Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Curriculum Review - Large Group/Small Group - reThink Group/Orange!

imageMy curriculum review continues today with first look and 2*52 BASICS from the re Think Group/Orange. These curriculum resources have become very popular; reThink Group makes several of these lessons available for review - I prefer to see an entire quarter, but appreciate I was able to see more than one lesson for the elementary age level. It is difficult to get a full view of a curriculum without being able to see an entire quarter, but the lessons I saw, I really liked. 
The focus of "Orange" is on partnering with parents to help them help their children discover and embrace a growing relationship with Jesus Christ by discovering three core truths - I can trust God no matter what, I need to make the wise choice and I need to treat others the way I want to be treated.

They are offering something new for June and July to help you get a "look" at their curriculum - a two month trial for just $29 - this is an excellent way to see if it is a good "fit" for your ministry, or not! Allow me to share with you some information about reThink Group's first look and 252 BASICS curricula!
  • Publisher - reThink Group 
  • Website - whatisorange.org
  • Price - $575 per year per age level for 0 to 25 students . . . the price goes up from there based on the number of children in your ministry
  • Type - Large Group/Small Group
  • Scope - Topical
  • Available for Preschool/Early Elementary and for Elementary age children
Strengths -
  • Biblically Sound
  • Entirely reproducible 
  • Children are intentionally engaged throughout the lesson with activities and questions/discussions - the older children are engaged in the lessons by being able to help with some of the lessons
  • Scope is built around virtues and centers on "three basic truths modeled by Jesus in Luke 2:52 - I need to make the wise choice, I can trust God no matter what and I should treat others the way I want to be treated"
  • Parent materials are included so parents are able to continue the learning at home throughout the week
  • Colorful graphics
  • Teacher devotions/Bible backgrounds are well written and help volunteers understand and see the "big picture" of what they want the kids to learn
Would like to see - 
  • More affordable pricing - I'd really like them to find a different "business model" and not charge churches based on the number of students in the church since the church is the one who has to print the student materials
  • Weekly - "live-it" activities to help children take what they learn out the doors of the church and live it in their everyday lives every day
  • Quarterly service projects to "Put Feet to Their Faith"
  • Unified Scope and Sequence - there is a two year scope and sequence for preschool and a three year scope for elementary
  • An opportunity for volunteers to pray Scripture for each child to bless them
first look and 252 BASICS are written with the goal of intentionally engaging children so they are able to remember, understand and live God's Word for genuinely changed lives. Many churches have found these curriculum resources to be a good "fit" for their ministries and they are worth taking a look at to see if they "fit" your ministry and vision as well. I do have some feed-back from some people who use 252 . . . Amy Fenton Lee said, "My husband and I teach 252 each Sunday (4th grade boys) and we do get ideas in the curriculum for ways the kids can apply the lesson in everyday living. We have felt one of the strengths was in helping our boys translate the Bible concept to an everyday application. One other thought....this is just me and not based on anything I know for fact...but I think one of the reasons churches are charged based on the number attending kids is to keep the curriculum more affordable for the smaller churches. I go to a church which doesn't have the resources of some of the well-known mega churches. We are thankful the price of the curriculum is tailored more to attendance (attendance does usually have a pretty direct correlation to tithes and offerings and thus church budget). Also, there isn't that much printing involved. We (my husband and I) review the curriculum online. If we need to look at a paper copy, we print it ourselves at home. But usually we prepare off an i-Pad. And then the church does print maybe one activity page about every other week. (You never use all the suggested activities/exercises provided in the curriculum -- great problem to have)."

I had Jennifer from Nashville, TN say; "I am a department head over the Preschool at my congregation. We adopted the Orange First Look curriculum over a year ago. It was quite a change from what we had been using previously. The lessons we used previously were sequential Old Testament stories then New Testament stories (over 2 years). We were excited about Orange because of the focus on family and church cooperation. Unfortunately we have found that the lessons seem to be very shallow and the activities not quite age appropriate. Or perhaps we just have very bright students! The DVDs and lesson structure are good, but we do have to supplement the resources for the teachers. Fortunately we do have that old sequential curriculum to pull from. In the past year we have had 3 months of of the Creation story. We will be coming up with a replacement for the 3rd month. 3 & 4 year olds just don't need that much repetition - we want them to stay engaged. It is a decent curriculum but we have not found it to be something we could simply pull off the shelf and use. Which is unfortunate for the price we're paying. I have an older daughter in the 252 program, and it seems to be a little more appropriate. She enjoys it. I cannot say how much the teachers supplement, if any."

I understand the focus on teaching what a Christian life looks like lived in a life, but it is easy for the focus to become one which is virtue-centric and behavior-based, so this is something to be on guard for if you use 252. As I mentioned above, I'd really like to see them take a different approach to pricing their materials - I personally believe it is not appropriate to charge churches based on the number of children in their ministries when the church is the one who is also paying for the cost of printing the materials for their children. I'd rather see a pricing schedule with more focus on ministry and less focus on business. 

reThink says; "first look gives children a first impression of their Heavenly Father and the wonder of His love for each of them. Our passion is to see elementary school students enter middle school eager to discover more about God. We believe as children experience the wonder of God and are drawn into discovering how He touches every aspect of life, then a passionate faith will grow." They also say; "252 BASICS curriculum and resources PROVOKE DISCOVERY, inviting kids to live out their new understanding of how to grow in relationship with God and with others."

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