Grades of Green

POSTED ON BEHALF OF SARAH JACKSON

http://www.gradesofgreen.org/initiatives

I found Grades of Green in a Google search for how to incorporate recycling into the classroom. I did this search after one of our class modules that challenged me to consider my impact on the earth, and choose one feasible strategy for mitigating that impact. Recycling in the classroom seems a clear place to start, and thus – this resource was discovered.

This resource is designed for use in a traditional classroom, however, the ideas, initiatives and resources can easily be adapted to fit any type of organization or business. The goal of the website is to propose alternative methods of communicating and educating – those that do not use so many of our planet’s finite resources. For example, one idea they posit is to post chalkboards throughout the building to present ephemeral messages, rather than using paper (ie: bulletin boards) to do this, which ultimately creates a lot of waste as the messages change each month. While this idea is geared toward a school, it clearly can be used for any type of business or organization.

At my school, I would use this resource primarily to model for my students (and colleagues!) how to be good stewards of our earth. I would start small – focusing only on what I personally can control: a recycling bin next to the trash can, creating small chalkboards to use instead of poster paper, taking charge of a display case to communicate ways to be environmentally conscientious, and conserving the use of electricity in my classroom. I believe that these types of actions would foster conversations with my students about why I’m making these choices, which would then lead to a greater awareness amongst my students and colleagues. The attitude I would most hope to develop in those around me in the school (including myself) is that of gratitude and care. I take for granted all that I have that directly impacts the environment. I want to appreciate what I use and consider how I use it. I hope that by making these small but determined changes I would create pause in the young people whom I have been tasked to influence.

Implementing this resource supports the pillars of community building and skill building. We all share one environment. Therefore, whether we like it or not, we are one community on earth. Becoming responsible members of that environment forces us to work together to care for it and share strategies and information of the best choices that will protect it. This illustrates the pillar of community building. Secondly, in order to accomplish change and promote awareness, the pillar of skill building is incorporated into the use of this resource. To be good stewards of the earth, we must develop an array of life-style changes and choices that promote conservation. In addition, we must have the knowledge to empower others to want to make changes in their lives as well. Innovation and practicality are both required to do this effectively, especially when it’s much more convenient to use it up and toss it out. To make better choices, we must access aspects of the skill building pillar as we reflect, analyze, innovate, and communicate.

Qigong

POSTED ON BEHALF OF BETH JIMERSON

“Qigong is a practice of aligning breath, movement, and awareness for exercise, healing, and meditation. With roots in Chinese medicine, martial arts, and philosophy, qigong is traditionally viewed as a practice to cultivate and balance qi (chi) or what has been translated as “intrinsic life energy”. Typically a qigong practice involves rhythmic breathing coordinated with slow stylized repetition of fluid movement, a calm mindful state, and visualization of guiding qi through the body. Qigong is now practiced throughout China and worldwide, and is considered by some to be exercise, and by others to be a type of alternative medicine or meditative practice. From a philosophical perspective qigong is believed to help develop human potential, allow access to higher realms of awareness, and awaken one’s “true nature”.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qigong)

My mother has recently become very involved with Qigong classes and incorporated Qigong into her daily routine. I attended one class when I was home (in Bellingham, WA) and was intrigued by the gentle, flowing movements.  After our unit on yoga and meditation, I was reminded of these practices and decided to read more into this ancient Chinese practice. I truly believe in the importance of slowing down and relaxing for better health for both the body and the mind. Yoga, meditation and Qigong provide different approaches to similar goals in breathing, relaxation and exercise. It is important for everyone to find a route that speaks to them personally, so I thought I would introduce a new addition to this unit. Read more about this ancient Chinese practice from the National Qigong Association: http://nqa.org/resources/what-is-qigong/

The gentle and rhythmic movements of Qigong combine some of the concepts of yoga and meditation. They can be done in a variety of settings and practiced by people of any age. These methods could be used for personal relaxation and health or even incorporated into the classroom. Just as we’ve talked about benefits of meditation and yoga in the classroom, Qigong movements could be explored to stimulate different areas of the body or mind in our students.

