November 2013

Teaching kids about Jesus with Horton Hears a Who and other children’s favorites

Build. Plant. Grow.  A Faith Formation Program With a Focus on Ethics

Santa Clara, Calif. Nov. 7, 2013- If the language of Thessalonians or Luke isn’t holding your child’s attention in mass, how about the musings of Dr. Seuss? A new, free curriculum developed in conjunction with Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics is using contemporary texts to help the ancient words of scripture make sense to kids.

Build. Plant. Grow., available online at, pairs the Sunday readings with classic children’s books and uses both to highlight a virtue that anyone can practice.

“This is a faith formation program for people of any age who build, plant, and grow the word in their lives. It’s especially for use in schools and parishes as children break open the word each week,” says Steve Johnson, director of character education at the ethics center.

The online curriculum provides weekly lesson plans that suggest how people can, as Johnson puts it, “live our daily lives as Christians at our best.”

For example, the lesson plan for the third Sunday in Advent looks at the value of joy in How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss.  It is paired with that week’s passages from the Gospel of St. Matthew, from Isaiah, and from James.  In each, students are encouraged to connect with the joy that comes from within, from a relationship with God and with others.  

Other children’s classics in the curriculum include The Hundred Dresses, Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, Horton Hears a Who and Frog and Toad. Curriculum is currently available through Advent and updates are posted regularly.

The lesson plans also offer hands-on activities, with different approaches sensitive to the different ways children learn.  Another section, called “What can I do today?” asks children to take concrete actions based on the virtue they’re learning.  Finally, the lesson concludes with a prayer.

Build. Plant. Grow. takes its title from a passage in Jeremiah:

Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce... multiply there and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare, you will find your welfare.

Anthony Mancuso, S.J., chaplain at St. Francis High School in Mountain View, Calif., wrote many of the lesson plans for Build. Plant. Grow. 

“I took the readings for each Sunday and pulled out a connection between them, often a word related to a virtue, such as justice or courage,” he said.  Mancuso tied that idea to a children’s book dealing with the same theme, which “allows the ethics to come alive for a younger mind.”

Build. Plant. Grow. is intended for use by Catholic school and parish religion teachers and by parents who want to engage young people in the Gospel message in a way that is relevant and vital.

Media Contact: Marika E. Krause I I 408-829-4836

Build.Plant.Grow. steve johnson,character education,markkula