Prayer Space in School in a Polytunnel!

6th July 2023

I’ve been working with St Leonard’s First School for a few years, running Christmas/Easter/transition workshops and offering CPD for the staff around prayer spaces. Last term the new head emailed and said she’d love to have a permanent prayer space in the school and thought that their unused polytunnel would make a great “Outdoor Church”. Catherine hadn’t experienced a prayer space in school before so I met with her and we explored the space together, as I described the activities we could use to introduce the children to prayer in a new way.

We decided to start small and introduce the space to the children through class lessons. Catherine asked if I could link it to their half term value of Love, and so I used activities to help the children reflect and pray about loving God, loving others, loving ourselves, loving our world:

Loving Ourselves

  • Family Tree (celebrating that God invites all of us to be part of his family)

Loving God

  • Prayer Plates (saying Thank You, Wow, Sorry, Please to God)
  • Finger Labyrinths (listening quietly to God)

Loving our Friends

  • Magnadoodle Sorry (love means owning up to our mistakes and giving others a second chance)
  • Friendship Chain (celebrating the many wonderful people in our school)

Loving our World

  • Love Hearts (messages of love for our community)

For Years 1-4, I introduced the idea of prayer by having all the children do a Prayer Plate, before explaining the space and the other activities. For nursery and early years, I did a guided space instead – Prayer Plates, Hand Prayer, Friendship Chain, Bubble Prayer, where I took the children through each activity. We ended that lesson with a joyful jumping around with the bubbles!

Some of the feedback from the children:

  • it was very fun and exciting
  • we had a relaxing time as we could do different things are we were not forced to do anything
  • it was really interesting
  • we god to learn more about God

I learnt several lessons from this space: not all activities translate well to an outside space, there were a couple of activities I had to abandon (pom pom people and plait prayers) because they really needed to be on a table; a tarp and mats/rugs for the ground are a must for the children to sit on; a polytunnel gets quite hot even on a cloudy day once you’ve got 3 adults and 20 children in; and a couple of staff members were disappointed that I hadn’t included more nature-based activities (I’d focussed too much on the theme and not given enough thought to fully using the outdoor location)

But I think I did a good job of making the space welcoming (it was great to transform a rather dry tree into God’s family tree with all the children’s handprints!) and providing the children with a variety of activities that helped them to reflect and pray about the theme. It was particularly lovely to see the long friendship chain and all their love heart messages to the world at the end of the day! 

Plastic Planet