One of the tools of master Bible class teachers for children and teens are the five senses. The more of those senses you can get students to use in the course of a Bible lesson, the more likely they are to understand and remember it. We tend to think the sense of hearing is engaged when we tell the lesson and perhaps sight is engaged if we show them something, but there are even better ways to engage those and the other senses.
Here are some of our favorite ideas for each sense.
Sight: Photos are always a great way to engage your students’ sense of sight, but why not bring in some of the actual objects? You may not be able to afford a first century clay lamp, but you can find a reproduction online for a few dollars. For exposure to real artifacts, museums are great resources – either through their virtual collections or by a field trip to a nearby museum. Don’t forget to show them items like real dates and figs, olive oil, reproductions of clothing and more. If you have the budget, consider renting some sheep, goats or donkeys for the day – especially for students who have never seen those animals in real life.
Sound: Try to move beyond just a normal telling of the Bible story. Changing voices for each person in the story or playing recordings of background noises adds a lot. Don’t forget to bring in a recording of a lyre playing when David plays the lyre or animal or storm noises to play in the background when telling those stories. Of course, recreations of ancient marketplaces and other sites will soon have natural noises as your students move through them, participating in common activities associated with them.
Smell. It’s the rare Bible class teacher who engages the sense of smell during a Bible lesson. Talking about animal sacrifices? Why not have a parent grilling a cheap piece of meat on a small electric grill right outside your classroom window or door? We don’t know the exact formula of the incense used in the Tabernacle and Temple, but we know enough about some of the ingredients for you to find an incense to burn that at least has some of the same smells. Of course, serving authentic foods with their accompanying smells as students live out the wedding parables or other stories works well, too. And what about all of those stories with animals? Bringing in the same animals for the day, also usually introduces animal smells – good and not so great!
Taste: We can’t think of anything better than serving tastes of authentic foods to Bible students. Be sure to check for allergies first, but most children have tasted very few of the foods in the Bible, from quail to lamb to dates, figs and more. Since they only get a couple of bites, it’s not too expensive and food isn’t wasted if they don’t like it. Want to make your own authentic recipes? Try those in the book The Food and Feasts of Jesus by Douglas Neel and Joel Pugh.
Touch: It’s relatively easy to obtain wool/hair from sheep, goats and if you are lucky, camels. The animals aren’t hurt and it really helps kids who haven’t been exposed to the animals. Once again, replicas of artifacts were made to be handled since it only takes a few dollars if they are damaged in some way. Don’t forget, people in the Bible ate many foods with their hands, providing another tactile experience. The basic caveat for touch is that if it can be seen, it can often be touched as well.
The next time you teach a Bible lesson, look for opportunities to engage all five senses in the telling of the story. You may be surprised how much better your students understand and remember those Bible stories.