A recent example that my mom sent to me from her instructor, Richard, focuses on self-healing Qigong for clearing the lungs, throat, sinuses and other “lung” issues. It is called the White Butterfly. This exercise can be performed seated, standing, or lying down so it could easily be used in a classroom setting. You can hold the position for just a few minutes or longer if you wish. Holding this position allows time to concentrate on breathing and meditation. Your students can breathe along with you. It would be a great exercise especially for the winter months of the year to clear sinuses, concentrate on breathing and meditation and take a few moments to relax and learn about ancient Chinese healing methods.

Exploration of Qigong could be tied into history and used as a base to explore other ancient healing methods. Ancient Chinese concepts such as ‘qi’ are also found in martial arts or feng shui which could open the conversation to a variety of discussions on history and culture. It would be interesting to explore ways in which other cultures have traditionally used practices such as these to promote peace. The conversation could open to uses of meditation by peace promoters such as Gandhi and comparing the methods used in his culture and by him to Qigong.

The Qigong methods incorporate many different movements and combinations of movements to target different parts of the body as well. It sometimes uses a combination of pressure points similar to acupressure. Just as with yoga or other forms of exercise, I would suggest taking a few classes or learning from someone else before attempting to teach these techniques to anyone yourself. There are a lot of subtleties involved in these methods and ways to combine breathing techniques with movements that are best learned and explored personally first in order to help others understand how to perform them correctly.

These exercises could work towards the peace pillar of skill-building by building skills to deal with our own stress and physical well-being or teaching our students which movements can help with different parts of our bodies and minds. Just as yoga or meditation are skills for peace of mind or exercise, Qigong practice could be incorporated to target different parts of the body. These skills could be easily practiced outside the classroom as well or built upon through further exploration.

The peace pillar on nurturing emotional intelligence could also be incorporated through getting in touch with our feelings and our bodies. Students could record the way they feel before and after these exercises or on a weekly basis after practicing three or four days a week. One adaptation that could be made throughout these exercises (which I have seen done) is to smile while performing these movements. This can help with emotional well-being just as being conscious of smiling and being positive can. These exercises could be used before lessons to create a relaxed and thoughtful environment for discussion- to get our students ready and receptive to opening up.

For more information, check out my mother’s Qigong instructor’s website: www.robertbateshealing.com

Nansen Model of Integrated Education

POSTED ON BEHALF OF KELLY RYAN

My home away from home (in terms of countries) is Macedonia. I love the people, the food, the various cultures, and in many ways this small Balkan country reminds me of my home state of Montana. I was fortunate to live in the capitol, Skopje, for nearly a year while I researched the integrated bilingual peace education model created by the Nansen Dialogue Center Skopje (NDC Skopje). NDC Skopje’s vision is of “a democratic society in which dialogue is the everyday tool for conflict resolution between individuals, groups or communities. A society in which peace, multiethnic cohesion, integration, equality and tolerance are the core values.” NDC Skopje successfully combines dialogue and peacebuilding theory with co-curricular activity to overcome local obstacles and promote peace education.

Following the violent conflict in Macedonia in 2001—largely between the Albanian minority and the Slavic Macedonian majority—schools in the country became segregated by language. This educational segregation is double edged. While all students are allowed to learn in their mother-tongue language, students are separated ethnically which creates a barrier to positive intergroup contact. For many communities in Macedonia, this has led to a “two schools one roof” situation where Macedonian and Albanian (or any other linguistically different community such as Turks) might go to school in the same building but remain completely isolated from one another. As a response, NDC Skopje designed a unique program of integrated bilingual education that works with the existing “two schools one roof” system.

In 2008 NDC Skopje opened the Fridtjof Nansen Primary School, since then NDC has worked to open a secondary school and train teachers in six other schools around the country to implement the Nansen Model of Integrated Education (NMIE). The model is unique in that it allows students and teachers to learn and teach within their ethnic groups and with their native languages for the state mandated curriculum but adds a daily or weekly co-curricular classes in which students and teachers integrate, both languages are used equally, and students and teacher collaborate on activities and projects. For example, in 2010 I was watched a wonderful bilingual rendition of Romeo and Juliet by Albanian and Macedonia students in the Mosha Pijade Secondary School in Preljubiste.

The NMIE methods targets students, teachers, and parents to promote intercultural, linguistic, and interpersonal understanding while fostering positive social contact.

The benefits from this model of education are the following:

For the students – high quality integrated extracurricular activities that will enable them acquire a variety of life skills and abilities, permanent upgrade of knowledge, strong self-esteem as well as promoting open communication, socialization, dialogue, tolerance and overcoming stereotypes and prejudices. Students also participate in various sports and cultural school and outdoor events, fairs etc.

For the parents – special programs for annual cooperation that promote their active role in school, increasing the life skills of the parents and creating habits for their continuous self-education, strengthening the cooperative relations between the parents and school staff from different communities etc.

For the school staff – professional practical and theoretical training on integrated education through the NDC Skopje Training center, variety of workshops and working literature, professional development programs and continuous upgrade of knowledge and competences etc.

For the school – improved conditions for work and a variety of equipment and contemporary didactical means, multifunctional classrooms, high quality regular and extracurricular teaching process, positive socio-emotional climate, improved cooperation between the school staff, parents and students from different ethnic communities, participation in various events and activities etc.

This peace education model is designed to meet the needs of those in Macedonia. However, their methods could certainly be adapted in different segregated school systems around the world, so long as the practitioners are careful in their adaptation to meet the needs of their respective context. I think this model could also be useful in parts of the U.S. where language barriers exist between students and communities. For example, instead of forcing Spanish-speaking students into English emersion courses, districts could start to implement an integrated bilingual program that allows English and Spanish speaking students the opportunity to learn both languages and interact with diverse populations.

NMIE is a great program and definitely touches on multiple components of peace education. I think that the two most relevant pillars of peace education that NMIE supports are skill building and community building. With NMIE students learn to develop language skills. Additionally, teachers develop bilingual and integrated teaching skills and curriculum development skills. Finally, NMIE facilitates community building between ethnic groups on the student, teacher, and parent level by promoting positive intergroup contact and collaboration. I encourage everyone to explore the NMIE resources and website!

NDC Skopje webpage: http://www.nansen-dialogue.net/ndcskopje/

NMIE resources: http://www.nmie.org/index.php/en/

PBIS for a more Peaceful School Environment

POSTED ON BEHALF OF MARG BRENNAN

For my final blog post, I wanted to share something that I’ve been working very closely with since beginning at my middle school, and up until this semester, I had been chairing. Since starting at my school, one pervasive and difficult issue has been the culture of the school and community – it’s an understatement to say that neither is conducive to learning.  Two years ago, we began to integrate PBIS – Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports – into our school and I’ve noticed the difference that it’s made.

The basic idea of PBIS is that behavior is taught like any other subject – through explicit instruction, modeling, reinforcement, etc. and that positive and/or appropriate behavior should be recognized, rather than solely punishing negative or inappropriate behavior. Additionally, programs are put into place to support students at all levels (or Tiers) of functioning – the idea being that roughly 85% of your student population are Tier 1 students, who will respond to school-wide supports, roughly 10% need Tier 2 small group support and roughly 5% will need focused individual support at Tier 3. General information on the program can be found at its website: http://www.pbis.org/. All behavior data is tracked through an online system to consistently monitor success of the program and make adjustments.

I was able to work with several of my colleagues over the summer to further develop our PBIS program and I wanted to share part of our lesson plans that we created. Our school-wide expectations are that all students are ready, responsible, and respectful. We spent the entire first week of school working with climate and culture building and explicitly teaching expectations.  I’m including the lesson plan for Be Responsible, but if anyone is interested in PBIS material, please just let me know!

We specifically designed this lesson (and all others) with our middle school students in mind, but the content and activities could be modified for any grade level. As PBIS is a very structured program and designed to be implemented in a school setting, I would say the materials are designed for a formal classroom setting. These lessons could also be incorporated into any subject, as the types of behaviors being addressed are applicable in all areas.

PBIS has been incorporated in ways that connect to peace education throughout the past couple of years. Students develop conflict resolution skills through working with teachers and mentors. Other students learn more about emotions, emotion regulation, and interpreting others’ emotions accurately through our social skills groups.  Lessons are reinforced in classrooms throughout the year. Last year, I ran a student leadership committee, where students were able to organize the field trips, activities, and build some of the community partnerships that we established throughout the year.

My one issue with this program has been the amount of extrinsic motivation that we provide to students (field trips, school currency, shout-outs on morning announcements, etc.) for displaying appropriate behaviors, as opposed to attempting to cultivate an intrinsic motivation in students. However, from where we started, which was at one of the highest suspension rates in the state of Maryland for many different issues, to where we are now, I definitely argue that for us the program works. We still have a long way to go, but we are making progress.

One pillar of peace education that is definitely supported by PBIS is skill building. The program is designed to work with the students who most need support in the areas of conflict resolution, developing knowledge of appropriate behavior and interactions with others, relationship building (with other students, staff, and families), managing more responsibilities, and multiple other skills that help the student become more ready to learn and often times, much less violent or aggressive and much more respectful in their interactions with others.

Another pillar that is supported, and is especially important for our Tier 2 and 3 students, is nurturing emotional intelligence. Many students are bringing issues to school with them that they do not know how to or are not capable of dealing with in a non-aggressive way. These students are often pegged as the “behavior problems” from the first day of school and then have one more aspect of their lives to struggle with. Our Tier 3 students actually have daily check-ins (sometimes multiple times per day) with our crisis intervention specialist or student advocates and they learn ways to express how they are feeling and have trusting relationships with those adults. They practice in situations with other students where they are able to model appropriate social interactions and emotion regulation. Some learn strategies for going home and talking with their parents or bringing skills back into the classroom in their interactions with other students and teachers.

PBIS Sample Lesson Be Responsible (.pdf)

Peace Learner Commitments

The above podcast was recorded on Wednesday, November 14th 2012 during the Peace Pedagogy (EDU-596) course I facilitate each year at American University.  As a final assignment for the class I asked each student to develop what I called a “Peace Learner Commitment.”  A Peace Learner Commitment is:

“…a pledge to yourself, and shared with our community, to achieve a goal that seeks to build and foster peaceable learning environments.  This environment can be built in the classroom, your community, among your peers, with your family, in the work place, or for yourself.  The choice is yours.

“The key is for an element of this course that resonated with you – skill, content, activity, attitude, technique, perspective, etc. – to bear fruit outside of the (tiny) classroom we shared this semester.”

In the podcast each student shares what their commitment is.  And listening to this podcast, I can honestly say that it has been a privilege spending an entire semester with this outstanding, kind, and inspirational group of learners. The 14 students all came to the course for different reasons, with different needs, and from different professional and academic backgrounds.  Given the diversity of the learning goals and needs, as the professor for the course I really had to give deep thought to what kinds of assignments were going to actually be useful to the class.

Guide to Preventing and Responding to School Violence

POSTED ON BEHALF OF AUDREY VAN GILDER

I’ve chosen to loosely relate my final blog post to my Peace Learner Commitment. That commitment was made as a result of all I’ve learned about gun violence while interning at the Brady Center, and in an effort to start spreading the word about intercepting gun violence, I’d like to share this resource with you.

https://www.theiacp.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=MwvD03yXrnE%3D&tabid=378

This Guide to Preventing and Responding to School Violence is a pretty technical examination of all the pragmatic steps that need to be in place should the worst happen – the worst, in this case, being gun violence in a school. As much as we as teachers and caregivers hope that this never touches us, the fact is, America sees a frightening amount of gun violence on a daily basis, substantially more than any other developed nation. Many of these mass shootings (considered at least four people injured or killed by one shooter at one time) happen in schools.

This document is a very thorough resource for not only teachers, but administrators, parents, community leaders, and public safety officials. It is appropriate to implement in full or in part at the discretion of a school. The important thing is that adults in schools are aware of the threat of gun violence. Not only must official emergency preparedness policies be in place, but teachers have a responsibility to keep an alert eye and ear out in order to discourage talk of violence among students. There are often warning signs of the potential for violence with weapons; the answer to confront this threat is not arming more people, but in increased communication among responsible adults about how to address and respond to violent crisis, should it unfortunately occur.

