Here are suggestions to help you include the Virgin Mary in your class curriculum.
By Celeste Behe
Does the thought of having to shoehorn a new activity into an already packed school schedule squelch your enthusiasm for even the most worthwhile extracurricular? Fortunately it’s easy to enrich your May curriculum with lessons related to Mary and the May altar, thereby increasing students’ appreciation for May devotions while still keeping to the daily routine.
Consider the following suggestions, but don’t stop there. Ask Our Lady to help you create some Mary-centered lesson plans. After all, she was our Lord’s own teacher!
Study literary devices in Marian poems, and then have the students do some choral speaking using the poems. For elementary grades Mary Dixon Thayer’s well-loved “To Our Lady” might be a good choice. For middle schoolers, consider Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “The May Magnificat” and G. K. Chesterton’s “A Little Litany” for older students. Here’s a how-to on choral speaking.
Listen to Marian hymns, or even a complete Rosary, sung in Gregorian chant. Learn the basics of Gregorian chant using the Teach Yourself Chant program found on the website of Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary. It’s perfect for meeting the seventh-grade Common Core curriculum standards.
Add Marian apparitions to your history class timeline, or create a separate timeline of Our Lady’s appearances. Map the locations of apparitions, taking special note of those that have taken place in the geographic area your students are studying this year. Here’s a helpful chronology by the International Marian Research Institute.
It’s easy to make life sciences relevant when there is a flower-bedecked May altar in the classroom. Have young students find out why cut flowers need to be placed in water. Show them the variations in leaves and petals. Can they identify the parts of a flower? Older students might take a fallen leaf or flower — no filching from Our Lady’s altar! — and observe it under a microscope.
If you plan ahead, you might have students grow May altar flowers from bulbs. Easy-to-follow instructions are here. Bulbs for Mary Garden favorites such as Beautiful Lady (amaryllis), Lady’s Rose (poet’s narcissus), and Lily-Among-Thorns (hyacinth) are good ones to try.
Create fraction-focused origami flowers and use them to decorate your May altar. Here’s a lesson that is adaptable for grades three through five and meets Common Core objectives. Follow the instructions to create an origami flower that resembles another Mary garden favorite, Virgin’s Bower (also known as clematis).
Create a felt banner and decorate it with symbols and/or titles of Mary; here are some examples. The finished banner can be used to embellish the classroom May altar.
You can also make Marian badges to wear. For each badge you will need a one-inch-wide, eight-inch-length of white ribbon, a narrow 10-inch length of light blue ribbon, a small Miraculous Medal, and a safety pin. Fold the white ribbon so that it resembles an inverted “v.” With the tip of the safety pin, pierce the top (“peak”) of the ribbon from the back of the ribbon to the front, slide the medal onto the pin, then pierce the ribbon from front to back and clasp it closed. Take the narrow blue ribbon, thread it through the safety pin just above the medal, and tie it into a bow. With a black felt-tip marker, write the word Ave on the left half of white ribbon and the name Maria on the right half.
Celeste Behe is a blogger, speaker, and ardent Toastmaster. She lives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with her husband Mike and eight of their nine children.