Testing the 4th Grade Waters

As part of my lesson this past Monday, I wanted to emphasize how human beings are the greatest part of God’s creation and I wanted to incorporate the use of the Internet in my classes for the first time. I located a brief YouTube video that shows images of babies growing in the womb. I made sure that the video did not have any images relating to the act of sexual intercourse or the fertilization of the egg by sperm. I also made sure that the video (since it was produced by a pro-life/anti-abortion organization) did not show any images of aborted fetuses. At this time, I was not seeking to teach about abortion but to lay the foundation of our recognition of the sanctity and preciousness of human life. (Regardless, personally, I do not regard showing images of aborted fetuses as an appropriate pedagogical tool).

I spoke with an experienced DRE friend of mine who is very knowledgeable about the emotional, spiritual, and psychological development of various age groups to ask if showing such a video to 4th graders would be appropriate (afterall, it is no different from images they see at the Museum when they go on field trips). My DRE friend assured me that it was appropriate but also warned me that some of the kids might be “creeped out” by some of the images. I decided I would find out for myself as I tested the waters of teaching 4th graders.

My friend was right! They were creeped out! As we watched the various images, many of them were greeted with rousing reactions of “Eewwwwwwwwww!!!!” Because of this, I prematurely (no pun intended) turned off the video but made the point that it is so amazing that each of us once looked like that and that God can create such marvelous creatures as human beings.

The funniest moment came when one of the boys raised his hand and asked (while giggling), “Are you sure this is appropriate for us to watch?”  🙂 That’s when I asked how many of them had been to the Museum of Science and Industry and had seen the Prenatal display to which most raised their hands. I told them that this was no different.

So although it was technically appropriate material to use, it was not effective because of their level of maturity. This experience has given me a better understanding of what 4th graders are capable of handling as compared with the 8th graders I’ve been teaching in recent years! As a result, as I look forward to next week’s class and introducing the concept of the Kingdom of God, I’ve decided to order a copy of The Lion King!

About Joe Paprocki 2742 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.


  1. I remember in junior high when our teacher showed us “West Side Story” and we giggled so much that she had to turn it off. We were not ready for such a musical at that time. How I loved that movie when I was in high school! 🙂

  2. From Marilyn…

    This has been very helpful and encouraging to me. To find that you also have some problems adjusting to a new program – and that things don’t always go according to plan – in spite of the great planning you have done. We have a new DRE this year – and I am looking forward to meeting with her. Our CCD classes in this area don’t begin until October – and as yet there has been no meetings.
    I have offered to be a “substitute” or extra hands this year – because I have found it so frustrating in the past to work without good direction and want to get a feel as to how she is going to run the program before committing. Your ideas are very helpful. I enjoy very much your honesty and reflections of the class. I hope you will continue throughout the year. I will be teaching 4-5 year old Sunday School soon – and am looking forward to using your example of enthusiasm and joy – and taking some of your ideas and “downsizing” them to fit. The material is good that we have – but the personal touches are what I am looking for in presenting the materials.

    Thanks and God Bless,


  3. “I do not regard showing images of aborted fetuses as an appropriate pedagogical tool”

    Me neither, and like you, I’m already using Genesis to focus on marriage and children. We don’t watch movies, but I frequently use a plastic fetus during the year to get them used to how peculiar fetuses look while still being people. The fetus debuts next week when we discuss Abraham, Sarah, and their son Laughter (Isaac).

    • The kids couldn’t get over how tadpole-like and alien-like the fetuses looked. I had to break the news to them that we all looked like that at one time! I used it to my advantage to emphasize how amazing God’s creation is that he could make us into what we are now from what we once were!

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