Bright ideas for Bible studies

1st April 2011 at 01:00
A travelling trailer uses Crystal Maze-style techniques to boost interest in the religious text. Jackie Cosh gets in the zone

I'm sitting in the Crystal Maze, watching a Bible DVD which would put the makers of Toy Story to shame, ready to hit the zones and take part in some challenges. At least, that is how it feels.

In reality, I am sitting in a mobile trailer parked beside the back gate of Lenzie Academy. But the similarities are there.

This is the Bible Society's Bibleworld mobile interactive classroom, which since 2005 has travelled round Scotland visiting schools, communities and churches.

In this case, each of the six zones contains different Bible-related activities, designed with the curriculum in mind, delving into the history of the Bible and making it relevant to young people.

Today, it's the turn of the P6 and 7 class from Lenzie Moss Primary. In the short DVD they hear about a boy who discovers the Bible and learns about the exploits of Goliath, the miracles of Jesus, and all the other adventure stories.

I join Cameron Montgomery and Sara Kazaminia as we head for the Aeroplane Zone. We put our headphones on, listen to the aeroplane safety announcements and we're off - to China, Peru and Malawi.

A screen in front of our seats takes us through the work the Bible Society does in each country. We learn how different life is for these people and how much the Bible means to them. A workbook keeps the children active, asking questions about what they have seen.

Then we're off again; this time to the Quiz Zone. With no time to stop, we grab the handheld voting systems that enable us, once we have seen some short cartoon clips covering stories from the Gospels, to answer a series of quiz questions. Pupils are spurred on by the nature of the voting. When the screen shows that one of the four pupils hit the correct answer, there is a bit of self-applause.

While the children explore the boxes and fill in their worksheets, Fiona McGill, Bibleworld's development project manager, explains the scheme's background.

"The aim is to help teachers and parents dig a bit deeper into RE. The new curriculum gives us more scope to look at Bible culture and to bring RE into cross-curricular work," Ms McGill says.

"We bring in history, literacy and social history - particularly with it being the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. It's about linking it up to as many areas as possible, so they get the fun. It's about linking it to our culture and how we treated the Bible."

Normally funded by local churches, Bibleworld has impressed teachers and pupils alike with its innovative approach to religious and moral education (RME).

"The kids are always very positive," says Ms McGill. "Teachers report that back in the classroom they show a renewed interest in RME, mostly in the Bible, but in other areas too. Some say it is a passing interest for a week or two, but teachers are changing how they teach RME. It shows them how to make it more interesting.

"We use a lot of visual clips and it gives them ideas of how to look for more like that. We are planning to develop a list of where to get these. Teachers don't have the time to trawl through resources."

Class teacher Gary Jackson agrees. He says: "This is great. It's a brilliant way of teaching RME. It's the way to interest children. Sitting in class using old-fashioned worksheets does not work. You have to move with the times. I would recommend it."

Experience has shown that pupils talk about it to their friends. Ms McGill recalls visiting a school where on the first day a high number of pupils had opted out. "But the groups on the first day told their peers about it and, as the week went on, fewer and fewer pupils opted out."

With the quiz over, my group has moved on to The Museum. The Spaceship, Music Zone and Library await them but, for now, they are engrossed in learning about how the Bible has been delivered through the ages and in trying their hand at an old-fashioned printing press and the cuneiform script, one of the earliest-known forms of writing.

Mr Jackson is clearly delighted by how engaged the children have been. "This is the way to do it," he says. "Children demand instant joy nowadays. They are used to their (Nintendo) DS and computer. If you want them to learn, you have to make things more interesting."

Six zones

- The Library introduces the Bible as a series of books containing different types of literature, while looking at language and how it is communicated.

- The Aeroplane flies users to far-off countries where the Bible message is being spread.

- The Museum introduces the history of literature and writing, and different methods used through the ages.

- The Quiz Zone contains an interactive quiz on Bible stories, and a workbook quiz on Christian festivals.

- The Music Zone uses musical clues to test Bible knowledge and looks at Christian music.

- The Spaceship takes pupils back to biblical times, where they solve puzzles and engage with characters about Christian events.

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