First Grade Lent Retreat

Whew!  I got through my first First Grade Retreat!  I learned recently that each class has to have some type of spiritual retreat during the year (we are a Catholic school!), and first grade has their retreat in April.  (Since this is my first year at this school, there have been a lot of firsts for me lately!). We don't actually leave campus for the retreat, the majority of our activities are in the Hall (the auditorium), but we're out of the classroom all morning, which I guess makes it a "retreat" as opposed to just an extended religion lesson.

Our retreat was centered around pretzels, and how they represent prayer and penance (which I actually didn't know before).  First, I talked to the kids about the history of the pretzel, and that they were made centuries ago during Lent.  Back in the fourth century, the Romans abstained from milk, butter, and eggs (among other things) during Lent, so they would make pretzels using only flour and water.  The pretzels represented their fasting and penance.  The shape of the pretzel is of arms crossed in prayer, to remind us that Lent is a time of prayer.  The word pretzel even comes from a Latin word meaning "little arms."  I broke things down in more detail for the kids, but that's the gist of it. 

After learning about how pretzels can remind us of what's important during Lent, the kids actually made their own soft pretzels!  Wetzel's Pretzels was so generous to donate the dough mix for us, so that was one less thing to prepare beforehand. 

The kiddos each rolled and twisted their own pretzel, and as they finished, parents would put their pretzel on parchment paper, write their name on the parchment paper with a sharpie, and pop them in the oven!  Most of the kids did a pretty good job!  Here are a few of the better-looking ones.

Although I have one student who is allergic to white flour, and had to use a special dough from Trader Joe's. Which would be no big deal, except he couldn't use flour to help him roll his dough, and the whole thing turned into a blobby mess in his hands!  The poor little guy started crying, and then I wanted to cry for him!  Trust me when I say, rolling dough without flour is nearly IMPOSSIBLE.  I tried to help him, and just made a bigger mess!  Well let me tell you, I don't think I've prayed harder all year than I did in that moment, asking God to PLEASE help me turn that sticky mess into a pretzel for my sweetheart of a student, so he wouldn't be the only kid without one. Sure enough, God came through for me, because after wetting my hands to try and get the dough to slide off my hands, I was able to make this:
The extra water made it a little runny, but it's the only thing that saved me! (Other than a little help from The Man Upstairs!)  And that little guy's beaming smile when he saw it just made my week. "It's a perfect pretzel!!!!!" he exclaimed.  (If you say so! Whew!!)

After averting that crisis (I feel like at least 20% of my day is spent averting a crisis), we went back to the classroom to listen to our principal read a story about Jesus and the Passion.  It's a really sweet story about how all the garden animals try to comfort Jesus during the Crucifixion.  It's hard explaining the Passion to little kids without freaking them out, and this book does a really nice job of telling the story in an honest way, without being scary.

By the time the story was finished, the pretzels were all out of the oven!

And that was our First Grade Retreat!  The kids all sat in the Hall eating their pretzels together, and let me tell you, they were delicious!  The parents were so on top of it, they even had mustard and nacho cheese in little dipping cups at each child's place. 

I'm just glad it all went off without a hitch!  The kids had a great time, they were engaged, they seemed to really "get it," and the parents who came to volunteer were happy with how it all turned out. Success story!