Plant an Interfaith Garden
Parliament Planning for Kids and Children This Time
by Vicki Garlock
For the first time ever, the Parliament, in conjunction with Spiritual Playdate, is offering a kids’ program! The theme for the first-ever family festival in Toronto this November is “Plant an Interfaith Garden.” The event promises five days of joyful and engaging exploration for all who are young at heart. As Edwina Cowell, founder of Spiritual Playdate, put it, “The Parliament has never really done outreach to area families before. There are so many folks out there, especially those who care for or work with children, who are hungry for information on other religions. They are seeking a more inclusive approach to exploring faith and spirituality with kids, and the Parliament is the perfect place to dip a toe into the water.”
A stroll through the interfaith garden will reveal a huge variety of fun, age-appropriate, and always respectful, activities for kids and caregivers of all ages. You’ll find arts and crafts for kids, virtual reality activities for teens, hip-hop performances, yoga sessions, parenting workshops, a Friday night Family Shabbat, and even a Grandparents Day!
One of the most exciting features will be the roll-out of the newly-created World Religions Game – a unique learning experience that promotes religious literacy and a deeper appreciation for the various faith traditions found around the globe.
Clay and Paper Theater
Clay and Paper Theater and their giant puppets will definitely be a big draw. Started in 1994, Clay and Paper Theater is known for its cutting-edge, community-centered, diversity-embracing art form. They are a theater without walls – performing in parks, gardens, and other public spaces – in an effort to promote reflection and dialogue. The Parliament has commissioned a brand-new puppet show, “Golden,” that showcases the Golden Rule, so keep an eye out for those performances. The troupe’s signature over-sized masks and eye-catching stilt performances are sure to be a hit with all ages!
Beads on One String
Each element of the family program has also been carefully considered to ensure inclusivity, the theme of this year’s Parliament. Dennis Warner’s “Beads on One String” project, which honors our universal connectedness and the power of diversity, is a perfect example. Originally published in 2004, Beads on One String began as a song, blossomed into a book, and has become a curriculum tool to address bullying and promote character education. It will be a busy couple of weeks for Dennis, who will perform every day the Interfaith Garden is open, after spending time visiting Toronto-area elementary schools!
Another series of highlights will take place in the Festival’s Garden Center. Fun, interactive, and experiential Learning Patches will be hosted by both faith-specific and interfaith organizations. Kids can get their own Good Deed Pocket, build their own Altar, or walk through the fascinating Chestahedron to gain an enlightening glimpse into spiritual and faith practices from across the globe.
Spiritual Discovery Sessions
Additional opportunities will be available throughout the 5-day program. Kid-centered workshops will include “Real Life Superheroes” and “Cartooning from the Heart,” while programs like “Healing the Teenage Heart” and “Interfaith Leadership Training” will be geared to teens. Seminars on “Golden Rule Parenting” and “Raising Prejudice-Free Kids” will offer practical take-away strategies for parents and other caregivers, and workshops like “Restorative Practices/Circle-Keeping” will focus on classroom techniques for teachers. While many sessions have a particular target audience, other activities, like “Ability Yoga,” are intentionally inter-generational and aim to bring people of all ages together in one space.
A Few Logistics
The Interfaith Family Festival will be located in the Main Exhibit Hall and provide daily programming from Friday, Nov. 2 through Tuesday, Nov. 6. Adults must be registered for the Parliament before registering children. Click here for a list of pricing options and to register an adult. Then, click here to register one or more children. The full-week pass for kids age 6-12 is only $100 and the weekend pass (Friday-Sunday) for kids age 6-12 only $50! Register now and use coupon code FAMILY10 for discounts on the many different passes to Parliament. Single-day tickets and under-age-5 discounts are also available. There are still a few available slots for field trips and large group events, too, but space is limited, so sign up now!
As someone whose vocation centers on the interfaith education of kids, I am ecstatic about the Parliament providing physical space and valuable resources for this important endeavor. Furthermore, I hope the kids-and-family program becomes an ever-growing highlight of future Parliament gatherings. If we want to create a more compassionate, open-hearted, and understanding world, we need to start with kids. The Parliament’s Plant an Interfaith Garden initiative is an excellent place to start.
Header Photo: Max Pixel