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"


  1. Hi Alice, I just discovered your blog through a comment you left on another blog and began reading this post. I had to laugh because as I was reading along I thought "I should put her in touch with the Center for Children and Theology" and of course went on to discover that you are in close contact already! How wonderful! I look forward to reading more about your work with children!

  2. Thanks for the comment, Leslie!
    Small world, right? I'm sitting in on the Primary Catechist Course right now. I told them I'm stealing all their ideas and translating them to Buddhism. ; )

  3. I have enjoyed and applied this Montessori Method of Teaching to young children long time ago. You have created many useful activities for young children and I am sure many teachers would make use of these interesting, activity based lessons as they are not readily available to be used with very young children attending Dhamma Schools. Montessori method of teaching is an effective method when working with young children especially when it comes to practical life experience that aims at developing mindfulness. I have used "The Silence Game" as an introductory lesson prior to short meditation sessions with young children and found it quiet effective. My very best wishes to you and May You Find Peace and Happiness Through The Noble Blessings of the Triple Gem!