In St. Benedict’s Primary School in Easterhouse Glasgow, preparation for Christmas and Advent has taken a new interdisciplinary community approach. Every child in the school is timetabled to Outdoor Education and, thanks to the hard work and effort of all in the community, we have an established school garden. Through their work in exploring their local environment, the children have a more tangible connection with their local community as well as a purposeful and meaningful context to their learning. Working in the school garden, participating in Woodland and Nature walks, has resulted in the Language and Maths work of the children being rich in experience and context. We wanted our faith journey through Advent to have the same depth of understanding and knowledge.
Two classes went on a discovery through the Bishop Loch on the look-out for large fallen branches. On identifying and finding two, we brought them back to the garden. The children sprayed the trees silver and planted them in a place in the garden where they would be highly visible to the whole community. Children in the upper school went round the classes inviting everyone to write a purposeful Advent promise and sign their name on a ribbon. Teachers, janitor, office staff, PSA and dinner ladies were all included as they each play a vital role in our school community. All the promises were collected and kept in a box at a “This is Our Faith” display at the main entrance to remind everyone of our Christian witness and commitment. The ribbons were then tied to the trees as a visual representation to everyone in our community that we were preparing for advent. The ribbons were also a visual witness of our faith.
Through this simple act the children developed a deeper knowledge and understanding of a significant aspect of the Catholic Christian faith. With a public display of ribbons, the children exemplified the beliefs, values and practices which are compatible with a positive response to God’s invitation to faith: “Come, follow me . . .”
The children pass our Advent Tree coming to and leaving school and the children are encouraged to stop and share with their parents the Advent Tree and their own personal promise and preparation for advent. Through the actions of children, adults are being led to a deeper Christian appreciation of faith and witness.
Our two parishes are always tremendously supportive of the school and a special Advent Prayer was prepared by the Parish Priest and delivered at our Advent Assembly.
Heavenly Father, you are the creator of all that we see in nature, and you make all the trees, plants and crops grow. In the dark winter, the plants and trees stop growing, but they wait in readiness for springtime and new life, new growth. Into this darkness, after the waiting of Advent, you send your son Jesus, the light of the world. As we wait for the beautiful feast of Christmas, help us to keep our Advent promises, and be true to what we said we would do. May the celebration of Jesus’ birth make us more loving towards our family and more respectful in the way we treat other people. We make this prayer in the name of Jesus your son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy spirit, one God forever and ever.