In the Classroom: Vacationing with the Bible

Trust. Love. Follow. Care. Share.

These are the themes of St. James the Less and Holy Redeemer parishes' Vacation Bible School, which wrapped up its inaugural session on Friday.

St. James in La Crescenta and Holy Redeemer in Montrose operate jointly and share ministerial resources, priests and staff. This year marked the first time the two churches have held joint Vacation Bible School.

"We get to learn about God and the New and Old Testaments," said Annie Burns, 7, of Tujunga. "I didn't know about St. Augustine. Then we learned the story about him today, what he did and why he is a saint."

Kids participating in Vacation Bible School begin their day at 8:45 a.m. Each day is devoted to studying the Bible, as well as participating in arts and crafts and music projects.

"We learned that we can love everyone even if we don't like them," said Jonna Price, 11, of La Crescenta, adding: "I love doing the crafts."

Each day, students study a particular Bible verse and observe a particular theme, on which their activities during the day are based.

"All of their activities, whether it'd be crafts or games or storytelling or science projects or music, is reinforcing the theme of the day," said Trish Swords, director of religious education at Holy Redeemer and St. James parishes, who initiated the program. "It is sharing the word of God through activities, to where they can learn these Bible verses and learn how to incorporate them into their lives."

In a recent science project assignment, for example, students heard the parable of the Good Samaritan, as told in Luke 10:25-37. The story revolves around a Jew — beaten, robbed and left to die on the street — being aided by a Samaritan, who was not expected to help the Jew.

The idea behind the lesson was "helping hands." In the lesson, students learned about dexterity and had their fingers dipped in ice and taped to test the limits of the human hand when it is compromised.

"Just anything they can do to reinforce the theme of the day through an interactive experience," said science leader Caroline Novak.

Vacation Bible Schools are not exclusive to Catholic churches, and can be found in other denominations. Vacation Bible School will begin July 12 at La Crescenta Presbyterian Church, and at Glendale First United Methodist Church through July 25. Bethel Assembly of God Church's Vacation Bible School began Monday.

"I hope that at the end of each day, they [kids] have a little more in-depth understanding of whatever story we're doing that day and beginning a relationship with Chist," said Nancy Person, director of children and family ministry at Glendale First United Methodist. "Telling the stories over and over and over and over is an important way of getting children to learn."

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