The way I interpret this resource, it can be used as a way to build a safe community. This pillar of peace education can be addressed by an unlimited number of strategies – this is just one to develop in order to serve a community if gun violence ever does become a reality. In addition, this document is a tangible method of skill building for adults in a school. It should be integrated with the crisis response plans that schools already have, and can be the worst-case-scenario guide for schools that already are committed to building peaceable communities.

As sad as it is to acknowledge, many schools in America are stuck in violent environments, in neighborhoods that experience gun violence every day. Realistic measures must be taken by people in charge to make every effort to ensure no gun crosses the threshold of their schools.

Stand Up and Speak Out

POSTED ON BEHALF OF MARIA SCHNEIDER

After reviewing my own reflections for our Peace Learner Agreements I decided that this program anti-discrimination and bullying program known as Stand Up Speak Out (SUSOSH) that I was involved with is something that I am proud of. It deserves recognition, and I believe that it should be implemented in other schools in communities across the country. It is relevant to peace education because of the long-term goals related to the seven pillars: community building, exploring approaches to peace, re-framing history, and transforming conflict non-violently, and lastly building life skills.

[Taken from the Minneapolis South High School website:] http://south.mpls.k12.mn.us/activities_s-z Stand Up Speak Out South High (SUSOSH) is a student driven peer education event at South High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Led by a core group of students on the SUSOSH Leadership Committee and staff advisors, SUSOSH trains over one hundred students in the art of peer education regarding homophobia, sexism, racism, and disability awareness. For two days, these peer leaders facilitate workshops for the entire student body of South High School in hopes of raising awareness and igniting change in the community. SUSOSH participants are committed to social justice at an unprecedented level at South High School.

SUSOSH, started as an initiative by the Gay Straight Alliance, Student Government, National Honor Society and Corinth Matera a dedicated, and well-respected teacher at South High. Based on student and teachers noticing an increase in vulgar and offensive language being used in the hallways of Minneapolis South High the conversation began of how we could transform our school environment to be more accepting and respectful of all people.

I think that this initiative can be implemented in many different learning environments but it is best done in middle and high schools where students and teachers can work together to create a comprehensive and effective social justice action plan to engage students of various backgrounds and grade levels. That way it is structured and can lead the way for transformational change and peace throughout an entire school or institution, not simply in one class or one group of students. As far as how to incorporate this into a class, I think that the need has to be there and a drive from students as well a support from faculty and staff members. Otherwise, there won’t be positive response from students if they don’t see positive leadership from their peers.

One year later, after local teen suicides related to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender bullying, South High was recognized for its anti-bullying measures related to SUSOSH. http://www.shsoutherner.net/news/2010/11/09/south-students-respond-to-recent-suicides/

After exploring this concept of Standing Up and Speaking Out I discovered a similar program on the edutopia site http://www.edutopia.org/blog/social-justice-lessons-activities-resources-rebecca-alber aimed at teachers to help better develop social and emotional learning through social justice lesson plans and resources.

How can this program be implemented in other schools? Who is responsible for doing this? How can we spread the word?

TeachUNICEF

POSTED ON BEHALF OF KELLY RYAN

One of the challenges for any teacher, practitioner, and parent is trying to find the best way to teach children about those difficult, scary, and challenging topics that are a part of our world. TeachUNICEF is rooted in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and provides unique topic and age appropriate activities and lesson plans to help teach children about human rights, armed conflict, human trafficking, and other important topics. Moreover, TeachUNICEF resources are aimed at students in a variety of contexts and locations.

TeachUNICEF is a portfolio of free global education resources. Resources cover grades PK-12, are interdisciplinary (social studies, science, math, English/language arts, foreign/world languages), and align with standards. The lesson plans, stories, and multimedia cover topics ranging from the Millennium Development Goals to Water and Sanitation.

Our mission is to support and create well-informed global citizens who understand interconnectedness, respect and value diversity, have the ability to challenge injustice and inequities and take action in personally meaningful ways. We hope that in providing engaging and academically rich materials that offer multiple voices, we can encourage the exploration of critical global issues while presenting opportunities to take action.”-TeachUNICEF

The lesson plans provided by TeachUNICEF are divided by topic/grade level and by lesson plan, readings, videos, and audio. A Child Rights lesson plan for PK-2nd grade students includes an entire coloring book that encourages students to learn what rights are and why they are given to children. A 9-12th grade lesson plan on gender equality provides students with stories of children from around the world and asks them to chart the trend of girls in primary education programs in the last decade.

