Saturday, January 30, 2010

P is for Peace

February first marks the half-way point through winter and with a burst of sunbeams midweek, we felt the first stirrings of spring.  The big, blue sky was too great a temptation, so we took our classroom outside. 

We found a cozy spot nestled in the trees by a little creek and used a tree stump as a desk.  Since we're working on the letter P, I thought it was a good time for Thich Naht Hahn's Pebble Meditation

P is for peace, pebble, pocket, and practice.  If you're not familiar with the pebble meditation, check out this video beautifully presented by Plum Village brother Thay Phap Huu. 

We began by finding four pebbles near the water.  Then we sat down and took a few centering breaths.  The first pebble represents a flower.  I got us started by saying, "Breathing in, I am the flower.  Breathing out, I feel..." and let Amelie express how a flower feels.  She said, "pretty."  We repeated "flower, pretty" a few times taking care to breathe in that pre-Spring air, then we drew a pretty flower.  "I am a pretty flower," Amelie smiled and wrote the words, "flower" and "pretty" on her picture.  Then we moved our first pebbles to our right side.

The second pebble represents a mountain. I read from the mindfulkids pebble mediation cards: "Mountain represents solidity, stability.  There is a mountain within yourself because when you practice sitting and walking, you can develop the capacity of being solid, stable."  Then we said, “Breathing in, I see myself as a mountain.  Breathing out, I feel solid.  Mountain.  Solid.” After drawing a picture of a mountain and writing the words, "mountain" and "solid" on her picture, we moved our second pebbles to our right side.

The third pebble represents water.  Water can reflect the sky, the clouds, and the mountains.  Reading from the pebble meditation cards, I said: "Still water is within you. When the water in you is still, you are calm, you are serene. You see things clearly as they are. You do not distort things. You do not have wrong perceptions. It is wonderful. Breathing in, I see myself as still water.”  Together we said, "water, still" a few times and sat still just enjoying breathing together.  Then Amelie drew a picture of still water and moved the third pebble to her right side.

The fourth pebble represents space.  This one was a little more difficult to grasp.  I explained that space is just the big, open sky above us and asked Amelie what she thinks it would feel like to be the sky.  She said, "Like a bird flying."  I think she was spot on.  Space is openness and freedom.  When we have spaciousness within us, we are free.  

I read, "People without space around them cannot be happy. Be like the moon traveling in the beautiful sky. It has a lot of space. Freedom is what we want, and space is inside. We have to touch the space inside to be free. Without freedom, no one can be truly happy."  Amelie drew a bird flying in a big blue sky and then we said, “Breathing in, I see myself as space. Breathing out, I feel free.”  After breathing in the cool afternoon sky, we moved the fourth pebble to our right side, laid back on our blankets, and smiled at the sky.   

"If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. If we really know how to live, what better way to start the day than with a smile? Our smile affirms our awareness and determination to live in peace and joy. The source of a true smile is an awakened mind." - Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

Because the sunshine was too beautiful to resist, we decided to take this lesson block slow and extend it another week.  Stay tuned for more about our P words from the Fry's 300 Instant Sight Words: put, people, play, please, present, pretty, pair, part.  We'll be practicing peace in every step.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Socially Conscious Math

Today was a Math and Social Studies day and our Main Lesson was the number ten.  After writing "t-e-n" and "10" on the board a few times, we used wooden blocks to answer math facts with sums of ten.  We also outlined our hands, numbered our fingers one through ten, and counted by fives and tens. Then I read a sweet tale about generating good karma, The Little Caterpillar's Stripes, from the Oak Meadow Kindergarten Syllabus.  Introducing math concepts through archetypal stories integrates Math with Social Studies and Language Arts.  For a great article on the significance of integrating subjects, read Why Integrate?: A Case for Collating the Curriculum.
In our socially conscious math story, a fuzzy caterpillar must do ten good deeds in his bug community.  After each act of kindness, he earns a yellow stripe.  After the tenth stripe is earned, he makes a soft nest called a pupa and drifts off to sleep.  When he awakens, he discovers the consequences for his kindness: he's transformed into a beautiful butterfly.  I had Amelie take picture notes while listening, then answer questions on content, characters, sequence, and moral.  We finished in her Main Lesson Book by writing the number ten a few times and drawing a picture from the story.
Wooden blocks are a great tool for nurturing creativity.  Amelie shared these today during Circle Time and asked to name some of the things about them that were the same and different.  Some of our observations were: they are all the same size and shape, there are different patterns in the wood grain, they all have light and dark colors, they all have faded  spots, and, like Friday's snowflakes, no two are the same.  Later, Amelie took a few minutes for building.

Next up, we kept up the social consciousness with a short discussion about the earthquake in Haiti.  We found Haiti on the globe, lit a candle, and had a few moments of silence.  I think we'll do this every day this week. While we certainly don't want our kids feeling scared about events like these, I think acknowledging what is happening in the world is essential to raising conscious, compassionate kids. 
After lunch, it was time for Art-Social Studies integration. This is the last week of our December-January thematic unit, Bringing Back the Light.  To honor the winter season and the various holidays, we've been discussing the return of the sun and what it means to feel full of light.
A dear friend just sent us, You with the Stars in Your Eyes: A Little Girl's Glimpse at Cosmic Consciousness, by Deepak Chopra.  This little treasure fit our thematic unit perfectly... "the stars gave us eyes so they could see themselves."
After five minutes of mindfulness with Susan Kaiser Greenland on mindfulness together, we finished our day with a little dancing and yoga stretching.  Tomorrow we'll see some friends, sign up for the new ballet term, and have a piano lesson.  On Wednesday, we'll revisit the number ten, explore it's essence, march and sing our math facts, and maybe start the letter P.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dependent Snow-arising

Living in California means rain in the winter so when it started snowing on Friday morning, we adjusted our schedule to incorporate a little of nature's magic.  The flurries started just as we were about to begin our Letter O spelling test.

"Mama, can we please go outside and play in the snow?"

At first, I resisted.  Then it really started coming down and sticking to ground.

"Mama, please can we go outside?  We never get snow!"

By now it was covering our yard in a soft, white blanket.  Knowing that the flurries wouldn't last, I gave in, threw my coat on her, and we ran outside in our flannel pajamas.

While I was eager to explain that snowflakes are a particular form of ice that form in clouds which consist of water vapor, Amelie was eager to touch, taste, and smell each delicate flake.  At this age, the technical definitions aren't as valuable as the experience itself. Still, the very fact that a snowflake's shape arises in relation to its environment is a lesson I couldn't resist. 

Each little flake reflects the internal order of the water molecules and, like everything else, is determined by infinitely varying external circumstances.  Nothing in this world, including us, has completely inherent, autonomous existence.  Everything is dependent on and relational to something else and everything we do, every action we take, has a reaction somewhere else.  In Sanskrit this is called pratītyasamutpāda.  In English it's dependent co-arising... or in this case, dependent snow-arising!  When we see the world this way, we create an opportunity for the meaning of our lives to reach beyond ourselves and into a selflessness which links us with all humanity. 

John Muir spoke of this interdependence when he said, "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe."  For a beautiful example involving water crystals, check out the EMOTO PEACE PROJECT

I couldn't think of a better way to discuss interconnectedness with a little one than comparing us to snowflakes. Our form, inside and out, is shaped by the world around us.  Our thematic unit in October was Pratītyasamutpāda, so she's had an intro to the subject already... but experiential learning, the snow itself, is the greatest teacher.

In so many ways, we're just like those snowflakes.  Infinitely affected by everything else.  Feeling the flakes falling gently on our faces reminded us that snow it just our own limitless being smiling back at us.  After all that oneness with the earth, it was time for that spelling test.  Somehow, I think this was the least important part of the day.  Amelie spelled nine out of ten words correctly and we ended our week with a new O word: snow.
Related Posts with Thumbnails