The Atrium

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This girl is interacting with the Good Shepherd work.  The parable of the Good Shepherd is rich with significance for a child from the ages 3 to 6, as they come to know God as a protector with deep love for them.

I have tried for two years to begin talking about something that I have been very excited about.  The problem has been that I have no idea how to talk about it.

It is spiritual formation for children.  It uses Montessori and Rabbinic inquiry methods to draw children in the question of who God is.  It is well-thought out, it curtails naturally to the nature of the child to play and the play draws them in to discovering who God is.  Most of all, it let’s the child discover who God is without having God imposed upon him or her.

For me it has answered the question as I have sought how to help my girls grow to understand who and what is God.

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This is an altar that has been decorated by a child with many small beautiful things.  It encourages interaction with the nature of God without necessarily needing words.

What is the Atrium?

Atrium is a prepared environment designed to help children learn about the nature of God, Christ and the Church.  It is a sacred space where children can slow down and interact with materials that point to who is the Messiah and Creator.  It is not a place of indoctrination, memorizing or performance.

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This is a pentecost celebration prayer table.  It is typically set up by the children.

Why is the Atrium?

The Atrium is to help children grow closer to God by themselves.  It is a space where children can interact with materials that help them to understand deeply the story of Christ, the creation, parables and rituals found in the church.  Rituals are important to children because they deepen understanding and help the child move toward God without using words.

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Maria Montessori, the originator of a natural kind of education which sought to use the child’s own imaginative and creative instincts to facilitate learning.

Who is the Atrium?

Maria Montessori pioneered a method of education where students learn by interacting with materials in a “prepared environment” which included both “practical life” and learning materials designed to draw children in to concepts and encourage them to explore.  Atrium follows Montessori methods, but also encourages wondering on the part of the child by using Rabbinic questioning.  The Atrium was something which came out of Sofia Cavaletti’s inquiries into the the spiritual potential of children.  She has written a number of books, as well as Gianna Gobbi about engaging children in a way that mirrored how Christ engaged us.

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Sofia Cavaletti, writer of many books about children’s spiritual development and the originator of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, where the Atrium comes from.

When is the Atrium?

Atrium can happen any time of the week.  The one in the town where I live and work happens on Sunday mornings, but there are other Atriums that are on Wednesdays or during school hours.

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An example of an atrium where children come to interact with materials which facilitate wondering and the asking of questions about who God is.

Where is the Atrium?

The Atrium is run in communities, often times in parishes.  In my town we have an Atrium on Sunday mornings but all of our adults have been trained at a Montessori in Portland.

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Atrium materials are hand crafted and made of wood and other natural materials to be durable and yet beautiful and inspire curiosity.

How is the Atrium?

The Atrium is a quiet place filled with light.  It should be a comfortable place where all of the things the children will interact with are the right size for them.  It is a place designed for children to work on their own mainly, but they may have some work presented to them if they are curious to know about it.  It is a place where children walk slowly, speak quietly and choose whatever it is that they want to work on that day.  The materials are rich with the work of God.  Every thing in the Atrium is designed to draw the child into a calm contemplative state.  I find the Atrium to be a deeply restful place, a place where I am free to make beautiful things and invite children into the mystery of God through stories and hands on objects that they can spend time with.

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This is the map of Jerusalem for students to learn about events in the life of Christ and to further orient them and make tangible the realness of who Christ was as a human, as well as the Son of God.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Janelle says:

    This is such a great explanation.

  2. Marcia Norman says:

    H – this is a wonderful thing. Wish more churches could do this Mom >

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