Friday, November 18, 2016

PBT Stories Series #1: My North Star

Meet Stickeen from the picture book named after him. See details below. 
This is the first of a new PBT Series about stories that have inspired PBT or happened during a PBT lesson. Today I’m going to share the story of how I knew I was supposed to do this work, work I do for you so please show your gratitude by buying me a picture book via a PayPal donation. A typical picture book is $15.  I would love to own more picture books though maybe not as many as Elizabeth Brown whose story I feature [here].
From The Library by Stewart & Small
In 2013-14 I was part of The Academy for Spiritual Formation, an Upper Room program in which about 50 people spend 40 days together over 2 years. It is a program I highly recommend. Learn more about it [here]. Participants are asked to do a 2nd year service project. I wanted to do something that began a vocational journey using my training as a school psychologist, involving my passion for spirituality, and helping to build the church, though not quite like the mother in this great picture book posted about [here].
I had often mentioned secular picture books to our children’s minister when she asked me about programming ideas so I wondered if there was an untapped treasure for ministry in secular books. I knew of many books that offered potential, but I wasn’t sure how prevalent they were. She had asked me to teach a lesson on friendship and the story of Ruth and Naomi so I decided to give my idea a little test. I went to my library of picture books (relatively small then), thought about Ruth and Naomi’s friendship, and considered each book. I saw a little potential in about 10 of them.
I read 8 books or so and saw no promise, but then I picked up Stickeen. I was startled by a particular sentence which I have in bold below where I offer my initial post. These words directly correspond to Ruth’s words to Naomi, “But Ruth said, ‘Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go;’” (Ruth 1:16). Oh, the goose bumps! The spiritual kind that reminds me that God is in every moment! Suddenly my lesson was planned and 3 days later it was very successful. The beauty of the illustrations in Stickeen even added to the spirituality of the lesson. Often illustrations make PBT lessons even more meaningful and memorable.
First I had the 3rd & 4th graders act out the Bible story once I gave them the context. As they moved through the room, we talked about the characters' feelings. Then I sat them in a close circle, reminded them how in school they find connections between stories, and asked them to do just that as I read the picture book. They easily saw the verbal connection and many more. They really enjoyed the story, especially our urban children who had never heard such a story or seen such glorious places. 
Then we talked about how friends are devoted and helpful and tied those ideas to our relationship with God and the relationship between Muir and Stickeen.
Easy peasy! Offering such meaningful connections and rich learning is the heart of PBT. I makes sense that a book about a dog in the arctic could be my north star! I’ve been following it ever since. Here's my initial post.
Picture Book: Stickeen 
Author: John Muir, as retold by Donnell Rubay 
Illustrator: Christopher Canyon 
Summary: John Muir, one of America’s great explorers and environmentalists, tells the story of an arctic adventure he had with a companion's dog, Stickeen, who was determined to go out exploring with him on a treacherous day. By the end of the excursion, both are glad to be together. Muir loved telling this story.
Hanna’s Comments: This book is the perfect example of secular literature connecting with scripture. In the story, John Muir says of Stickeen as he shouts for the dog to go back to camp, “He simply stood in the wind, drenched and blinking as if to say, ‘Where you go, I will go.’” These are words Ruth says to Naomi in the book of Ruth. There are several publications of Muir’s story, so choose this version for the direct connection to Ruth. Additionally, it is a great story of exploration, survival, and the bonds between humans and dogs. 
Publisher & Date of Publication: Dawn Pubris, 1998 
Age and Grade Appropriateness: 6 and up, 1st and up 
Formats other than Book: None at present 
Scripture Connections: Ruth 1 (particularly vs. 16) 
Idea(s) for Application: I recently used this book for a Sunday School lesson on Ruth & Naomi. It was so easy to plan, and the kids loved it. We simply acted out the Bible story. Then I read Stickeen while the children interrupted me with the connections they heard.