Instruct each person to use the craft materials to create a unique and meaningful lantern case to symbolise [ enter a particular topic or framing… ] such as letting go, goal-setting, forgiveness, etc.
Allow 5 to 10 minutes for the lanterns to be produced.
When ready, ask your group to sit in a circle, placing their lanterns directly in front of them.
Place a little bit of sand in the base of the bags and a votive candle on top before lighting them.
With the mood now set, lead your group in an exercise of sharing, contemplation, and reflection, as desired.
How To Play Narrative
Luminaria… the word conjures up images of fireflies, moon on the water, the glowing orb of the magician.
Luminarias are lanterns often set out in lines to light the path from one place to another. As the light is candle-driven, the Luminarias dance in the wind, casting growing and receding flickers into the darkness.
They are easy to make, which on its own is a rewarding activity, so let’s focus on that first.
Gather and distribute all of the noted resources you require to produce the lanterns to your group. There is no one way to produce these lanterns, but I do suggest preparing one in advance to inspire your group’s imagination and creativity.
In essence, you are inviting each member of your group to produce the outer-casing of a lantern with as much thought and meaning as they wish. Use scissors to cut small holes in the bag and use all of the crafty materials to make them look beautiful.
Allow a good 5 to 10 minutes for this part of the exercise, or as required.
When ready, place a small amount of sand at the base of the bags when you place them in your desired location. If you can not access an outdoor area at night, you may choose to dim or switch off the lights of your indoor space.
With the votives or small tea lights placed inside the bags, you have now set the scene and atmosphere to lead a powerful conversation with your group. What you do from here is only limited by your imagination.
For example, when placed in the Full Value context of Let Go & Move On, Luminarias can be used to explore a meaningful situation that resulted in the resolution of a dispute and what it took to let it go and continue to maintain a healthy relationship.
To this end, instruct your group to use all of the creative resources to create a symbolic representation of their letting go and moving on experience.
As one possible way to present this experience, you may invite each person to sit behind their lantern sitting in a circle. You will create wonderful images of glowing faces and many opportunities for contemplation and reflection.
Refer to the Health & Wellness Programming tab for more ideas.
Practical Leadership Tips
Paper bags that come with a flat base are best, but not critical. Use sand to position those bags (without a flat bottom) upright. Thin paper bags work better too because they help more of the illumination and creative designs to stand out.
Live candles are wonderful, but when mixed with paper, there is a small risk that they may catch fire. For this purpose, we recommend using small battery-operated votives. That said if you are outside, and you are able to use small tea-light candles, a vigilant eye is all that you may need to keep the activity safe.
In the context of leading a group’s discussion about Full Value, this exercise is also ideal for exploring the tenets of Be Honest and Set Goals.
You could integrate Luminaria Circle as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to understand their emotions, thoughts and values and how these influence their behaviours in different situations.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Linking Feelings, Values & Thoughts
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
A Luminaria Circle is ripe for symbolism. As the light emanates from each Luminaria, ask your group to describe the situation they let go of and the feelings associated with their experience. Also prompt for key learnings that occurred which will help to resolve future conflicts. This may require acceptance of the degree of personal control one does or does not have over the outcome.
Another way to frame this activity is to let go and move on from the group. People invariably experience transition and separation issues at the end of a program, eg students as their school year finishes. Some may be leaving for other communities and there is the possibility that scheduling and interests will result in feelings of separation. Luminarias can be used to depict these concerns as well as hopes for the future. The focus of reflection can then be on summing up the present and expressing thoughts and feelings about the future, ie goal-setting. Each group member sits just behind their candle forming a circle of glowing memories, contemplation, and bright faces of hope. Each takes a turn sharing their representations, as the candles continue to burn brightly, illuminating the way out of the group on the path to a fulfilling future.
The self-reflective practice of Luminaria Circles lends itself well to exploring many social and interpersonal competencies. As your group sits and listens to one another, they will be afforded many opportunities to read social cues and express compassion and empathy. There will also be many moments of mindfulness to enjoy too.
Goal-Setting: Create a Luminaria Circle to explore, set and represent individual and group goals.
Creative form of reflection for individuals & groups.
Comfort Zone Circles
Powerful front-loading exercise to explore skill development.
Simple & powerfully emotive processing strategy.
Useful Framing Ideas
Tonight, I invite you to create a beautiful lantern that we will use to contemplate and reflect on our future together…
A flickering candle has often been viewed as a symbol of hope in a dark world. We have grown a lot together over these past weeks and now, I’d like to capture our collective thoughts about what we have learned and what we hope for in the years ahead. We’re going to use candles as a beautiful way to express these thoughts and how we are feeling…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after leading this powerful reflection exercise:
What did you think about as you created your lantern? Why?
Turn to a partner and describe to them the symbolism of your lantern.
Describe how you felt when the lanterns were lit?
Did you notice anything once all of the lanterns were illuminated?
In what ways do the lanterns represent you or our group?
What thoughts do you have for the future now?
The inspiration for Luminaria Circle, and many other social & emotional learning group activities, was sourced in the following publication: