The Disappearing Ink Doodle Pen of Education

My church did a VBS (Vacation Bible School) this year after taking a few summers off from hosting one. Our fearless leader, Robyn, an elementary principal, choose the kit, ROAR, from Group Publishing, and we began a quick 2 week preparation. Robyn and I are experienced at leading VBS, but we are also busy educators, so we did what we could to juggle school and our lives, and then look through the VBS manual to prepare for the week, June 3-7, 2019.

walk through the valleys

VBS has changed. We ran into things that had been done a particular way in the past that were now done completely differently, and that’s okay. We consider ourselves open minded and not adverse to change, but we did have moments of pause. The master supply list is 60 pages long, and we didn’t read it all. As one who sings in a Christian rock band and is on our small church’s worship team, I was obviously in charge of the music, but I also helped organize and lead the program. Our minister, Jeff, also helped us do the planning and leading daily, plus he was fabulous in the skits that were scheduled each night. Our church banded together, created an African wildlife preserve out of our fellowship hall, sanctuary, foyer, and the classrooms we were using. The music was great, kids had a blast, cried when it was time to go home, and life was good. And then we began to plan Day 4.

Climb mountains high

Did I mention we are a small church? We are. Did I mention we are in the center of the US population (until the 2020 census results) yet actually in the middle of nowhere? Well, we are. There are several small towns within 30 minutes or so of us, but if what we need isn’t at Walmart, then we’re looking at driving an hour and a half or longer to get what we need. So knowing all of that will help you understand our planning for Day 4.

Each day in our opening or closing session, there would be a skit, songs, and an object lesson. As Robyn, Jeff, and I sat on the stage and looked over what we needed for the next day, we were stunned into momentary silence. Robyn sat between us holding the manual and reading each item listed. We got hung up pretty quickly on 3 of them.

  • 2 Heat Guns
  • Disappearing Ink Doodle Pen**
  • 2 Cans of Compressed Air

Heat guns. I stopped right there and kept repeating Heat guns. Heat guns? Really? Jeff looked at me and said, “That’s what you find crazy? Bet the Disappearing Ink Doodle Pen is harder to get in 7 hours than heat guns!” He was right. We could get compressed air at Walmart, and Robyn’s husband, Andy, is an electrician, and electricians use heat guns, so he would have one and be able to help us score another. But what the heck is a Disappearing Ink Doodle Pen? We all realized that we didn’t have one, and we wouldn’t be able to get one in time for the next evening’s lesson. Now what? Plan B.

Life will get crazy

What we had to keep in mind was the objective, not the tools we used to reach it/teach it. Our objective for that lesson was to show we had an object, something makes it disappear, and then it needs to return. A magic trick. Could we come up with something that works but uses what we already have? Yes, we did. Jeff knew of a trick that made change or coins disappear then reappear. He needed a vase, a handkerchief or cloth, some quarters, and a secret ingredient. Plan B worked really well, and there is a lesson here for all educators.

Jeff Wofford performs the disappearing quarters trick.

I wanna face each day

Sure there may be amazing things out there for our students, but we can’t always afford the latest and greatest tools out there. Sometimes we get so focused on the awesomeness of the tool that we forget it isn’t about the tool. It’s about the learning. It’s about the objective. What do we want students to know and do? Answer that first, then look at the best “how” to get them there.

Excitement is responsible for the death of more great teaching than anything in the history of education. Excitement can lead to poor decision making.

Weston Kieschnick

With Wonder And Excitement

While I was excited about the Disappearing Ink Doodle Pen, and I would love to play with one, I also see that it is a bit complicated and involves too many things for that to be feasible. There are a lot of new shiny educational tools that remind me of this pen. I want to play with them, but in the long run, if they are too expensive, complicated, or involve too many additional things, then they aren’t what I need for my students, generally speaking, as I look over my objectives. So my challenge to myself and my readers is this: If the new and shiny calls to you, can we figure out a simpler and more cost effective way to bring home the point? Can I innovate within the box? Can we be successful even if we don’t have the shiny new tools other districts and teachers have? Can we temper excitement with good decision making? Yes, yes we can. We are. Let’s do this.

Can’t hold me back now; I’m gonna fly

This is the reaction we want students to have towards learning! That wonder and excitement!

Introducing the Disappearing Ink Doodle Pen:

Here it is, from Amazon, no less. Just click on the caption title to see it on the Amazon site:

**Kids won’t believe their eyes during this now-you- see-it, now-you-don’t experience on Day 4 in Safari Celebration. When heat is applied, these special ink pens show how sad things in life can cause happiness and joy to disappear. Then as you share the exciting news that Jesus conquered death, you’ll use compressed air to bring back the happiness and joy in life and celebrate that God is good in every way!

Partial song lyrics are from I’m Trusting You, 2019 ROAR VBS Theme Song, by GroupMusic.

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