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January is a good time to take a look at your curriculum options and consider what would be the optimum choices for next year. Since budget requests will be needed soon, examine your possibilities now -- especially if you are thinking of purchasing new curricula.
Start by evaluating this year's curricula by asking teachers what has worked, and what hasn't. Your teachers will be the best ones to give feedback on the interest level of the group based upon their response to classes. Are the children or youth asking good questions? Do they seem engaged? Do they need more physically active ways to process learning or are they really into creating the crafts suggested by the curricula?
Many congregations use the Pillars Approach, a rotating theme of curricula with the theory that revisiting topics like Unitarian Universalist Identity again will allow the children and youth to engage with their learning in deeper ways as they grow. Setting up the Pillar System might mean creating a four year plan with themes of Social Justice, World Religions, Jewish & Christian Heritage and UU Identity.
Another approach to curriculum rotation involves exposing children and youth to more than one theme per year. The Semester (or Trimester) Approach uses a multitude of themes in one year, touching on UU Identity perhaps in the Fall, taking a break over the holidays for pageants and other special holiday themed programs including some social justice work on giving during the holidays, and then resuming in January with sessions on World Religions.
The Tapestry of Faith curricula online from the Unitarian Universalist Association has many sessions with a large variety of themes and using matching ones for different age groups allows you to have a universal theme for all class levels (or every other year) that touches upon all of the issues you would like to present to children in one year. For example, you could use Love Surrounds Us for the K-1 class, Love Will Guide Us for the second and third graders and Love Connects Us for fourth and fifth graders. Since World Religions, UU Identity and social justice are threaded through all of the curriculum groupings, you can essentially utilize this approach to touch upon all your curriculum goals in one year.
New curricula are being published all the time, and timeless classics are still available from the UUA Bookstore. Check out the UUCARDS website (that's Unitarian Univeralist Curriculum and Resource Developers) for independently produced curricula by experienced authors and religious educators.
The Renaissance Program is an important component of the UUA's Religious Education Credentialing Program. It offers basic training in topics useful to the work of professional religious educators, seminarians, and lay leaders in local congregations.
Each module consists of 15 hours of training in both theory and practice. Most take place at a congregation or retreat center, however, thanks to a generous grant from the Panel on Theological Education's Creative Initiatives Fund, new modules are being developed for online learning.
A participant must be present for the entire module in order to receive credit for it. Everyone will receive a certificate acknowledging successful completion of a module, and after five modules are completed, a Letter of Recognition is awarded in appreciation of the time and effort given in service of quality religious education for our children, youth and adults.
Completion of five Renaissance Modules also serves as the the basic 75 hour training requirement for the Religious Education Credentialing Program through the Unitarian Universalist Association. Additional modules (beyond the first five) can also be applied to the Credentialing program to satisfy competency requirements.