Harkness in the Darkness

Gathering around a Harkness table for discussion is an activity SBS middle school students are quite accustomed to. What they are not accustomed to, however, is gathering around the table in total darkness.
Seventh and eighth grade Bible teacher Loren Hopf developed Harkness in the Darkness last year with her eighth grade students. Through this lights out activity, students discussed, asked questions and shared ideas in total darkness. Mrs. Hopf and the students loved it so much that she decided to try it again with this year’s class.
On Wednesday, February 1, eighth graders came to class prepared to discuss 1 Thessalonians 5:12-18. After a short quiz and assembly of glow stick bracelets, Mrs. Hopf flipped the switch, and the conversation commenced.
“How do you pray without ceasing?”
“I think praying without ceasing means to pray in all your free time and as much as you can. You can’t have a relationship with someone unless you talk to them. With God, we have a cell phone on us at all times…we can send Him any message at any moment.”
“How can you rejoice always when you’re praying? And how can we rejoice always when there are really tough things going on?”
“We should always look for the best in each other and in our authority. We should pray for leadership and respect them.”
“Do you think these are just as much attitudes or habits as they are commands?”
At the end of a compelling and fast-paced dialogue, Mrs. Hopf flipped the lights back on. While students’ eyes adjusted, they reflected on the difference between discussion in the dark and discussion in the light. The takeaway was resoundingly positive.
The class preferred the darkness for several reasons. One, they were prepared. Students expressed the need to study the text more closely than usual because of the inability to look down at their notes during the discussion. Second, students were far more attentive because of the lack of distractions, clocks, other students, etc. And finally, those that are usually more reserved during conversation found a greater courage to speak up.
Though Harkness in the Darkness may not be an option for everyday class, students are grateful for an opportunity to try something new and, of course, wear glow sticks.