Experiential Learning in Sunday School
Martha Compleman-Blair received her M.Div. in 1986 at the age of 56. While serving on the Christian Education committee at Trinity Presbyterian in Prescott, Arizona, she heard about an approach to Sunday school called "rotation model." The committee learned that this new way of doing Sunday school began in a group of Presbyterian churches in Illinois.
The rotation model focuses on a theme, event, or story for a month to six weeks, with students involved in a different learning situation each week. One week they may prepare an original drama--the next, an art project. Another week they may learn new songs that enhance the message, or do Bible research with books or computer. They may practice hospitality by preparing foods eaten by the people they are studying. A newspaper "extra" for the event being studied might be prepared, or a banner made to share in worship.
"We began to seriously consider adopting this approach to faith learning, and had two or three brainstorming sessions on content," Martha says. "I recognized that this model was the practical application of a dream for faith learning that I had carried in my heart for many years." She led an intergenerational team that built a rotation model curriculum for their church called Bible Trek, a six-year sequence of themes and Bible stories for kindergarten through 5th grade.
Martha says the rotation model benefits all types of students. "The student who attends frequently gets a rich in-depth experience, while the child who comes less often does not miss out entirely, as happens when each Sunday is a different story and moral," she says. "This kind of learning, utilizing all the recently identified "Learning Intelligences," works very well for young people who have difficulty sitting for very long, or who do not read proficiently. It also works well for intergenerational learning."
The rotation model also makes it possible for more people to become involved in teaching. The workshop activity leaders present their workshop, with appropriate age modifications, as many times as there are age groups. Usually a teacher/leader does 2-3 weeks in a row, and then has some time off. This short-term involvement can utilize many gifted people who would be unable to make a longer commitment to teaching Sunday School.
Over 300 lesson plans, which can be printed at no charge, are available at www.rotation.org. Books and conferences are also available.
Children’s Ministries of America, a national organization, has expanded Rotation Model to what they call "Multi-Dimensional Learning Experiences" with particular emphasis on children with special needs. CMA sponsors Learning Conferences and also has a website: www.childrensministries.org.