The TeachUNICEF map shows viewers how the program is used around the globe. Pins are drawn on a world map to indicate how and where TeachUNICEF implimented. If you click on a pin the website will play a video or direct you to a lesson plan unique to the particular geographic area. This makes the project not only helpful to teach in different contexts around the globe, but it also helps teachers teach their students about issues, challenges, and solutions in schools far from their own classrooms. Similarly, the “Field Note” section allows teacher, parents, and youth to share their experiences and how they are implementing TeachUNICEF.

One of my favorite sections is the “Take Action” page. This section allows the viewer to participate in an active way to accomplish a global goal. Supported by the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, many opportunities are given for students, teachers, or anyone else to participate in advocacy, volunteering, raising funds for projects, and more. This, coupled with the free lesson plans, provides an active learning resource for TeachUNICEF participants.

This program hits on many of the pillars of peace education. However, I think it most directly relates to exploring approaches to peace and skill building. The TeachUNICEF lesson plans address many issues affecting people, especially children, all around the world. As previously mentioned, the lesson plans talk about human trafficking, armed conflict, gender inequality, etc. Many of the lesson plans use narratives of children in conflict or in poverty to show what life is like in their environment. Skill building is also an important part of TeachUNICEF through the “Take Action” opportunities. My favorite is the Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF program which not only raises funds for UNICEF but also raises awareness for its programs.

TeachUNICEF is a wonderful and free resource for all teachers, parents, practitioners, and students. It is grounded in the CRC and uses activity based, reading, visual, and audio techniques to educate students on tough issues. Most importantly, it gives students ways in which they can advocate for peace through action!

Links:

TeachUNICEF: http://teachunicef.org/

CRC: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/crc.htm

Technology in the Classroom as a Peaceful Learning Practice

POSTED ON BEHALF OF MARIA SCHNEIDER

I myself am not someone who is fascinated by technology, nor someone who chooses to use it day-in and day-out. I am maybe one of the few people who still do not have a smart phone, an iPad or a kindle and there is something about not owning such devices that gives me peace. Ironic I know because I decided to look into using technology in the classroom as a way to increase peace in the learning environment and cater to learners with all different learning styles. I think that I don’t appreciate technology as much as others because I often do not know how to use programs, devices, websites etc. and that I become frustrated and stop using them altogether.  My frustration however, might not be so strong if I was well versed in how to use programs effectively and incorporate them into different contexts; thus I decided to explore ways to incorporate technology into the classroom to build peace and a positive outlook on learning form the eyes of students.

The eLearn Magazine: Education and Teaching in Perspective http://elearnmag.acm.org/featured.cfm?aid=2047484 features several different blog postings about tools, methods, and resources for educators and facilitators in both informal and formal classroom settings. I found many of the articles to be interesting and provide information that I was preciously unaware of. The Top 100 Tools for Learning http://c4lpt.co.uk/top-100-tools-2012/ also provides a long list of resources that can be used to teach and enhance all different lessons for various age groups.

Though these tools can be used in any setting I think they would be the most beneficial in a formal classroom setting with middle, high school and/or college students, as there is more structure within the allotted time of the class/course. In addition, branching out with various tools and technology helps bring variety to enhance all learning styles and build intelligence in community building, emotional learning and life skills building.

I would use the Top 100 Tools for Learning in group projects, presentations, and as I lead class sessions. Being introduced to meditation and yoga in the classroom I think that Skype is one tool that could be utilized to hold a yoga class/meditation session, iMovie, Garage band and iTunes are programs that could be used to create movies and podcasts and share them with other students. I hope that by incorporating these tools more widely into the classroom that students are able to realize that learning does not occur simply from listening to the teacher, and raising your hand to respond but that it happens collaboratively in different ways that can be interactive and fun as well as educational and academic.

