Help me find stories and songs for Tiny Humanists
August 3, 2010 9:48 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to teach a Humanist Sunday School class. Help me figure out a good song to sing and stories to read!

We went to our first Humanist Sunday School class last weekend, and my husband and I would like to lead a class. The format for the class seems to go like this: sing a song, read some stories, take a snack break, do a science demonstration.

At our first class, we sang Why Does the Sun Shine?, and read some creation stories from various cultures. I'd like to do something science-related. The kids are all under 6 years old, so the song has to be simple and short enough to get them to sing along. I play guitar, so any links to tabs would be appreciated, though I can also read music, so if I can get sheet music, that's fine too. I'm also looking for good sciencey stories for preschool kids.

My husband is planning a demonstration of Galileo's refutation of Aristotle's law of falling bodies (basically rolling things of various mass down an incline plane). So, bonus points if you can tie in the song and/or stories to gravity or the laws of motion. But I'll take anything that is good and sciencey. Thanks, hivemind!
posted by lexicakes to Science & Nature (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
This land is your land would be a good song. I also think any good campfire songbook would have some good ones. Where have all the flowers gone? Kids love astronomy and dinosaurs. Animal lessons are really fun. Contact your local science museum and tell them you are looking for one-hour lessons to do in small groups. They will have a learning officer or museum educator who can address your needs and tell you where to find free or low-cost science resources.

I would recommend that you keep a log of lessons and songs you use, it could be a great book for other teachers in that space.
posted by parmanparman at 10:41 PM on August 3, 2010

Steve Roslonek of SteveSongs has some great songs on his album "On a Flying Guitar" which you can download from Amazon. They may be a bit challenging but the themes are fun -- one son is called "Spinning Round" and is about how earth spins, causing the day and night... and is itself revolving around the sun, etc. That's followed by a song about gravity. No tabs though...

On A Flying Guitar on Amazon

Disclaimer: We were in the same a cappella group in college.
Bonus fun fact: The bassist on this album is also the bassist for MC Frontalot :-)
posted by rouftop at 11:30 PM on August 3, 2010

What about Aesop's Fables? There's a moral, but not religious angle and the tales are tailor made for kids.

It's also a fantastic backgrounder for all kinds of classical art and literature.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:07 AM on August 4, 2010

My Unitarian Sunday School used to do "We've Got the Whole World In Our Hands" (to the tune of "He's Got the Whole World In His Hands".) Also Magic Penny.
posted by Daily Alice at 2:36 AM on August 4, 2010

They Might Be Giants made a whole science CD that included a "response song" to Why Does the Sun Shine. Apparently the sun is not a mass of incandescent gas. It's more like a miasma of incandescent plasma. All of the songs are kid-friendly...and most of them have a music video for them on the accompanying DVD.
posted by inturnaround at 5:10 AM on August 4, 2010

"The Magic School Bus" books tend to go over well with the younger crowd, in my experience.
posted by purlgurly at 5:31 AM on August 4, 2010

Best answer: Apparently one of the books - "The Magic School Bus and the Science Fair Expedition" invoves Ms. Frizzle and her class actually picking up Galileo and giving him a ride. :)

Ms.Frizzle is back in action and she has a mission: her students need science fair projects - and fast. What better way to get ideas than to learn from some of the all-time greats? The class heads to the Walkerville Science Museum to see the exhibit on GREAT SCIENTISTS THROUGH THE AGES, where, suddenly, Galileo comes to life! He is about to make a great discovery, but he needs a ride home. Thank goodness Ms. Frizzle knows the way!
posted by purlgurly at 5:35 AM on August 4, 2010

Perhaps the greatest humanist anthem is "Imagine" by John Lennon. It is also a fairly simple song which would not necessarily exceed the linguistic capabilities of young children, although the deep philosophical meaning of the song might not fully penetrate until later in life.
posted by grizzled at 7:01 AM on August 4, 2010

Best answer: During a cross-country drive, my then three-year-old brother permitted the listening of two cassette tapes, one of which was Wee Sing Dinosaurs. To this day, my stirring a capella rendition of "Compsognathus" can hold small children spellbound in the dinosaur wing of the Natural History Museum (and yes, they do sing along the second time). IIRC, most of the songs are to the tune of other songs (e.g. a song about dinosaurs sung to "Camptown Races"), which may make the melodies more familiar to the kids.
posted by posadnitsa at 7:24 AM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

I recall learning about planting seeds in my UU Sunday School class at one point as a way to learn about gardening and plant biology, as well as the larger lesson: "Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part." Along with that, we sang "Inch by Inch". Actually, we sang Inch By Inch like all the damn time in that church.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:52 AM on August 4, 2010

Best answer: Semi-offtopic: I am interested in learning more about this "Humanist Sunday School". Is there a newsletter I could subscribe to?

More on-topic: The TMBG song "Why Does the Sun Shine" (as well as the more recent "A Shooting Star is not a Star") are actually covers of the 1950s-era Ballads of the Age of Science which include songs on a wide range of topics. Those two are among the best, but there are other good ones in there. And they are all intended for young kids. It might be worth digging up a copy.

As for books: The library. My library has tons of books on science for even babies (i.e. shapes and colors). Some are non-fiction, some are fictional and some are in between. I also like to get out fairy/folk tales from around the world, such as the Anansi books. (There's also one that's very interesting for ~6 and can lead to discussions but I unfortunately can't remember the title. It goes by category, such as "girl in the forest". There'll be 3-5 stories from different cultures that are recognizably the "same" story but with differences here and there. In one a wolf gets her, in another she kills a snake, in a third she's visiting her sister instead of her grandmother, etc.)
posted by DU at 9:06 AM on August 4, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the good ideas, everyone! I really like the suggestions to use folk stories (religious myths are OK too). My husband and I just seem to be the most science-oriented of the group, so I wanted to have a science-themed lesson plan. But, the point is to give the kids some cultural education too, so maybe I'll try to find some myths or folklore to share.

DU - Thanks. I knew the song was a cover, but I couldn't remember where the original came from. To answer your question, there is no newsletter. Some folks from the local Humanist Society just decided to put together a Sunday School. It's not a drop off Sunday School like most churches have, though. The parents stay and participate. We take turns putting together lesson plans and leading the class. So far, it's been really fun.
posted by lexicakes at 12:19 PM on August 4, 2010

"Humanist Society" is I guess what I'm looking for. Never heard of it.
posted by DU at 4:30 AM on August 5, 2010

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