A Taster of Abiding Heart’s
Experiential Buddhist Kindergarten Curriculum
Dr. Meyrav Mor
The following video is a small taster of the rich kindergarten curriculum we, at Abiding Heart Education have developed over the past few years. This story attempts to explain, in a simple way, the Four Noble Truths, identified as the first teaching given by the Buddha after he became enlightened. It also offers the children an introduction to the life of Shakyamuni Buddha and this important event in Deer Park when the Buddha gave his first discourse after his enlightenment. The Life of Shakyamuni Buddha is told and celebrated in the Abiding Heart’s curriculum once a month throughout the year. We do so through storytelling, simple re-enactment of important events in the Buddha’s life, as well as engaging daily, monthly, and yearly in rituals, prayers, and celebrations related to Shakyamuni Buddha.
Puppet show based on the event of the First Turning of the Wheel of Dharma
As with the primary curriculum, we ensure this curriculum is immersed and imbued in the view, meditation and application and is delivered through a wholesome, transformative, and experiential learning approach that meets the developmental needs of the young child. We pay close attention to the kindergarten content and the environment we create as well as the mode of delivery, to nurture and protect the young child’s ‘mere I’ or healthy inner being that is still very much open, spacious, and in most cases, is shining with light and joy. In this way, the children's hearts and minds continue to be nourished with care, gentleness, and spirituality so their inner life is filled with reverence, awe, and wonder for all that they experience inwardly when encountering the world around them.
At Abiding Heart’s kindergarten teacher training, the trainees participate in an in-depth process of learning, understanding, and meditating on why we teach the children what we teach, before they learn what and how to teach the curriculum. The intention behind our training approach is for trainees to develop a meaningful and transformative inner connection with the content they teach the children. Throughout the training, the trainees continuously study the Buddhist view on the nature of reality, of which the teachings on the Four Noble Truths are fundamental. Our trainees study and practice the Shakyamuni sadhana which is also part of the meditation programme. This experiential and contemplative component of the training is also integral to our two-year teacher training in which we spend time developing a connection with Shakyamuni Buddha through understanding, contemplating and meditating on his life.
In the curriculum studies section of the training, which is approximately 15 months out of the two years, trainees learn how to tell stories, make puppets and how to put together a puppet show. The puppet show presented here is part of the kindergarten curriculum taught in the training. This puppet show is presented on the first day of Yarne, or the first day of the rainy season retreat, which takes place on the full moon every July.
Arts form an important component of our training, as part of inner development and for acquiring new teaching tools. Our trainees learn how to paint a Newari Paubha painting as part of the first semester. The idea is that this painting is placed on the trainees’ shrine in their future kindergarten.
The Abiding Heart’s learning approach is integrated. Having firmly anchored the education within the contemplative traditions, the children’s learning includes language development (native), and additional languages, social skills, emotional development, artistic expression, numeracy, and care for the natural environment through the themes presented above.
Kate Bryant (kindergarten teacher trainer) and Ramila Rai (handwork teacher trainer) spent more than 8 weeks together designing and making the ‘The First Turning’ puppets and backdrop. They chose to sculpt the puppets and backdrop using unspun dyed wool using the dry felting technique. The process was creative and meditative.
Ramila teaching how to make the puppets and the backdrop
To appreciate the process of creating the kindergarten curriculum content and designing a teacher course to know how to teach this content is complex and requires a great deal of time, effort, and creativity. For ‘The First Turning’ content, six experts were involved in children’s and teachers’ education, pedagogy and child psychology inn addition to Buddhist philosophy and meditation, with artists, crafts people, writers and editors, all working together over a long period of several months. Again, the delivery of this story begins in the training when trainees are anchored in contemplative studies and meditation in semester 1; child development and how children learn in semester 2; and then in semester 3-4 in learning what and how to teach children while firmly anchored in understanding the meaning behind what they teach.
Performance of our puppet show to our trainees and their families, during the pandemic in 2019
This is an example of Abiding Heart Education’s kindergarten curriculum and how we teach it in our teacher training. We hope it has given you a taste of the richness, depth, fun, and transformative experience that awaits you at our teacher training courses.
May this education be of benefit to children and all beings.