Well-Being and Wisdom: Considerations for a Wellness Curriculum

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As students enter high school, they are asked to begin to navigate the transition from adolescence to adulthood, a daunting task. A new wellness block is being offered for all incoming HKIS freshmen next year employing an interdisciplinary approach combining PE, Counseling, and Religion departmental perspectives to offer students a much-needed orientation towards well-being and wisdom.  Continue reading

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“We Can Make Difference:” SCMP Article on 10th Annual Service Summit

screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-8-47-35-pmWe Can Make a Difference by Kay Ross, February 14, 2017

Students from HKIS and its sister schools Concordia-Shanghai and Concordia-Hanoi gathered at HKIS on January 14, 2017, for the 10th annual High School Service Summit. It was also the culmination of the Middle School’s fourth annual Student Leadership Program.

“The Service Summit is the kick-off day of our Humanities 1 in Action course for 9th-graders at HKIS High School,” said Humanities teacher Mr. Marty Schmidt. “We think the two most important things in our school’s curriculum are the future of the planet, and the mental health of our students. So we want our students to find a way to connect their hearts to the world’s issues, and feel empowered to act.”

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Each year, that action comes in the form of semester-long “Elixir” projects, designed and implemented by the students themselves, in which they tackle an environmental or social issue on campus, in Hong Kong or elsewhere in Asia. For many students, their projects blossom into successful post-school careers, businesses or non-profit organizations.

Leading up to the Service Summit, a small group of Middle School students from HKIS, Concordia-Shanghai and Concordia-Hanoi were immersed in a three-day Student Leadership Program. “The students get to examine critical issues facing the world, ponder what it really means to be a leader, and forge international friendships. They also start to think about their own possible future Elixir projects. All of that leads to all sorts of outcomes that are not necessarily predictable or measurable,” explained Mr. Greg Ladner, Associate Principal of HKIS Middle School.

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The program included workshops with Ms. Jessica Giang and Ms. Laurence Couture, two Beijing-based facilitators from Me to We, a Canadian social enterprise that empowers people to change the world with their everyday consumer choices. “The aim was to get the students to understand their privileged position in society, and to think about how they can use that privilege for good,” said Jessica.

On January 13, the students visited the Crossroads Foundation, a Hong Kong charity that connects those with resources and those who need help. They did volunteer work, sorting and cleaning donated items, and participated in simulations designed to give them an experience of the challenges faced by blind people and people with AIDS.

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HKIS Middle School student Felix Leung shared his impressions of the program: “It showed me that there are many ways I can serve the community. And I learned that even small actions can have huge positive consequences.”

On January 14, the Middle School students joined the High School students for the Service Summit, where Jessica and Laurence gave a keynote address, and HKIS alumni Mr. Amar Bhardwaj and Mr. Yashvardhan (“Yash”) Bardoloi spoke compellingly about what happened for them after attending previous Service Summits – Amar became passionate about the issue of glass recycling, while Yash founded VolunteerConnect, an online platform that matches volunteers with organizations that need their skills.

Finally, participants had the opportunity to hear from older HKIS students and alumni about previous successful Elixir projects. Examples included empowering impoverished children in Cambodia; producing and selling eco-friendly jute bags in India; reading to and playing with children in a Lutheran nursery in Heng Fa Chuen; gathering donated stationery, clothing, and hygiene supplies to send to people living in extreme poverty in the Philippines; undertaking environmental projects to make Hong Kong more sustainable; and raising funds for two orphanages in Delhi, India.

HKIS High School student Alexandra Debow, who will soon be deciding about her own Elixir project, commented, “It’s not just about completing a project at school; it’s about starting something that will make a positive difference.”

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 Overview of the Service Summit

On Saturday, January 14, HKIS hosted the 10th annual Service Summit, the goal of which is to launch Humanities I in Action grade 9 students’ semester-long, community-based Elixir Projects. Our 75 students heard presentations from our “Me to We” speakers who kicked-off the event with a keynote address. Then they selected five break-out sessions, most conducted by older HKIS students who had done their own successful projects when they were in the class. For the 4th year, the Service Summit was also the culmination of a 3-day service leadership retreat for 30 middle school students from Concordia-Shanghai, Concordia-Hanoi, and HKIS. We look forward to the fruits that will surely emerge from this event.

 

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Calligraphy as Sacred Art: Meeting Golnaz Fathi

Image result for Golnaz Fathi art workGolnaz Fathi, Untitled, 2011

Dear Students,

Last night I had the great pleasure toUntitled.png hear the accomplished Iranian artist Golnaz Fathi share her passion for painting at a presentation at Hong Kong’s Asia Society. As I listened to Golnaz, I realized that she was describing her love of art as a sacred practice. Upon a night’s reflection, it seems to me that her example can be both instructive and inspirational to those of us who want to explore art as restorative force in our lives. Continue reading

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Teaching Inspiration: Avaaz’s 100 Victories for Justice

Untitled.pngIntroduction

The first semester of Humanities I in Action introduces students to suffering in the world. I often say it has a “shock and awe” impact on many students, as they struggle to make sense of a myriad of injustices: colonization, genocide, racial discrimination, violence, abandonment, and many others. So when we get to the second semester with our overarching question, “Can I make a difference?” and they begin a semester-long community-based Elixir project of their own choosing, it’s important to show that change can and does happen. I designed the following activity to help students learn about the inspiring work of Avaaz, an online advocacy organization of currently 43 million people (!) that brings about real change through harnessing a global will for justice. In only a decade, they have enacted thousands of actions around the world, including more than 100 inspiring victories for justice. Continue reading

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Using Spiritual Practices to Transform Service Learning Guilt into Compassionate Action: Two Students’ Experiences

DSC_2875.JPGThe shadow side of powerful service learning experiences, like the one that Claudia had at the Foshan orphanage, is that students carry a burden of guilt with them when they return to school. This blog entry explores the possibility of drawing upon spiritual practices as a pedagogical strategy to integrate such deeply impactful experiences beyond the more common approaches of discussions and written reflections. Continue reading

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Essence and the Self: Entering Emptiness to Find Fullness

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Introduction

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

– Jesus (Matthew 5:4)

Dear Students,

We have built our semester’s exploration in “Service, Society, and the Sacred” around the concept that a common message in the Wisdom Tradition is the need to let go of a small self in order to allow a Larger Self to emerge. But this simple message begs the question: what is it really like in daily life to experience this movement from one to the other? Continue reading

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Opening to Presence: Best Books of 2016

screen-shot-2016-12-25-at-10-52-13-pmIt is not difficult for me to pick out my spiritual highlight of 2016. A good friend recommended that I look into Dot B mindfulness training during the summer holidays, and so I applied across Europe for a program. However, each was full, and so I gave up, assuming that I would remain in Hong Kong for the summer. Image result for EnneagramThen at the last minute I stumbled across an Enneagram workshop in London, taught by Russ Hudson, arguably the premier teacher in the field, and his gifted co-teacher Robert Holden. They had a few remaining spots, so off I went to London, with the Brexit vote looming, trying to better understand this captivating personality typing system. My biggest underlying question that I carried to London with me, however, was how does the Enneagram fit into my understanding of the Wisdom Tradition, as taught by my teacher Cynthia Bourgeault. Continue reading

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