Catching the Buzz at St. Andrew's

Jessica Nipp Hacker

Many thanks to Pastor Megan Crouch, Associate Minister at St. Andrew's Lutheran Church in Grand Rapids, MN for sharing this story and these photos with us. Megan writes:

We just completed our VBS program using the "Catch the Buzz" ELCA Malaria Campaign resource, and it was a BLAST. Here are some of the highlights of our program, and some of the tips and tricks that we learned while doing it!

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Photo: St. Andrew's Lutheran Church in Grand Rapids, MN "Caught the Buzz" for their VBS this summer. 

Without a doubt, one of the biggest highlights of the program was watching the children from age 3 (we had to adjust some material for the youngest children) through 11 get excited about helping their brothers and sisters in Africa. They really got the message and were excited to help out. I had one little girl ask me if she could send one of her craft projects to Africa!

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Photo: Children from St. Andrew's got excited about their "Catch the Buzz" craft projects!

We really embraced the opportunity to help teach children about Africa. One of the biggest challenges in raising awareness for malaria is that some people in our congregation had not learned much about places like Zambia, Namibia, Angola, Nigeria, and Tanzania. We started our learning by dividing the children into groups and naming all the groups after countries in Africa where the ELCA is active in helping to fight malaria. We had the Zesty Zambians, the Nifty Nigerians, the Noble Namibians, the Awesome Angolans, and the Terrific Tanzanians. Each group leader was given a print out about their country including the flags and fun facts for the children. We also had the flags of each country on the name tags for each group and at their sign in tables. By the end of the week everyone who attended VBS could name at least five African countries.

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Photo: Children who participated in "Catch the Buzz" at St Andrew's learned more about five African countries. 

We also used the story time as an opportunity to help children learn about Africa. For some of our younger rotations, we got a book of African fables, Nelson Mandela's Favorite African Folktales, and a wonderful woman from our church dressed up as our story teller each day. She had children dress up as animals from the stories and act them out, and also brought in some wonderful African tribal music for them to dance to at the end (which worked especially well for little children with short attention spans).​

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Photo: Story time​ during VBS at St. Andrew's was very interactive!

The Catch the Buzz curriculum had four stations, and we run a five-station program at St. Andrew's.  So we decided to add a fifth station called Marla's Mission, where children could go and help out Marla the by being God's hands in our world. We have found that children love the opportunity to do something hands on-that they know makes a difference in this world! We had children watch videos created by the ELCA Malaria Campaign and Lutheran World Relief which showed how their efforts made a difference.

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Photo: Marla's Mission was a station that invited VBS participants to serve others.

There were two especially popular projects. One was the Lutheran World Relief video called "Two Women, Two Lives; Touched by an LWR Quilt" where children saw a woman in America who made quilts and a woman in Africa who received the quilt and learned how their lives were the same and different. Then we had the children decorate white squares of cloth that our church quilters will later make into LWR quilts.

The other really popular project was our progressive envelope drive called Make Malaria History. We watched the short version of the ELCA Malaria Campaign video, and then talked about what malaria was and how children could help. Then children were taken to see a mosquito net that was set up in the fellowship hall. Next to the net were 120 envelopes with mosquitos on them. We told children that those were mosquitos that had gotten caught in the net and we had a chance to "swat" them… but some mosquitos are harder to swat than others. 

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Photo: The envelope drive was a popular activity during Catch the Buzz at St. Andrew's.

Each envelope had an amount written on it (we used smaller amounts, so the first envelope cost 25 cents to "swat," the second 50 cents, and so on), and children were able to choose the mosquito they wanted to swat by putting money in the envelope. We had a big basket and a grave stone that said "RIP malaria" where children turned their envelopes in. We ended up raising more than $700 for the ELCA Malaria Campaign, and the children loved the activity. When we asked them "What are we going to do?" they would all shout back "Make malaria history!"

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Photo: Catch the Buzz participants at St. Andrew's helped to make malaria history.

One last tip for you: We learned that you can make a really awesome African Hut for your decorations by following these simple steps:

  • Get a large cardboard box- many stores will happily set one aside for you if you ask (refrigerator boxes work well)
  • Put a patio umbrella and stand in the box
  • Wrap the box and umbrella in brown paper
  • Cover the umbrella with raffia, and you have a great African hut

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Photo: An African hut decorated the space for Catch the Buzz at St. Andrew's.

All in all it was a great week. We had tons of fun with games, stories, music, crafts, and so much more. We learned that you can never have too many balloons, that giant fly swatters are great for games, and that even the smallest person can make a big difference in God's Kingdom. Our congregation was excited to be a part of making malaria history!

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Photo: Marla the Mosquito helped to teach children at St. Andrew's that everyone can help make malaria history.

Thanks to everyone at the ELCA who worked so hard on putting this program together!

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Photo: a life-sized Marla the Mosquito helped to present the skits each day.

Wow, what an impressive story. Thank you very much to Megan and the team at St. Andrew's for making Catch the Buzz come alive in their context, and for sharing so many details with us! For more photos of Catch the Buzz at St. Andrew's, visit their Facebook page.