Deep Without and Deep Within: Curricular Paths for Expansion of Student Consciousness

IMG_20180209_110029473(2)Jonathan, Nicole, and Matthea proudly advertize the Humanities II in Action course at the high school academic marketplace in February. These three worked for many months to propose and ultimately pass a Humanities II in Action curriculum, creating a second year of the “in Action” course.

Introduction

I’ve found myself saying that this year – 2018 – will be the most exciting year of teachingScreen Shot 2018-04-05 at 4.30.08 PM at HKIS since I began in 1990. Thanks to two organic developments that emerged in 2016, HKIS is on course for a perfect storm of change that I expect will make a fundamental shift in our high school students; these forces are already at play and the first fruits are appearing. It feels like the right time to call attention to this phase shift, offer some tentative predictions, and consider what is possible at a mainstream international school such as HKIS. Continue reading

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The Refugee Run and “White Helmets:” The Deep Impact of Experiential Learning

IMG_20180303_101216391.jpgIntroduction

It is a truism that “experience is the best teacher,” and so it is with Humanities I in Action, our cornerstone social conscience course at HKIS, that the second most powerful lesson in the curriculum (after the Foshan orphanage trip*) is a simulation developed by the Hong Kong NGO Crossroads Foundation called the “Refugee Run” in which students enter into the life of one of the 65 million refugees in our world today. Participants in the 90-minute simulation cross a border under the threat of rebel attack and then live in a refugee camp for several “days.” Led by HKIS alum David Begbie, the Refugee Run involves approximately 10 actors from Crossroads who play the various roles of rebels, refugee camp officials, guards, exploiters, teachers, and nurses. The experience leaves a deep impact on students, one that they recall throughout their high school career. Continue reading

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Waking Up to the Vertical Dimension: Initial Student Reflections on “Spiritual Explorations”

Screen Shot 2018-02-22 at 3.14.59 PM.pngOne of the first meetings of the new “Spiritual Explorations” team in spring, 2017. This entry shares the new SPEX curriculum that emerged from our collective work, the first unit that we have just completed, and an analysis of students’ first essays reflecting on the course content. 

Introduction

How do we as religion teachers wake young people up to not only the possibility, but perhaps even the reality, of a spiritual life in our classes? This must be the most important question among spiritually-oriented educators, and it’s the task that drove our religion teachers 14 months ago to discard our two required semester courses, World Religions and Biblical Traditions, and strike out into the uncharted territory of creating a new course that would boldly attempt to connect students to a greater reality beyond their academically-focused lives.

Last month we began teaching our new “Spiritual Explorations” (SPEX) course with the first unit called, “It’s Time to Wake Up,” and now students’ first essays have been submitted. What have we learned so far? This blog entry explains the approach we have taken in constructing this new class, the curriculum of the first unit, and analysis of student papers.  This is our first sense of whether the gamble we took in December, 2016 appears to be paying off or not. Continue reading

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“Dealing with the Accuser: Befriending Your Inner Critic” by Sangeeta Bansal and Marty Schmidt

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All of us have inner voices that direct critique towards ourselves, which when well-managed can serve us well. However, for many students these voices become far too powerful, leaving them with low self-regard. In this blog entry guest writer Sangeeta Bansal and myself address this issue for students and teachers.*
Continue reading

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“The Global Field of Love:” Celebrating Jasmine and Ashwin’s Wedding in Burma

Screen Shot 2018-01-05 at 1.01.49 PMIntroduction

In 2004 a young student from Hong Kong local schools named Jasmine Lau signed up for Humanities I in Action; the course, as she said to myself and her teacher Ms. Talbot last week at her wedding, was “life-changing.” The “in Action” class and her subsequent experiences impacted the trajectory of Jasmine’s life in significant ways. Several years later she along with some of her HKIS friends helped to start a girls scholarship program with an NGO called CWEF that has sponsored more than 450 girls in southern China to gain a high school education, and is still running to this day. After graduating from college, Jasmine established her own NGO in Beijing that she still directs called “Philanthropy in Motion” (PIM). In 2015 HKIS awarded her the Alumna of the Year Award, and in 2016 Forbes named her as a young social entrepreneur to watch. (Hit here to  see a very fine video Jasmine made about the girls scholarship program in 2007 – and see her as a high school student, too!) Continue reading

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“Self-Discovery: Becoming a Healthier Me” by Ali Taha Brown

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Ali breaks through a tackle on the HKIS rugby pitch in a match against International School of Beijing during APAC in October.

Introduction

The final papers from this past semester’s “Service, Society, and the Sacred” class produced a bumper crop of self-reflective pieces. First, I shared Sandra’s recovery of her Larger Self through re-discovering her innate love of service and spirituality. Second, Sharon explained how she was able to discover the nearly unheard virtue of letting go – and how this new attitude dramatically shifted her experience of the first half of her senior year. And now we come to Ali, who shares in this essay that he not only found out more about his personal identity – the fundamental task of adolescence – but also how to support this new self-understanding through a better diet and spiritual practices. All of these essays suggest that so many of what are considered unavoidable and intractable adolescent struggles can be significantly improved with relatively simple life choices over a period of several months. Please enjoy Ali’s essay! Continue reading

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Presence and Plant Intelligence: Best Books of 2017

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Finding my first Buhner book in Dublin in July, a celebratory moment!

Introduction

If last year’s highlight was easy to identify – studying the Enneagram in London – then IMG_20170625_084019297_HDRthis year’s epiphany was equally obvious, coming during summer holidays on a remote snip of Scottish land called Holy Isle. In the middle of a weeklong retreat with my teacher Cynthia Bourgeault, the gardener of the Tibetan Buddhist center, Sarah, brought me an excerpt of the writings of Stephen Buhner on plant intelligence. I was so struck by something in the writing style that when I arrived in Dublin several days later, heavy luggage in tow, I made an unconscious beeline for the nearest bookstore and was fortunate enough – and mildly ecstatic – to find a copy of his Secret Teachings of Plants, which I devoured in the subsequent hours and days. Sarah’s tip set me on an unprecedented reading tear, inwardly digesting three of Stephen’s sizable books during the summer and another two in the fall. Continue reading

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