Examining Our Common Humanity

Unit Activity

Invite a member of your parish’s “Respect Life Committee” to a session. In advance, work with the children to create questions to ask this person, such as:

  • How is our parish involved in respect life issues?
  • What is our parish doing to help end abortion?
  • What are some ways fifth graders can help promote a Culture of Life?

Be sure to send a thank-you note to your guest. Also, encourage the children to share with their families what they learned in this session.

Display images showing people of different cultural backgrounds. Have each child select an image to study. Have them write down answers to questions about likenesses and differences between himself or herself and the person selected:

  • How are we alike? In what ways am I different?
  • What emotion is that person expressing? Have I felt that emotion?
  • What emotions do all people have in common?

Photo by Glyn Lowe Photoworks.

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A Prayer for God's Creation

Unit Activity

Many children today are becoming involved in helping to care for the environment. Have the children in your group brainstorm a list of things that fifth graders can do to help care for God’s gift of Creation. Some suggestions are tuning off lights after leaving a room; tending a garden; recycling aluminum, plastic, and paper products; giving old toys and games to a younger sibling, cousin, or neighbor; composting leaves; not littering.) Have the children report back on their progress.

Have each child identify two reasons why he or she thinks caring for Creation is one of our basic duties as Christians. Then have the children work individually or as a group to compose a prayer of thanksgiving to God for giving us our beautiful world.

Photo by rkramer62

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Strangers Seeking Safety

Unit Activity

Discuss the immigrant experience of the Holy Family as they fled Bethlehem for Egypt to live among strangers until it was safe to return to their homeland. Compare their experience with that of a refugee family from another country fleeing to the United States to seek asylum. Have participants role-play the two experiences, or share their reflections through a poem or in a drawing.

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick reminds us:

We must never forget the Gospel call of Jesus – to welcome the stranger – for in the face of this stranger, we see the face of Christ.” Discuss what this means for the young people in your group.

Photo by amira_a

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Reduce, Recycle, Reuse

Unit Activity

Have participants select one school day during the coming week to keep track of items that make up their own lunch. Have them list the items and how each could be reused or recycled (e.g., reuse lunch bag, take home apple core for composting, recycle juice/milk box, plastic, paper). During follow-up discussion, find out how many actually did reuse or recycle their lunch items. Discuss the experience.

To the motto “Reduce, Recycle, Reuse,” Catholics can add a fourth, “Respect.” Respect for God’s creation urges us to follow through with being good stewards. Consider problems such as littering, polluting the air, dumping hazardous waste, wasting electricity or water. Have participants describe one action your family, group, or community can take to become better stewards of God’s creation. Invite the group to create and design their own motto.

Photo by Joi

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Debating Wages

Unit Activity

A worker’s wage is credited not as a gift, but as something due.
Romans 4:4

In 1938 the US Congress passed (and President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed) the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), establishing child labor laws, a minimum hourly wage, and maximum workweek. Have the young people review the US Department of Labor’s Minimum Wage Chart. Then have them find out the minimum wage in your state. How does it compare with the federal minimum wage? Discuss the importance of minimum wages, keeping in mind that a minimum wage is the lowest hourly wage an employer may legally pay workers, and the need for just wages.

Set up a debate involving members of your group with the topic: Should the minimum wage be a just wage? To take sides, participants will need to research the pros and cons of the issue. At the end of the debate, note that the US Bishops have long supported a just economy through decent work and decent wages.

Links
Just Wage and the Federal Minimum Wage, February 2014 (PDF)
from the USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development

Selected Quotations from Catholic Social Thought on the Rights and Responsibilities of Workers and Labor Unions (PDF)
from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Photo by frankieleon

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A Letter for the Children of War

Unit Activity

Identify basic rights that all people including children, should have: life, family, shelter, food, etc. Ask the young people to identify responsibilities they have that accompany these rights.

To exercise one of these responsibilities to advocate for the basic rights of others, have them draft letters advocating for the dignity of every human person, including children. Have each young person write a letter to a US government official, asking them to support a worldwide ban on child soldiers. Consider also writing letters to the United Nations, asking them to stop the armies from forcing children to become soldiers. Letters to newspaper and magazine editors can also be effective. To begin, work as a group to create a basic letter that states the intent of the letter.

Links
Find your US Representative
How to Contact your US Senator
Write or Call the White House

Photo by Caitlinator

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Sharing the Beauty of God's Creation

Unit Activity

Bring in a tree leaf, flower, rock, container of water, and any other created object that may be of interest to the children. Sit together in a circle. Pass around each object. Encourage the children to share what it feels like, its color, and how it help us to live. Do this with each object. Close with a discussion on how all of these things were created by God. God made them to help us enjoy his Creation. Explain to the children that each of us has a responsibility to protect God’s Creation.

Give each child a piece of paper and crayons or markers. Encourage the children to think of ways they could share the beauty of flowers with others, or the beauty of rocks, or etc. Have them draw a picture of their favorite flower, or created object. Send their pictures home with the children to share the beauty of God’s Creation with their families.

Photo by Nanagyei

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See My Hidden Quality

Unit Activity

Provide each child with a large unlined index card and a crayon or marker. Attach a loop of yarn long enough to hang the card around a child’s neck. Instruct each child to write a word or phrase on the card that expresses a “hidden quality” the child possesses that others may not be aware of (e.g., I am kind, I share, I help others). As an option, tell the children that they can draw pictures or symbols that express their qualities.

Allow the children to wear their cards for the remainder of the session. Suggest that each time they see another child’s card, they should remember that God has given each person special qualities that we may not always see on the outside.

Photo by M@rg

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A Teaching Mass Moment

Unit Activity

Talk with your parish priest about setting up a teaching Mass for children and their parents. You may want to consider using the Chapel for a smaller setting. You could offer to help the celebrant by identifying the items at the time of their use during the Mass. Perhaps beforehand the priest could explain the vestments and the seasonal color being used. This would enable parents and children to be more involved during future liturgical celebrations.

Use may also choose to share and use the Tour of a Catholic Church video provided on this website.

Photo by Taecilla

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Respecting Our Shared Space

Unit Activity

How we take care of the space we live and work in demonstrates our responsibilities to one another. We can show respect to one another by respecting our shared space.

Caring for the parish or school grounds is a responsibility in which children can be involved in. Work together to create slogans describing responsible actions. These can be made into posters or “bumper stickers.” They could involve actions such as: not littering, protecting plants, not bullying anyone on the playground, including others in games. The children will be able to add more ideas to this list of possibilities. Select the best ideas and create posters to display in the proper areas. Discuss the rights that are connected to these responsibilities.

Ask the children to think about their rights and duties. Invite them to share ideas of ways they can protect their rights and fulfill their duties – at home and at school. Help them to understand the rights to food, clothing, shelter, and safety that they have. Note that family chores and homework are some of their responsibilities, or duties.

Photo by JeepersMedia

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