By Iris Treul
Milwaukee Friends Meeting recently hired George Wortz as a First Day School program coordinator and teacher for the younger Friends. George and the Shareletter committee asked me to interview him so that some of the adults upstairs could learn about what the children in First Day School are doing. Here is how it turned out.
What is First Day School?
First Day School is the children’s program of Quaker Meeting. First Day School got its name because we meet on the first day of the week, Sunday.
First Day School starts at 10:00 A.M. with singing for children and families. Then at 10:15 A.M., the kids sit upstairs with the adults in silent worship for ten minutes. Afterwards, the kids and their teachers head downstairs for children’s religious education.
Who is in First Day School?
The First Day School ages range from about age three to age eleven, but everyone and anyone is welcome to join in. George is trying to get more parents, who already come to Quaker Meeting, to bring their children to First Day School. When families with children attend more frequently, it helps to build a regular community of Friends. “It’s nice to have older kids with younger kids so that they can learn how to be and have role models”, George said. It is also good for the older kids and teens to work with the younger children.
What do the children learn in First Day School?
First Day School strives to reinforce the Quaker values and testimonies of Simplicity, Equality, Integrity, Peace and Stewardship. Recently, they have been learning about community and what it means to be a part of one—helping to work and exist with others, but also community in the sense of collective decision making.
What is it like teaching First Day School?
“It’s challenging teaching kids about God or Spirit because you don’t know what they have already learned from their family,” George said. “It is also something they can’t touch or see or compare. The teaching about God has to be done by finding and showing examples of God in the everyday world around them. The challenge is getting children to find their own acknowledgement and participation with and about God as they feel it is. It’s hard to teach them that it is okay to agree to disagree about God and what they think is right or wrong.”
No matter where kids come from, though, it is easy and rewarding to talk about justice and community.
What do the teens do?
“I am trying to find some ways of bringing more of our teens to Sunday Meeting more regularly. They have their own room that they can decorate and use however they need to. Whether it be hanging out, playing games, doing art, social work, etc., I would love to have our teens be a part of a solid group or family as I remember having in our Meeting when I was a teen,” George said.
Every year, the teens prepare to run the Teen Cafe as part of the International Gift Shop, the largest fundraiser of the year which supports two non-profit Quaker organizations, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL).
Each year, the teens donate their tips from the Teen Cafe to an organization that the teens come up with. This year, the organization was Nothing But Nets, which is working to help fight Malaria. In addition to preparing for the International Gift Shop, the teens have a Quaker adult who leads them in spiritual education while the younger kids are in First Day School.
George and I talked about a lot of things, and I chose just some key points to put in the article. My family and I are regular attendees at Milwaukee Friends Meeting.
Iris Treul is a 12 year old homeschooler who lives in Milwaukee and enjoys playing the piano, gymnastics, skiing and cuddling with her dog Cece.