Method: It’s a Montessori method of teaching whereby the children are introduced to the CGS works when the catechist feels that the child is ready. After being introduced to the work, the child is free to use it for however long he/she wishes and is able to choose this work at any point during the atrium time. By using it for however long they wish, they are able to really ponder the meaning of the work and come up with some amazing discoveries that it takes adults a very long time to learn. All of the works are real and child sized and the children learn to have respect for their environment by using these real materials. All of the children over the 3 year period (3 – 6 years) will be introduced to all of the areas in the atrium 1 level. They will then be ready to move up to level 2 atrium which included preparation to First Communion. CGS was developed in Rome and teaches the children to understand the Mass and the bible. There are many bible scriptures which are used and beautiful materials have been made to help the children to understand the infancy narratives, parables told by Jesus, geography of the Holy Land, gestures of the mass, baptism, the alter and the passion of Jesus. Children learn best when they use there hands and so instead of just listening to the bible scripture, they are able to listen first, what the catechist use the material, and then use the materials themselves.
Mass: It is very important that the children not only attend atrium but also go to one of the masses in the church. (Sunday evening/Saturday evening) By doing this they are experiencing what they are taught in atrium. All of the materials used to introduce the parts of the mass are the same ones used in our church and it’s really amazing when children make very profound discoveries during the mass – they remember what they’ve done at atrium and relate it to what the priest is doing at the alter. It makes going to mass more meaningful for the children. I remember early this year my at the time 5 year old son saying “mom, I did that this morning!” He was referring to when the priest said the Eucharistic prayer – he had been introduced to the cenacle and the last supper where Jesus said “Take this in memory of me” He also understands what is happening during epiclesis when the priest is asking the Holy Spirit to come upon the gifts to make them holy – this is a gesture that they learn in atrium.
Handwork: Children are invited to draw/trace pictures depicting the different works. Sometimes, after being introduced to various works, children can link them together and will draw the good shepherd, the alter and the precious pearl in the same picture. This is so profound as they are linking the Good Shepherd as Jesus present in the alter and at the same time remembering what Jesus said the Kingdom of Heaven is like – A precious pearl!
We’ve had children enter the atrium very “rambunctious” (like me son!) and drawing pictures of guns and cars, and are now (on their own) drawing very detailed pictures of the advent calendar, the alter, and the vestments worn by the priest!
All of these works are kept and put into folders for the child. They will get these folders when they leave atrium 1.
Show – Good Shepherd presentation as well as Eucharistic presence.