Place & Time: The Vital Role Geography & History Have In Promoting Mindfulness In Schools

Place & Time

This principally includes how History shapes culture, events, consciousness and identity and the lessons which it offers to our understanding of present and future; and geographical study of location, other people, other places and human interdependence, locally, nationally, and globally. Like the arts, this subject seeks to give children an understanding of:

  • Who they are,
  • Change and continuity,
  • Cause and effect,
  • Why society is arranged as it is,
  • The interaction between humankind and the physical environment.

In opening up children’s understanding of these matters the subject may range beyond the boundaries of what is conventionally included – for example Forest Schooling, which can make up a school’s curriculum.

Place and Time not only provides links to other curriculum areas but lies at the heart of the children’s everyday lives, showing how the past can impact upon the present and ultimately, the future. The subject aims to equip children with the basic skills required to be confident and capable members of the community, as well as to appreciate the importance of the role they play in respecting and preserving the society they are a part of. Lastly, ‘Place & Time’ provides a platform from which children can communicate their ideas and query the existing world around them. For many, Place & Time will be the first time that ‘big questions’ about the world have been asked and is an opportunity for such questions to be debated and philosophised.

The approach to history is for children to know that things have not always been as they are now, and by implication that they need not remain the same in the future. This is the teaching of Impermanence in its clearest form. They will also learn of some of the best examples of wisdom that have taken place in history and learn from these historical examples. Children, through history, also come to recognise that whilst many things have changed and will continue to change there is a degree of Interdependence with the past; that of seeing connections between what happens in the modern day and how things were done in the past; including the principle of cause and effect (Karma); particularly through local study. Through the discipline of social history and the interpretation of primary resources children can practise empathy, compassion, morality and patience. With a better understanding of primary resources they also practise treating things with care and doing no harm. 

The study of human geography emphasises the interdependence of people across the planet. The children learn about how other children in the world live and about the sufferings that occur. They learn to appreciate how fortunate they are to live in a stable affluent society. Physical geography encompasses valuing nature, conservation and recognising threats to our world. Studying the rainforest inspires children to raise money for a conservation project, and charity work on a local and global scale should be encouraged. Understanding and possible application of the 10 One Planet principles should also be encouraged and central to both local and global human geography study.

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Can Mathematical Problems Help Promote Mindfulness In Children?

Can Mathematical Problems Help Promote Mindfulness In Children?

I have recently found myself incredibly interested in whether it is possible to find ‘mathematical’ or ‘puzzle’ activity which is rich in the promotion of mindfulness skills.

The National Curriculum in the UK states that;

Pupils should be taught to make connections and approach problems in a variety of forms, in order to identify what they need to do. Develop flexible approaches to problem solving and look for ways to overcome difficulties. Present and interpret potential solutions in the context of the problem. To explain their methods and reasoning, develop logical thinking and search for patterns when solving problems.’

My initial thought is if you set mathematical challenges which relate to working systemically could this be relevant to the practices of meditative activity? Meditative activity can be defined simply as ‘being involved and absorbed in considered thought’. I wonder then, if children are engaged in regular ‘meditative’ mathematical problem solving activities would they find this benefits them when they engage in meditation or in their day-to-day lives?

Whilst you can and indeed I do look at this from a completely secular position, it is interesting to place some Buddhist context on the question. It is claimed that when Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree and gained enlightenment, he was initially troubled by Mara (a serpent) who tested Buddha’s commitment and perseverance (an emotional often felt with a difficult challenge) which he eventually overcame.

His last awareness under the Bodhi tree was said to be the realisation of dukkha or suffering. We do indeed ‘suffer’ in everyday life and things can be difficult. Could exposure by children to problems and puzzles which need (as Buddha laid out in the noble eight-fold-path; right effort, right action, right mindfulness, right concentration) skills to be solved, be of benefit beyond just the puzzle solving at the time and potentially give children tools to cope with other difficulties they will encounter?

Such activities I can think of are playing chess, sudoku puzzles, riddles and the challenges set out on the incredible nrich.maths.org site.

Do you know of activities which could promote managing distractions, noticing, perseverance, staying in the present moment, reflecting, revising, making connections, reasoning and questioning? If so please leave your examples in the comments box.