In this election year, I’ve decided to use a general outline of the political process as a multi-week activity for my seventh-grade class to learn about the saints. I’ll frame this lesson as selecting a patron saint for our year together. This will be an opportunity to look to the saints as role models who exhibit heroic virtues worthy of examples of the Christian life.
First, we’ll meet the pool of candidates. I’ll help the students learn about some of the saints who might be relevant to their needs or interests, using patron saint lists and biographies of the saints. I’ll provide resources on the saints for the young people to learn about these holy men and women: saints cards from the Saints Kit, trusted website links, and books such as Voices of the Saints, The Loyola Treasury of Saints, and the Loyola Kids Book of Saints. Young people will be able to browse the resources to see if someone in particular draws their attention. They’ll also look up information about saints they may have heard of but don’t know much about, such as St. Peter, St. Francis, or the newly canonized St. Teresa of Calcutta.
Then we’ll campaign for our favorites. Young people can take time in small groups to discuss saints whose stories inspired them. I’ll invite them to come up with slogans for their favorite saints, write campaign e-mails, and make campaign posters that we’ll display in our learning space.
After the “campaign season,” we’ll narrow down our slate of candidates to two finalists. We will pray to the Holy Spirit to help discern which of the candidates are the best fit for the group. We’ll conduct a vote via a secret ballot, and the two saint-candidates who receive the greatest number of votes will become our finalists.
Depending on the makeup of the group, I’d like to invite representatives of each of the finalists to speak on behalf of their saint-candidate. This may take the form of a speech or a group debate. (Allowing groups to work together will make the debate format work better with this age group.) I will make this decision after a couple of weeks, when I know this group of seventh graders better.
Finally, we’ll have the election. We’ll again pray to the Holy Spirit to guide us in making our choice, and then we’ll cast our ballots. The winner will be declared the patron saint of our classroom for the term of the year. We’ll include an image of the patron saint on our prayer table for the year to remind us to pray for his or her intercession.
How do you plan to incorporate current events in your classroom? What are your favorite ways to teach young people about the saints?