*[One precaution that needs to be taken is realizing that not all student may have access to internet resources outside of the classroom. Because of that it is important that you find alternative routes to using technology in the classroom, media center, renting equipment (high school/college), using community resources at public libraries and community centers. Incorporating these devices and technological programs can be done more often in the actual classroom to eliminate the opportunities for students who do not have access to computers to feel left out from those who do have access.]

This Piece of Bread is an Ambassador from the Entire Cosmos

POSTED ON BEHALF OF KELLY RYAN

One of my go-to forms of meditation and relaxation is cooking and/or baking. I love making cookies, cupcakes, casseroles, and just about anything else that is edible. While some people might not think that chopping, scooping, or measuring are great ways to decompress, it works for me. After the module on meditation and yoga I began to think about other ways that food could be helpful in building serenity and peace. After some investigation I came across Deer Park Monastery’s mindful eating techniques. This process for eating—by yourself or with a community—is a great way to ensure that mealtimes are opportunities for meditation.

Deer Park Monastery is a sanctuary in California that brings together engaged Buddhists and lay followers to learn and grow under their teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. At Deer Park, participants and followers are not just encouraged to participate in the mediation hall or during formal sitting meditation. They encourage mediation in all activities in one’s daily life.

The eating meditation begins with serving. “Serving ourselves, we realize that many elements, such as the rain, sunshine, earth, air and love, have all come together to form this wonderful meal.” Eating is done in silence so that every individual is able to connect with the universe and reflect on their nourishment. Participants focus on several principles while practicing this mindful eating:

  • This food is a gift of the earth, the sky, numerous living beings and much hard work.
  • May we eat with mindfulness and gratitude so as to be worthy to receive it.
  • May we recognize and transform our unwholesome mental formations, especially our greed, and learn to eat with moderation.
  • May we keep our compassion alive by eating in such a way that we reduce the suffering of living beings, preserve our planet and reverse the process of global warming.
  • We accept this food so that we may nurture our brotherhood and sisterhood, strengthen our sangha and nourish our ideal of serving all beings.

The full process can be found online at: http://deerparkmonastery.org/mindfulness-practice/eating-meditation

This website is a great resource for many reasons. For personal use it provides great ways to enrich our individual meditative experiences and incorporate them into our daily routines. It provides some useful resource about the types of meditation practiced at Deer Park as well. It is also a great resource for teachers, educators, and practitioners trying to incorporate mediation into their classrooms or with their participants. Beyond the eating meditation, the website gives helpful meditation techniques for breathing, sitting, embracing anger, walking, and even hugging.

I chose to focus on eating meditation because it has a direct environmental component; it seems to bridge our meditation and environmental modules. Too often I—and I assume others—rush to eat our food so we can move on with our day. Taking time to understand how it impacts our bodies, nourishes us, and fuels us is crucial. Moreover, eating meditation allows us the time and space to reflect on what the earth has given us, what we have taken from the earth, and how we can become better stewards of the earth through our direct consumption.

This meditative practice can be used in any classroom I think. While I’m not a teacher, I remember how much my classes loved when our teachers brought food to share! A great way of practicing this meditation would be to encourage a snack day or just bring snacks to class for your students. Go through the meditation and ask your students to reflect on how the food went from the soil to their hands. Encourage them to contemplate the people needed to harvest the food, the process of cleaning/preparing the food, material used to wrap/package the food, the vehicles and fuel used to transport the food, and how the food got from the store to their hands. While every student may have different visions of the food process, of their nourishment, and of the impact food consumption has on the environment, this is a great visual and tactile way of teaching both mediation and an appreciation for the earth.

This hits on many of the pillars of peace education but I think it specifically speaks to skill building and nurturing emotional intelligences. This activity builds on meditative skills that are important to personal, academic, and professional development. It provides students with a way to practice meditation in their daily routine. Additionally, it supports emotional intelligences by promoting time and space for individual reflection on something as personal as eating and consumption.

This mediation might not be for everyone. Some people might find it hard to be silent during eating, especially if eating is a time of community building. However, it is one way of utilizing a standard routine (eating) and transforming it into a meditation practice. I encourage everyone to try the meditative eating and to build meditation around other daily activities in their lives.