Earth Story Beads for Children
developed by Jan Ross

Click for:   Introducing Great Story Beads      Their Purpose and Potential

   Click for TIMELINE of 28 events for KIDS by Connie Barlow  

   Click for FULL-YEAR Curriculum for Classroom Use  

Jan Ross (right) is the Director of Religious Education at Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Church in Goleta, California. Every third year the kids study "Science and Myth" as the theme for Sunday morning classes. Making "Earth Story Beads" is the culmination of the year.

These photos were taken by Connie Barlow in June 2009, during the second session of beads stringing at Jan's church. After Connie finished her guest sermon, she went right into Jan's classroom. The children photographed here were those who extended their class time in order to complete their beads. (They had missed the previous Sunday, when the beads project began.) The way Jan designed the curriculum, it is easy to complete the beads project in two hour-long sessions (see below).




1. INTRODUCTION TO THE EARTH STORY: In Session 1 (or in previous weeks), the children are introduced to a sense that today's science-based understanding is our world's newest creation story. Like all previous creation stories it gives us an awesome sense of how things came to be and how we ourselves came to be. It also helps us feel that the actions we choose to take today will affect how the story continues on into the future. This is also the first creation story ever that was put together by people from all over the world working together — and this story continues to evolve as scientists make more discoveries.

2. TIMELINE: In Session 1, a single-page timeline is passed out to the kids. Younger children are given a timeline (LEFT) of 23 events, beginning with the Big Bang. Older children are given a timeline of 28 events that continues onto the back-side of the paper. (The two timeline versions are printed on different colored paper and can be downloaded here.)

3. BEADS SELECTION: In Session 1, children visit a long table that has bowls of beads labelled by post-it cards (photo ABOVE LEFT). These stations correspond with the names and sequence on the timeline. Obviously, procuring the beads (Jan makes some herself from sculpey clay, as in the beads for "Sun") takes a good deal of advance preparation, as does laying out the stations in the classroom.

4. BEADS STRINGING: In Session 1 (or 2) the children begin stringing their beads in order, using the timeline to guide them. See photo ABOVE RIGHT.

Click here for alternative
by Connie Barlow.

    Jan Ross's preparation time included:
(1) purchasing inexpensive beads (including the small spacer beads that separate the larger events beads), (2) collecting representational small objects for some events (such as the green dinosaur, left, into which she drilled a hole), and (3) fashioning some beads from sculpey clay. Right: Close-up of 3 sculpey beads Jan made — Sun, Earth, and "Future" bead (red, with question mark).


    Long tables are essential for setting out bowlfuls of beads station by station: a bowl of beads for kids to choose "Big Bang", then another bowl for "Galaxies", and so on.

Once the beads are gathered, the kids sit or stand at another table while stringing them in sequence.


    The light green paper (3 photos above) is a brief list of timeline events, which the children use when choosing and then stringing their beads. Older kids have 27 events/beads on their list; younger kids have 23 (with simpler descriptions).

Report by Kristin Reveal, chair of the Religious Education Committee of the Greater Nashville Unitarian Universalist Congregation:
"We did the BEADS curriculum as a summer program for lower/upper elementary in 2010. The kids LOVED it, especially making the necklaces. We purchased the evolution cards and walkable timeline too. I handed out the cards when the kids volunteered information and they were able to trade them. We had a timeline they made and illustrated that spaced the entire circumference of the room. It was awesome. In a survey we did last year, this was their 2nd favorite summer curriculum after the Rainforest one and before the Culture Camp one. Both of my own kids still have their necklaces and can still recite their evolution history."
Note: The kids used a modified version of the 28-event timeline, onto which they taped the event-specific beads in order. Then they strung their beads.

See immediately below 3 examples of the pre-printed charts made by for the kids, with events printed out in the top row, photos of the beads in the second row, and the actual chosen beads taped in place in the bottom row of each chart. Masking tape keeps the charts in place on the table when the kids begin stringing their beads.

Below that are examples of some of the beads, in order: Stars + Sun; Earth + Moon; Ocean Animals + Land Plants; Meteor Impact + Golden Age of Turtles; First Humans + Dog + Horse + Modern Humans; Little Mammals + Primates + Grasses.




More Children's Curricula