Curriculum Review: Create a Country

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Create a Country, by John Shepard, (see UUCards website to order) is billed as a “Religious Education Simulation” for Middle School classes.  And it truly is not a complete curriculum – it is an outline with two lessons to get you started, and then you are supposed to be following the groups lead and will have to adapt as you go along based on what choices they make.

I have used it three times now: once with a middle school group just for four weeks, once with a class of 4th-6th graders for 3 months, and then most recently I adapted it to be our Mixed-Age summer program. I highly recommend getting the book How to Build Your Own Country as an accompanying resource to Create a Country.

It is really the total opposite of the direction most of our curricula, such as the whole Tapestry of Faith series, is going … instead of too much instructional text, this program gives you hardly any at all.  For that reason, it is not advisable as a program for a weak teaching team.  Whoever teaches this program will need to be comfortable improvising (and you will need to be able to trust them to improvise).

It also is best when there will be some consistency of kids attending each week, as the entire concept is to build on what you’ve done before with each subsequent session.  Walking in cold to later sessions without any of the background has been hard on visitors and intermittent attendees (I did somewhat solve that by videotaping classes and showing summary movies at the beginning of each class this summer).

And so I will say that this curricula/”simulation” is not going to be for everyone.  I know when I first ordered it and it arrived in the mail I was dismayed with how little I had actually received.  It’s a slim folder.  And yet I have been pleased with the results each time I’ve used it.  Yes, it took a lot of extra work on my part as we went along, but it’s really important stuff – the real application of democratic participation – a guiding principle for us Unitarian Universalists – so I think it’s worth it.

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