: The Burning House

This was a fairly straightforward lesson to teach. I introduced it by asking in a conspiratorial way if any of the girls had ever gone someplace that wasn't entirely safe, and they knew they shouldn't go there or do that. If they'd ever played somewhere that was just a little scary but that didn't matter because they were having so much fun playing. I got a few enthusiastic nods. So I began to tell them about this house, that they could think of it as very much like a haunted house: big, rambling, lots of creepy crawlies, and broken down walls and stairways.

I gave the girls a paper with an outline of a house. They could draw in more details, like additional wings, people, furniture inside. They could think of a haunted house and add those details they liked.

While the girls drew, I read from the verse portion of chapter 3 (#39 on in the title link), explaining that it was a very rich man that owned this big old neglected house. In some cases I paraphrased, summed up several lines, and read aloud the juicier details. I skipped some of the more gruesome scenes, and the confusing terms. I made sure I covered the basic story of kids so engrossed in having fun that they paid no mind to the dangers.

When I got to the part where the house starts on fire, the girls responded by drawing in flames. The various scary creatures started going crazy, fighting each other. Right around this point, I handed out stickers (clip art I printed out on mailing labels) and scissors for the girls to add to their pictures. Dragons, snakes, lizards, bugs, spiders, all sorts of scary creatures. Wolves, hyenas... Although this took a little more time to prepare over the usual magazine collage, it made it easier to fit the activity into our short time.

Because I'd introduced the idea of getting caught up in play even when it isn't safe, it was very easy to make it believable that the kids wouldn't come outside when mom and dad needed them to leave the dangerous burning house, and the girls naturally seemed to understand that the parents needed to use special means to get them to go outside. Rather than dwell on the difference between three special carts and then getting one big cart, I focused on the parents' need to draw the children outside with more distractions, and that a beautiful ornate cart waited for them outside. I handed out another paper with a cart on it, and more stickers with shells and jewels so the girls could decorate it. Most were more interested in the houses, and didn't do much with the carts...but 1 or 2 really enjoyed decorating their carts fit for a princess.

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