Spring is almost here! Enjoy these (mostly) seasonal activities with students of all ages.
By Celeste Behe
In March, we honor St. Joseph, study Julius Caesar, and look into hatching butterflies — and that’s not all!
Honoring St. Joseph in March
“It is a salutary practice and very praiseworthy, already established in some countries, to consecrate the month of March to the honor of the holy Patriarch by daily exercises of piety. … We exhort the faithful to sanctify [St. Joseph’s Day] as far as possible by private pious practices, in honour of their heavenly patron, as though it were a day of Obligation.” Pope Leo XIIIl
The tradition of the St. Joseph Altar, or St. Joseph Table, began when the people of Sicily were delivered from famine through the intercession of St. Joseph. A feast was prepared in thanksgiving, and the bounty shared with the community. Read a more complete description of “the history and significance of the St. Joseph Table.
While it may not be practical to set up a St. Joseph Altar in your classroom, your students can learn about the tradition by visiting a virtual St. Joseph Altar that explains the symbolism behind each of the altar offerings. Students at most grade levels will enjoy “building” 3D altars of their own, and even the youngest students can take part by assembling a “sticker version” of a St. Joseph Altar. It is customary for visitors to a St. Joseph Altar to be given “goodie bag” containing blessed items, so you might want to gift your students with same. Use plain brown paper lunch bags (a color and coarseness resembling St. Joseph’s cloak). Fill each with a copy of the ancient Prayer to St. Joseph, a St. Joseph medal, a few St. Joseph stickers, and a single Italian biscotto from a bulk package. (You might ask Father to bless the biscotti first.) Viva San Giuseppe!
Beware the Ides of March
And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard it, they marveled; and they left him and went away. (Matt. 22:20-22)
Your students may know the Scripture verse, but do they know the Caesar to whom Jesus refers? Julius Caesar, ruler of the Roman republic, died in 44 AD at the hands of conspirators. His assassination took place on March 15 or, on the Roman calendar, the Ides of March. Now’s the time to delve into a study of Julius Caesar, beginning with Shakespeare’s play, “The Life and Death of Julius Caesar.”
Got students who suffer from fear of Shakespeare? They may be swayed when they learn that the title of the popular book “The Fault in Our Stars” was inspired by this line from Shakespeare’s play: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” Read the complete text of “The Life and Death of Julius Caesar”, or purchase the annotated Kindle edition for a mere doit (as Shakespeare would say). Have the late-winter blues got you (and your students) down? Call for a book break and get interactive with fun and adaptable suggestions for celebrating the Ides of March in your classroom.
A New Creation
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Bring your science class “to life” with a live butterfly kit. Your students will be enthralled by the caterpillar-to-butterfly metamorphosis taking place before their eyes in a classroom-friendly habitat. Take the opportunity to talk about the butterfly as a symbol of resurrection, and its presence as a sign of blessing. It is said that butterflies often swarmed about St. Joan of Arc when she was going into battle. Even St. Joan’s enemies reported seeing a cloud of butterflies following in the saint’s wake!
A live ladybug kit offers another opportunity for your students to observe the growth, development, and metamorphosis of a living organism. The little spotted beetles called “ladybugs” are named after Our Lady, whose cloak is represented by the beetles’ red wings. and whose joys and sorrows are symbolized by its black spots. Ladybugs are also associated with Our Lady because, in medieval Europe. it was through Mary’s intercession that ladybugs saved the crops by devouring the aphids that were destroying them.
If your bug-crazy students clamor for more information on butterflies and ladybugs, segue into English class with this fascinating piece on the etymology of the insects’ names.
Faith Formation for Students with Special Needs
And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. (John 9:2-3)
For your special needs students, That Resource Site offers a wealth of printables focusing on faith formation. Oversized fonts, simple sentences, and uncomplicated layouts make the printables both practical and appealing. The collection includes coloring sheets, crossword puzzles, word searches, and more. Among the themes are the Ten Commandments, the parts of church, the Beatitudes, prayers to know, the sacraments, and the duties of a Catholic.
Practical Math through Music
The house which King Solomon built for the Lord was sixty cubits long, twenty wide, and thirty high. The porch in front of the nave of the house was twenty cubits from side to side along the width of the house, and ten cubits deep in front of the house. (Kings 6: 2-3)
Although few, if any, of your students will ever have to develop the mathematical skills required to build a temple, every one of them will undoubtedly need to acquire math skills of a more practical kind. Enter Huzefa Kapedia, once dubbed the “Justin Timberlake of Trigonometry.” The singing math tutor has created engaging video courses that teach math through song. Huzefa croons about quadratic formulas, raps about the slope intercept form, and shows off some killer dance moves in videos that help kids to grasp even the most difficult mathematical concepts. Courses include Power Pre-Algebra, Power 9 ISEE Math Middle Level, Power 36 ACT Math, Power 800 SAT Math, and 24 Days to Multiplication Mastery.
Celeste Behe is a blogger, speaker, and ardent Toastmaster. She lives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with her husband Mike and eight of their nine children.