When teaching Bible stories to preschoolers, I try to think of elements of the story they may be naturally interested in developmentally and I attempt to provide learning experiences that will help them enter the story with as many senses as possible.
This week’s lesson was on Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel from 1 Kings 18:16-39. It’s a dramatic story where Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to a duel with the one true living God. The challenge? Ask your God to light your alter without your help. The prophets of Baal cry out to their God and dance around their alter from morning til evening and well…nothing happens. When it’s Elijah’s turn he makes it clear that He is building his alter in the name of God.
He is so confident in God’s abilities that he calls for the people to pour water over the alter not once, not twice, but three times until the alter is so wet that a trench around the alter is full of water. Then, and only then does he call on God to show up with fire. And show up He does! The Scripture says, “Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”
The children were given the opportunity to build an alter and fire using loose parts. I provided several types of rocks, wooden blocks, and fire-like elements such as colored scarves, pipe cleaners, red glass gems and plastic leaves in fall colors that I picked up at the dollar store. Several of the children were very interested in building a “fire” and carefully and diligently created their work.
I also made some Epsom salt paint and provided a flame shape for the kids to paint. I had expected the colors to be more brilliant, but the crystallization that happened as the paint dried was very interesting. I used this recipe for the paint found at ehow.com.
Because the big idea of the story has so much to do with trusting in a God who is in fact, alive, real, and responsive and because the curriculum we used had an example of a character mistaking a shadow for the real thing, I also brought out the overhead projector and let the children explore shadows and light.
This really captured their interest! They came back for turn after turn and as a group they spent 15-20 minutes pretending to grab the projected shadows off the wall. When we got to the shadow example in our lesson, they were quick to make the connection from the story to the activity they had experienced.
It was exciting to see them so diligently interested in their play and connecting to elements of the story.