Dharma Rain - Dharma School Curriculum
Each year, we loosely follow a theme. Some classes may work with it more directly
than others. The goal is to explain the topic
of the year, while keeping it relevant to the children’s lives. Past
themes have included the Six Worlds, the Skandhas, Bodhisattvas, the Paramitas,
and the Precepts.
Click here to
see the schedule for the year.
Our goal is not to ensure that our kids have a particular knowledge base
and background in Buddhism, and it is certainly not to turn them all into
Buddhists. We do care that they are exposed to this teaching and that they
recognize values such as simplicity and taking care of others, sharing,
preserving resources and so on. We hope that they have absorbed some guidance
how one can deal with suffering.
Many children are affected by their participation
in Dharma School, and feel that their time in this kind of atmosphere,
having these kind of role models, helped them learn to act with more wisdom
compassion at times in their lives. For more information about our philosophy
and curriculum, see the manual, Sharing
the Dharma with Children. A
paper copy of the manual is available for $12. Please contact the
Center if you would like one.
The first ceremony of the Dharma School year is Segaki, the festival
of feeding the hungry ghosts. This happens around the time of Halloween,
themes. A ghost may appear, and there is an altar filled with treats.
Read more about Segaki in
Rohatsu is the most serious ceremony for the kids. It is a variant
on Jodo, ritual questioning of the abbot. We use the adult Zendo
child (perhaps with a supporting hand if necessary), may go up and
ask Gyokuko a question. This can be very scary, but also can be inspiring,
both for those
asking the question and the observers.
Read more about Rohatsu in
Nehan honors the Buddha’s death, and consists of Gyokuko explaining
the Parinirvana statue, which depicts the Buddha lying down surrounded
by animals. Then we all draw a picture of a pet or person who has died and
it to the fire. This is a quiet and careful day, but not solemn.
Read more about Nehan in
The children’s Jukai happens in March. This is an opportunity for
children to take refuge and try to develop their compassion and wisdom for
year. The first time this is done, students are given a mala (prayer
beads). The high school group takes the lead on this ceremony: explaining
it to the
younger ones, leading the chanting, offering incense, and so on.
Read more about Jukai in
Dharma School Egg Hunt
The Dharma School Egg Hunt happens around the time of Easter, and
is a chance to run around and find eggs that have treats and questions
them. The older students hide the eggs, and the younger ones find
then bring them inside to share. The questions are a mix of Dharma,
riddles, with a wide range of difficulty.
Read more about Other
Wesak, the Buddha’s birthday, is held with the adults. This is a
big ceremony with lots of chanting, walking, tossing of lotus petals and
Each participant pours tea over a baby Buddha statue that the children
have decorated with flowers. After this, we go downstairs and blindfold young
volunteers, who try to knock open a paper maché elephant
that has been filled with goodies.
Read more about Wesak in
Heidi Enji Hoogstra started a blog for recording Dharma School
lessons. The intention was that it would be there for all teachers to
post and that it would be a resource for folks
out there in the world seeking ways to teach dharma to their kids. Many
are not so fortunate as us to have a large enough Buddhist community (or
community) to draw from for a program such as ours. The blog can be a resource
for ourselves as we go through the cycle of our teachings, and it could become
a book someday. So far, Enji has been the only one posting to the blog, but
we still hope for it to be a collaborative effort. Dharma School parents
have appreciated finding out what their girls were
learning, because kids aren't always so verbal about lessons learned.
Click here to see the blog.