All aboard

4th April 2003 at 01:00
Kyle's Plasticine Noah has yellow wellies and a large brown sou'wester.

Sophie's Mrs Noah looks suspiciously like Barbie. Callum and Jack are having a conversation about why God had to put two of each species on the Ark ("So they could have babies") and whether dinosaurs were included in the cargo.

This is Year 34's half-termly Godly Play session at Foleshill CE primary school in Coventry. After clearing the tables to the side, lowering the lights and welcoming in the children, class teacher Nicky Paxton sits with them in a circle. Using blue, brown and green cloths and a wooden Ark, animals and figures, she quietly tells the story of the Flood, pausing often in silence, looking down at her props rather than at the children.

Their response is equally calm. They discuss rainbows and promises and what they like best in the story, before spreading out to paint, make models and re-enact it on the floor. One child sits apart, looking through picture books. The children are not confiding their spiritual experiences, as they did in the safety of individual conversation with Dr Nye. But there is a sense of extreme contentment; a feeling that everybody is more themselves than they were before that day.

"Godly Play creates a sense of belonging, a confidence that you can respond in the group in any way you want to," says Nicky Paxton.

"We are not trying to force particular spiritual belief on a child, but just to make them aware of where they see themselves in the world. I am here merely to open the door. What they discover on the other side is up to them."

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