The story of Nehemiah is from the Old Testament of the Bible. Nehemiah was from Jerusalem, but was a servant for the King of Persia. He was sad for the people of his hometown of Jerusalem because there was no wall around their city, making the Isrealites very vulnerable to their enemies. The King granted Nehemiah permission to return home to rally his people and build a wall around their city. Because Nehemiah was such a great leader, the people of Jerusalem rallied together and were able to build the wall in just over 50 days. The story of Nehemiah is one children can relate to because it stresses the importance of working together toward a common goal. Planning an art project or craft focusing on Nehemiah will help children understand the importance of cooperation and collaboration.
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Illustrate the Story
One simple way to help children understand the story of Nehemiah is to have them illustrate the story. Decide together how you would like to tell the story, then have the children decide the timeline and how their book about Nehemiah will be laid out. Each page should have a small amount of text, and the children will have to illustrate each page according to the text they have chosen. For example, "Nehemiah asked the King if he could build a wall of protection around Jerusalem." The children can choose to draw a picture of Nehemiah asking the King's permission to build a wall. Make sure each child in the group has the chance to illustrate at least one page of the story. Cover the finished book with clear contact paper for durability and let children page through it on their own.
To show children the importance of working together to complete a big project, have them work together in small groups. Using empty cereal boxes, construction paper, scissors, tape and other craft supplies, begin creating some of the buildings of Jerusalem. Children can create homes, barns, stores and schools using the cereal boxes and craft materials. Make sure children cooperate and collaborate with the others in the group before creating their structures. You might want to find artwork of homes and other structures from the time of Nehemiah for children to refer to while building.
Building The Walls
Use the structures you created in the collaborative activity for this next craft project. Let children brainstorm as a large group. Ask them: If they were Nehemiah, what kinds of materials would they use to build a wall around their city in order to protect it? After children have had a chance to think creatively, tell them that Nehemiah built a stone wall since this is the type of material readily available to him. Using cardboard boxes and other craft materials, ask the children to work together in a large group to build a wall around their crafted city of Jerusalem. Stress the importance of working together, communicating with each other and collaborating when there is a disagreement. Children can decorate the wall with aquarium rocks to represent the stone wall that Nehemiah built.
The City Gates
Once the wall is finished, explain to the children that an important part of the wall around Jerusalem was the gates. Ask children why they think gates were necessary and discuss the importance of letting citizens in and out of the city while still keeping enemies out. Using popsicle sticks, drinking straws or other craft materials, let children create their own city gate design for their crafted city of Jerusalem. Display these unique designs near the city and wall the children created collaboratively.