Kids are great about loudly and openly discussing sensitive topics, so of course religion is no different. I first learned this as an assistant teacher a decade ago. Out at recess on a snowy day, students discovered a small gouda cheese- the kind wrapped in red wax. Since it was waxless and had a bit out of it, I told them to throw away. They told me they were keeping it, and had named it cheesus. After a debate about whether to toss it, I confiscated the cheese and, in lieu of a better plan, hucked it into the parking lot.
5 minutes later, I came back to find they had built a shrine out of snow next to the parking lot, complete with CHEESUS carved into the snow, and a large cross of snow. We had a discussion about how this wasn’t the most appropriate thing, but I didn’t want to flat out tell them not to (partly because I was worried the next step would be to climb the fence to retrieve it). I did point out that we didn’t actually know the cheese’s religious beliefs.
5 minutes after that, I walked back to find they had added a Star of David and Islamic star and crescent. We’re a multicultural school.
Fast forward a decade, and on different recess on a warm spring day, my class found a jelly bean. Logically, they named it Jeebus, constructed a system of worship around it, and insisted on bringing it into the classroom, where they gave it a place of honor on the book shelf. For days it was brought out to every recess, until signals got crossed about who was bringing it, and it was left behind. On that day, someone jumped off a rock, landed wrong, and needed stitches. It was decided that it was the wrath of Jeebus, and he was diligently brought outside to every recess until the year ended.
This fall, one of the students who was arguably a high priestess of the Jeebus cult came to visit. She chatted with me and my current class, then added “Did she ever tell you about Jeebus?” The new kids were entranced, especially because it was a cool middle schooler telling them about it! The next day, a gummy bear (no one had any jelly beans, apparently) named Jeebus Reborn (it’s official name) was brought into the class. Feeling this inadequate, another gummy bear named Lord Blorking was added to the shrine. And a gummy worm named, underwhelmingly, Jeff.
I assumed that, like many things kids get obsessed with, they’d forget this one in due time. That was 6 months ago. The shrine still stands.