'The children took a real pride in working as a team to help create the prayer space.'
Karen Longden is the Acting RE Co-ordinator at a primary school in Cheshire. Some of her students recently planned and ran a fantastic outdoor prayer space for their school, and for the local community.
“The St. Barnabas 'Pop Up Prayer Space' was created following a Liverpool Diocese training course which was led by the Prayer Spaces in Schools team. As a staff team we had always been interested in developing a quiet reflection space for children and staff but, like many schools, limited space had always been an issue within the building, so an outdoor space had been chosen. We really were under the impression that an outdoor prayer space would be a fixed feature but our ideas changed immensely.
We have a pupil worship group which meets on a weekly basis. This group planned and organised all of the prayer activities in a series of weekly meetings with myself using ideas from the Prayer Spaces in Schools website. The children really enjoyed using it to develop their own ideas - one of the main problems the group had was that they wanted to include all of the prayer activities within the space!
We came up with the idea of the prayer space 'popping up' as it seemed very current in the media with shops and restaurants. The younger members of the worship group related to the excitement of something popping up, like a toy appearing. So, together we organised each activity so that they could be set up and packed down each day. The worship group loved having ownership and responsibility of each activity, and they took a real pride in working as a team to help create the whole prayer space.
I can't easily put into words the children's anticipation and excitement when we finally launched the week. The Prayer Space in Schools team said it would be amazing and it truly was. The prayer space was officially opened by the Rose Queen and our Vicar with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and the local community, governors, local press were also invited. The atmosphere was electrifying! The children sang 'Prayer is like a telephone', a song we found on YouTube (the tune stays with you for a long time!).
"We heard and saw children using the prayer space ideas weeks after it had finished."
Each of our classes, the parents, and the local community were invited to visit during the four days. The response to the space was so positive from every age group. During the planning stage I was a little concerned we would not be able to cater to every age group, or each activity would need lots of explanation, but this was not the case.
Fizzy Forgiveness was one of the instant favourites with the children, while Cardboard Home created a range of emotions that varied from the excitement and giggles of being able to sit in a box with your friends to the shocking realisation that a damp cold piece of cardboard could actually be all a person has to protect them in the middle of the night. As a school we felt this was one of the most positive results of the prayer space - it gave children the chance to think about and consider their own actions and the prayer space seemed to intensify these thinking skills.
Each class visit was very positive and led to the children wanting to discuss and chat while also sharing quieter moments too. As a whole school we loved hearing the feedback from staff, parents and children. We also heard and saw children using the prayer space ideas in the weeks after it finished. The children seem more focused and seem to see more meaning in the prayers we use during collective worship. Staff too have mentioned how children have suggested using prayers in class to help solve an issue or problem.
We have decided to organise another 'Pop Up Prayer Space next term as we felt it would be a great way to start the new school year. The children have also been asking when the next space will appear and the worship group can’t wait to get organising“
Karen Longden, Acting RE Coordinator St Barnabas Primary School