One of the favorite activities we do at Holy Week is the Jonah Project. This is a repost which includes printable forms of the Jonah. My original post on this tradition is here: Lessons from Jonah.
A tradition in our house has become Lessons from Jonah during Holy Week, which was inspired by Mary Reed Newland from her The Year and Our Children. Her original instructions can be read online here and here.
Our materials were looking a bit shabby, and since they were originally crafted very hastily, I updated them this year. I loosely followed Mrs. Newland’s instructions to create Jonah, the fish (or whale), and a ship, but I’m not artist, so apologies if you cannot recognize these figures:
Now for something to do. This is an activity that sums up all that Jonas teaches. The children use it during Holy Week. You need 9″ X 12″ colored construction paper, scissors, paste, and your choice of crayons, paint, or inks, and glitter. If you get glitter, don’t forget a tube of glitter-glue to use with it. All these things can be found in the Five-and-Ten.
The fish, measuring 8″ X 5-1/2″, is cut from a folded piece of paper with the top of the head and tail on the fold. Paste the tails together and spread apart the base so that it will stand.
The ship is 6″ high and 6-1/2″ long, with the top of the sail on the fold. This is cut from one piece of folded paper. Cut another sail from another color and paste over the first; spread apart to stand.
Jonas is 3″ high with his hands on the fold. Paste his heads together and spread his legs apart.
Use different colors for each piece and decorate them to suit your fancy. On the sail of the ship we painted a single eye, a symbol of the watchfulness of God the Father, who saw Jonas run away and sent the storm at sea.
These .pdf files you can print on cardstock, color and cut, and fold to stand. From past experience, I recommend not cutting out the white space over Jonah’s head, or there will be trouble standing him up. There are two options for the fish. The larger one I use, tracing on a folded blue 12 x 12 paper from a local craft store — “Cardstock Stack”. But since not everyone has this lying around, I provided a smaller fish to print on 8 1/2 x 11 cardstock. I’m considering laminating or putting Contact paper at least on Jonah, as he gets the most wear. If you feel creative, add another sail to the ship. Frankly, I’d like to research what the ship would have looked like, because mine is not a convincing water-safe vessel.
Mrs. Newland continues:
This is how they are used. Pour yellow corn meal on a tray (if sand is not available), and the figures will stand up in it. At the beginning of Holy Week, Jonas is in the ship. Standing in the prow with his arms flung up like that, he looks as though he is about to be tossed overboard Good Friday he goes into the fish. On Easter Sunday, the first child awake runs downstairs to take him out of the fish and put him on the shore, where he stands with his arms upflung in a great and joyful Alleluia! On the mast of the ship he tapes a cross, because the ship is a symbol of Christ’s Church, born out of the graces of the Redemption, and the fish is an ancient symbol of Christ. Icthus is the Greek word meaning fish, and each letter is the initial Greek letter of each word in the Greek phrase Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour.
While the sand is a nuisance to clean, this is one week of the year I indulge in all the senses. Our base is a large wood tray with edges (the paintable kind from the craft stores), covered with aluminum foil (even the handles, so no sand comes leaking out). The shore and water lines are divided by a loose diagonal or straight line. The two different colored sands will go on either side. To keep the sands divided, I have used Sculpey clay, sometimes rocks on top of the clay or just rocks. The boys will touch it, and the colors will mix, but it’s a visual divider that we all like. (Note all these illustrations are from are old images, not the new ones above.)
We have reading to accompany our project:
Peter Spier’s Book of Jonah: My sons are immediately captivated by the story of Jonah, the odd names of Nineveh and Tarshish, and that wonderfully big fish. In discussing Jonah, I pointed out how he was in the fish for 3 days, just as Christ was in the tomb. And we put ashes on our forehead on Ash Wednesday to show repentance and change.
The Hard to Swallow Tale of Jonah and the Whale by Joyce Denham. Unfortunately, this book is no longer in print, but it’s worth tracking down a used copy or from your library.
While our copy of Spier’s book quotes directly from the Bible, some of it is a little lofty for a child. This book’s illustrations are fantastic, and the story, while not dumbed down, really reaches the heart of a child so he can understand how far-reaching is God’s compassion, and how Jonah was wrong to hide from God.
Don’t be fooled by the title to think the focus is merely on the whale part of the story, or a fictionalized or light-hearted approach. The book accurately retells the story of Jonah and Nineveh from start to finish.
And I found it wonderfully thrilling to see an illustration of the Jonah Project in another little booklet we read during Lent (Out-of-print, unfortunately), Spring and Lent by Rosemary Haughton.
While I usually put out Jonah on Palm Sunday, we’re a bit late this year…but he has time to sail on the boat before the fish swallows him.
May you have a blessed Triduum.