A Montessori Approach to Dharma Class

Our Sunday Dharma Class breaks for the summer.  I've been spending this free time on Sunday afternoons to prepare for our Fall classes.

One of the things I'm most excited about is creating a more Montessori based primary class.
"The Montessori Method of education emphasizes the importance of the child's learning environment.  "Montessori philosophy is ...a method of seeing children as they really are and of creating environments which foster the fulfillment of their highest potential - spiritual, emotional, physical, and intellectual - as members of a family, the world community and the Cosmos."
- International Montessori

In my experience with Montessori education, the children are taught mindfulness in their daily, practical life.  From the way they roll out a mat for their work to the way they methodically polish a brass candle snuffer, the children are encouraged to work carefully and mindfully, fully involved in the task they are performing.  Children are also observed individually and able to learn at their own pace.  I plan to bring more of this philosophy to my youngest students' Dharma class this year.   This is only an hour long class.  I'm not trying to incorporate all the sections of Montessori education here.  But I will be thinking more like a Montessori teacher when I consider the children's lessons and environment.  I want the place where they come to learn about the Buddha's life and teachings to be beautiful, inviting, and purposeful.    I'll be introducing some practical life lessons that can be used to practice mindfulness.  I'll be introducing more lessons for the children to choose from during their hour-long class.  I want the children to be able to learn and grow at a more individual pace.

I must share here that my inspiration for this Montessori Dharma Class came from the work of a dear friend named Catherine Maresca.  As the director of The Center for Children and Theology, Catherine has helped Christian Sunday School teachers across the country apply the Montessori Method to their catechist programs.  While working at a school that she co-founded, I was touched by the way the children's unique approach to spiritual matters was respected in their lessons.  Catechists presented lessons to the children about their faith in a way that acknowledged the child's intellectual, physical, and spiritual development.  I want to approach my Dharma students with the same respect.

I'll do my best to share some of the practical ways I'm preparing for the Fall lessons.

What are you doing to prepare?

"May all be free from suffering by the power of the Triple Gem"