Saturday, February 23, 2013

Buddhist Mani Wheels plus Calming My Energy

     We are still studying India in Social Studies.  We finished with Hinduism and are now learning about Buddhism.  We continue with our yoga and meditation.  The students, even the wiggly ones, are sometimes so quiet during our 5 minutes of meditation.  Some are getting very aware and peaceful.  Others are able to at least relax and honor the quiet and silence in their own way.
    One project that I copied from another 6th grade teacher at our school to make what we are learning more experiential is having the students make ‘Buddhist Mani wheels or prayer wheels’.  They are easy to make and we learned a lot about Buddhist beliefs from doing this activity.  I’m learning also, since I was not familiar with this practice.

    All we used was a toilet paper roll, yellow construction paper the same height as the roll,  the chant ‘Om Mane Padme Hum’ in Sanskrit printed on plain paper, glue, and markers.  The roll is then twirled on a pencil.  It was very easy to make, and fun!
I let the students pick what they were comfortable writing.  Some possible choices were
  1. Paste the Sanskrit chant on roll and write the chant in our English alphabet.
  2. Write the universal qualities that the chant symbolizes, such as generosity, compassion, tolerance, patience, perseverance, concentration, and wisdom. (I had to research the meaning.)
  3. Write your own prayer or wish for yourself and others.
  4. Write the qualities that you are trying to reinforce in yourself.

    Also, remember the energy chart I posted on the wall of my classroom?  (see Feb. 2nd blog) Well, I think I’m the one using it the most.  It’s in the back of my classroom and I stare at it as I’m in front of the class teaching.  I’ve needed many reminders to ‘raise my energy’ as my 6th graders enter their ‘will years’ with the surge of hormones they are experiencing.   Fortunately, I’m taking Usha Dermond’s online Education for Life class this semester and I’ve already learned ways to quickly relax and center myself so that I can clearly address the challenging situations that come up in public school.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Visiting Living Wisdom School

As the first semester ended and the second half of the year loomed ahead I was feeling in need of some EFL inspiration. Luckily, Nitai’s four day visit to the Palo Alto Living Wisdom School (LWS) began with his talk on Consciousness in Education this last Saturday. Forty parents and educators attended from many private and public schools for a very full classroom.  Students from the Living Wisdom high school also came to inspire everyone with their lovely music.

 Unfortunately, I missed the Monday visit to the school, which included more students from both the LWS middle school and high school from Nevada City, CA.  However, I had the chance to visit LWS on Tuesday while Nitai was still there. I visited the different classrooms and found ideas, insights, and creativity. The LWS Palo Alto students, inspired by the music of the older students from Nevada City, performed their own wonderful music while I was there.

     After such a great visit, I went back to my classroom reinvigorated and shared some of the ideas with my students.  They had been curious when I told them that I was going to a school that was based on yoga.  They asked, “Do they do yoga or do they study it?”

Yoga and Meditation:
    When I returned from my visit I told them about how the LWS students start their day with yoga exercises and meditation.  I wanted to have my students also start the class with yoga and relaxation.  This news was greeted with a few dramatic groans by some and enthusiasm by others but I could tell they were all curious.  Since we are now studying India, Hinduism, and Buddhism in social studies this was right on target with the curriculum.  This week at the beginning of class we practiced 5 minutes each day of hatha yoga - doing Tadasana (Mountain Pose), Chandrasana (Moon Pose), and  Trikonasana(Triangle Pose).  We are only doing the standing poses for now, mainly because of space limitations.  The yoga was followed the first day by 2 minutes of meditation while the students watched the breath (they thought this felt like a long time).  The second day we tried 3 minutes.  I did this with both my morning and afternoon class with varying results.  The most successful was the afternoon class where roughly 90% of the students seemed to do it with ease.  The students want to increase the number of minutes that we relax or meditate and I plan to continue with this throughout the school year. I’ll let you all know how it goes.

    I also shared with them the concept of “energy”.  I told them that at the LWS school the teachers and students talked about the “energy level” of the students, teachers, classroom.  I asked them what they thought “energy” meant in this context and using their words  and vocabulary (with a bit of guidance) we came up with a chart for describing the different energy levels that we experience in ourselves. I made a chart for the wall because I will be referring to that concept and using the vocabulary we developed to help them focus their energy throughout the rest of the school year.  I tied it all back to the ‘Personal Excellence Qualities’ that we have talked and written about all year, explaining that the highest levels of our energy are represented by those high qualities.  We will continue to explore this useful concept of energy.