Great Story Beads are a symbolic representation of the 13.7 billion year epic of Cosmos, Earth, Life, and Humanity, told as a sacred story that embraces all other sacred stories (including our own personal journeys). CHILDREN learn that they belong to the Universe — and that they have magnificent ancestors!    

Great Story Beads Children's Curricula

Introducing Great Story Beads      Their Purpose and Potential

    Jan Ross (right) is the Director of Religious Education at Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Church in Goleta, California. Every third year the kids study "Science and Myth" as the theme, and making "Earth Story Beads" is the culmination of the year. These photos were taken by Connie Barlow in June 2009, during the second session of beads stringing at Jan's church. Long tables are essential for setting out bowlfuls of beads station by station: a bowl of beads for kids to choose "Big Bang", then another bowl for "Galaxies", and so on. Once the beads are gathered, the kids sit or stand at another table while stringing them in sequence. The green paper (photo below left) is a brief list of timeline events, which the children use when choosing and then stringing their beads. Older kids have 27 events/beads on their list; younger kids have 23 (with simpler descriptions).

Lesson Plan and Instructions
for teachers to use this craft activity in
 a secular or liberal religious classroom. 


    LEFT: A volunteer at Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Church, Austin TX, made this short string of beads for use in the church's pre-school "Spirit Play" curriculum, which directs an adult to show the children an already-made set of Universe Story Beads for storytelling and discussion. Click below for a PDF of:

"SPIRIT PLAY" Lesson on the Universe Story (with beads component)


GIANT EVOLUTION TIMELINE PLAYMAT by Charlie's Playhouse (for online purchase)

♦ View or download a CURRICULUM for PRE-SCHOOL and K
developed by Montessori-trained Leslie Klein Pilder.

SAFETY NOTE: For young kids, you might want to use 15-pound-test hemp cord rather than nylon or steel,
if there is any danger of aggressive play (hence, strangulation).

Report by Kristin Reveal, chair of the Religious Education Committee of the Greater Nashville Unitarian Universalist Congregation:
"We did the BEADS curriculum as a summer program for lower/upper elementary in 2010. The kids LOVED it, especially making the necklaces. We purchased the evolution cards and walkable timeline too. I handed out the cards when the kids volunteered information and they were able to trade them. We had a timeline they made and illustrated that spaced the entire circumference of the room. It was awesome. In a survey we did last year, this was their 2nd favorite summer curriculum after the Rainforest one and before the Culture Camp one. Both of my own kids still have their necklaces and can still recite their evolution history."
Note: The kids used a modified version of the 28-event timeline, onto which they taped the event-specific beads in order. Then they strung their beads.


LEFT: Children wearing Great Story Beads they created at a Montessori school in Minneapolis, following an instructional program that Connie Barlow presented there. (Extracts from the thank-you letter the children sent to Connie are printed in yellow below.)

BELOW: a segment of Connie Barlow's "Coming Home to North America" beads (Pleistocene Ice Age is bead furthest right). Connie used this string of 74 beads to help her tell and dramatize extemporaneously, without notes, this story for children.

Click here for more BEADS
"Stories of Awakening"
to the wonder of the Universe Story.

♥ "We liked your necklace so much that the whole school is going to make one.
I hope you can come again." — Love, Lucas

♥ "I like your necklace I want to mak one too.
mine will have the Big Bang. the Big Bang bead will be red." — Love, Andrew

Introducing Great Story Beads

Their Purpose and Potential

Choosing Events to Commemorate

Choosing a Timeline


Examples of Strung Beads


Selecting and Stringing Beads homepage

   JANET WILLIAMSON (left) leading the Youth Group at All Souls Church in Tulsa OK in creating Great Story Beads, 2010. She writes, "An 83 year old friend of mine who has been doing beading for many years helped me put together kits (and donated many beads) for 40 kids to each make a string of 13 beads in 1 Billion Year Ago increments."   

   CONNIE BARLOW brought her double loop necklace of Great Story Beads into Sherwood Forest Montessori School (Houston), and invited the children one by one: "Pick a bead, any bead, and I will tell you its story!"   

You may download, print, and use any and all of these resources, without seeking permission, for all purposes other than publication. (Contact us if you wish to include them in a book or magazine.) And please hotlink our site to yours.


  CLICK to access the programs that Connie Barlow leads
when she is guest teaching in schools and churches.

Note: If you find these resources useful, please make a DONATION to support Connie Barlow's continuing curriculum development. She received no funding for developing any of these children's curricula.



More Children's Curricula