Throughout the unit on world religions, I felt the need to do a unique activity to allow my students an opportunity to interact with world cultures. As students from South Chicago, many have not experienced the diversity that will greet them on a college campus. Born from this idea, I decided that towards the end of our unit on Buddhism, I was going to try a day of meditation with my students.
Students came into the room and cleared their desks. I turned off the lights and began playing a meditation Spotify (awesome classroom tool) channel, and let the students settle themselves. The students were then instructed to place their hands on either the desk or lap facing straight up, and their backs straight.
Next, I described a balloon being inflated, and tried to provide a mental image for the students to envision while they took deep breaths in through the nose, and out through the mouth. I tried to exaggerate my modeling of this activity, so students would feel comfortable experimenting with the practice.
After all the students were silently breathing, I began to describe our first activity. The students tightened each muscle, one by one, from head to toe, in an effort to relax. Next, I led an exercise that required the students to view themselves from outside of their bodies, and picture gold slowly coving their skin. This proved to be a very useful exercise, as students reported an increase in their attention to detail and perspective.
Finally, I ran a Buddhist folktale to the students, and had them silently listen. Most students reported that they enjoyed this part, as they were able to practice visualization of a narrative. Depending on time, classes finished up with another few minutes of breathing, and an attempt to visualize the “white wall”. This means that they tried to push all thoughts from their mind, and just focus on nothing. It is an incredibly hard task, but most seemed to enjoy the challenge.
Overall student reaction was fantastic. Most left class excited and energized by the experience. Some even went so far as to talk about the activity in the hall way with their peers, which any teacher will tell you is the ultimate goal of any lesson.
The following day I had students write a reflection, telling me what purpose they saw in meditation and explaining their experience. One thing was common across all classes and students, they loved it. This was one of the first activities that had almost universal appeal. Students of all skill levels, attitude levels and disciplinary levels enjoyed it. Also, I read multiple accounts of students that had explained the idea at home, and either meditated alone, or had their families take part.
Overall, I was very happy that I took the risk, and it worked out incredibly well. I will certainly try this activity again in the future, and it gave me the confidence to experiment with more unique and engaging lessons.