Curriculum Review: Heart Talk

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I’ve just finished a week of “Peace Camp” for 7-10 year olds for my congregation.  A co-teacher and I led this day camp for 15 kids, using the curriculum “Heart Talk” for the spine of our lessons.

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It’s a non-violent communications curriculum, set up for pre-1st grade, 2nd-4th grade, or 5th-7th grade. Conflict-management and communication skills are one of my main goals for the children and youth (part of what I’m starting to think of as our “values-based community life skills”), so I was delighted to find this curriculum.

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Overall, we were impressed with it.  The lessons were thoughtful and by building up to conflict by first talking about feelings, judgements, needs, requests, and empathy it avoids the problem I find in a lot of conflict lessons for kids – that the kids are asked to jump straight into a conflict scenario and frequently seem to just enjoy the idea of the conflict rather than work to solve it.  Those sort of “what would you do if someone did x, y, or z to you?” scenario games have never felt effective to me, although some kids do enjoy them.  Heart Talk focuses on a deeper understanding of what leads us to act the way we do, which I appreciate.

Sometimes the kids complained that the lessons were “boring”, and I did wish for a few more “fun” games, but it was easy enough to add in some drama improv games.  The books used in the curriculum were readily available (a problem with the older curricula and something that will eventually date this program as well, but it’s new enough they are all in print) and good, with the exception of The Indian in the Cupboard which we did not use because of its stereotypes of Native Americans.  Other than that one ill-chosen selection, I thought the other choices were lovely.

So, with just a few minor quibbles (and I always find something to change about anything I use as a teacher, and I know other teachers would find something to change about anything I created – it’s in the nature of teachers to tweak lesson plans to suit themselves), I heartily recommend this as a great resource for other UU religious education programs.

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