Vacation Bible School: Craft or Art?

It's Vacation Bible School week at my home church. The time spent planning, the gathering of supplies and the amount of energy doled out by the volunteers always amazes me. My church follows the American standard of the children rotating through stations to learn the Bible story through music, drama, snack and craft all united under a Biblical theme for one week. I've spent several weeks of my life (or maybe a few more than that!) in the craft room. This brings you to my point today. Because I'm a former art educator I'm sensitive to the art vs. craft debate. I think there is a time and place for both and either can be matched with a vacation Bible school curriculum. Where I draw the line is having children produce items that all look the same after they've made them, that have nothing to remind them of the Biblical message, or will be promptly thrown out once they get home. Here are a few alternative ideas:

  • create banners out of paper that can be used in worship for the Sunday after VBS. Butcher paper painted or enhanced with construction paper cut outs can make a large impact visually.
  • construct masks that can be used in a drama...I particularly like the directions for paper sculpture masks in the book Paper, Masks and Puppets by Ron Feller. Feller's paper relief techniques are easy to do and the kids will be amazed at what they've accomplished.
  • pose an "I wonder" question to the children (something regarding the Bible lesson)...let them illustrate their their drawings or paintings on large cardboard boxes...stack the boxes for a sculptural display of their work in a prominent place in the church building or in your community.
  • develop puppets to retell Bible stories...give children wine bags instead of lunch sacks for a little something different. Allow them to use basic scissors, construction paper and glue...don't hand out any patterns! Encourage them to add large details so people can see the puppet and maybe finish it off with a prop (Moses needs a walking stick, Dorcus has to have her sewing basket and Elizabeth should have her baby somewhere near by) You'll be amazed at how clever they are in their interpretations.

So while I'm on my soap box today I'll encourage you to be a creative planner for this year's VBS or revaluate so you can improve your week next year. Think about how the children can express themselves as individuals, how the craft/art can be used or appreciated after the week is over and if the craft/art will allow others that appreciate it to see the story that is reflected in the VBS Bible message. Not using craft "kits" will probably save you time and will make your art/craft room overflow with inventive, imaginative energy!

Putting my soap box back under the desk--for the time being (grin.)