Advent is one of my favorite liturgical seasons. I really enjoy the many activities that the parish, the school, and my classroom use to prepare children for the birth of Jesus.
Our parish has a “giving tree.” We have a large Christmas tree near the altar. The tree is decorated with paper ornaments that list the age of a child and Christmas gift. Families take an ornament off the tree and buy the gift for that child. This is a very popular activity for all the families of the parish.
The school has an Advent prayer service each week, where the students sit around a large Advent wreath in the middle of the auditorium. We also have a bare Christmas tree set up in the foyer. Our students bring in new hats, gloves, and mittens and place them on the tree. It’s a festive-looking tree by the time Christmas comes. These items are then given to a shelter for homeless families. We also have a baby shower for Jesus and collect packages of diapers, which are also given to the shelter.
We also ask all the students in the school to do a good deed and write it on a thin piece of yellow construction paper. They then place this piece of “straw” in an empty manger that is waiting for the baby Jesus. As the manger fills up with good deeds, we know we have prepared a fine bed for Jesus.
In my classroom, I have used the Loyola Press children’s online Advent calendar for many years. I like the simplicity of the suggested activities and my students can easily accomplish them. This past Advent, two of my friends from other parts of the country were using this calendar. We decided to challenge one another in completing the daily activities. Each day, we used our classroom Twitter accounts to post words of encouragement to the other classes, using the hashtag #AdventAngelChallenge. This activity allowed a Kindergarten classroom in California, my third-grade classroom in Nebraska, and a fourth-grade classroom in Pennsylvania to celebrate Advent together.
I give my students a chance to showcase their photography skills. I ask them to take a picture of their family Advent wreath and the Nativity scenes they have in their homes. They love taking digital photographs, and they do a fine job focusing on the objects. Their parents send the photos to me, and I use those photos to make a slideshow for all my students to enjoy. There are many free, user-friendly sites you can use to make a slideshow of your own. (I used Photo Peach to create my own slideshows; Animoto is another good site.)
The best part of this Advent project is the pride my students have when their picture is shown. Many families have several Nativity scenes, and many students and their families make their own Nativity scenes using Legos or other little toys! Their Advent wreath photos often feature action shots of someone lighting the candle.
Even though Advent and the Christmas season can be busy, these simple activities are helpful for both teacher and student to slow down and prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus. I’m looking forward to another Advent of connecting with my students and students from across the country using these activities.