Godly Play refers to its curriculum as a spiral. Children enter the spiral as a three-year-old. Then, like a cone, the spiral’s circles move upward and outward as they ingest Scripture and are able to take in more of its meaning. This happens as children mature and achieve new developmental milestones. The curriculum aims to accomplish the long-term goal of equipping children with the ability to integrate God’s story in their lives. It is based on the Montessori tradition.
The youngest children (RMC’s 4-5 year olds) begin the Godly Play Spiral with “core stories” that are repeated as the child moves up and down the spiral. The goal for young children is to absorb the stories so they can build upon them as they age. A few examples of core stories are The Great Family (God’s Covenant with Abraham), The Exodus and The Prophets.
During the second stage (RMC’s 6-8 year olds), both core stories and “extension/ enrichment lessons” are taught. These lessons tend to be more detailed stories about characters from the bible. For example, a core story is The Exodus. Moses is certainly discussed in the story, but not in great detail. During the second stage of the spiral, children will receive a story about Moses, starting with him as a baby in a basket. When they go back through the spiral and hear The Exodus again, they will now have more information to contemplate and enrich what they know about Scripture.
The third stage (technically for 9-12 year olds, but we use some with our 6-9 year olds) includes what Godly Play calls “synthesis lessons”. Along with core stories and enrichment stories, older children begin to link stories from Scripture with one another. In a synthesis lesson, you might witness a child connecting the Parable of the Good Shepherd, with the story The Good Shepherd and Communion. Perhaps you will see a child form a link between the tabernacle, synagogue and church. Often stories are told side-by-side. As the older children circle back down and up the spiral, they will have even more fodder for understanding those core and extension/enrichment stories.
Sometimes parents (and occasionally the children!) will ask why they need to hear the same stories repeatedly. That is a great question! Don’t we adults ask that of our own study? The short answer is because those stories are important, vital even, to us.
The long answer has more to do with our beliefs as Christians about Scripture and how the Holy Spirit works through it to transform us. The goal of Godly Play, or really for any Christian studying Scripture, is not simply to acquire knowledge or become an expert in all things bible. The goal we have is for children to encounter Scripture, and therefore a good, loving God, and be changed more into Christ’s image as they spend a lifetime in study of it (Hebrews 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).