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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sheffield launch 'Still Learning' schools project

The FWBO’s Sheffield Buddhist Centre have recently launched a new Right Livelihood business - their ‘Still Learning’ education service for schools. You’ll find it at

The project is the brainchild of two Sheffield mitras, Allan Kirkman and Kate Arrowsmith, who’ve teamed up to create a complete spectrum of activities, tours and workshops for schools. Among their repertoire are introductions to -

• Stilling Exercises
• Artefacts and Shrines
• Story-telling
• Questions and Answer sessions
• Drama/role-play
• Information about Buddhism
• The Buddha’s life story
• Buddhist Ethics and Beliefs
• Buddhist Doctrine and Teachings
• Buddhist Statues and Images
• Talks about Buddhist Festivals

- everything a school teacher might want to pass on to their pupils about Buddhism!

In preparing themselves for this venture, they’ve drawn heavily on the FWBO’s ClearVision project’s experience in this field - they have a huge on-line resource library at - including the new on-line interactive ‘Life of the Buddha’ - check their demo at

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

New teaching resources for schools

For the last couple of years the Bristol Buddhist Centre has been building up its school visits program, and as part of that, its library of teaching resources for schools.

These have now been uploaded and are available for others to use. There’s a special Resources Page on their website; this contains both Primary and Secondary School Resources, including -

A simple stilling exercise for younger children A simple to follow stilling exercise for younger children which can be read through or adapted for an older audience. This often has a very stilling effect, so a useful resource in calming excited energy!

Introducing Buddhist Practice This sheet includes information about important symbols in Buddhism (the lotus, three jewels). It also explores the meaning of 'enlightenment', as well as other important teachings: the three fold path, karma, going for refuge to the three jewels and how a 'western' Buddhist practices Buddhism.

Introducing Buddhist Shrines An introduction to Buddhist shrines, including a description, an explanation of the symbols on the shrine, when and where they are used, how to build a shrine and reflections/activities. This sheet could be adapted to be used for different age groups. Probably most relevant for Key Stages 2 and 3 in the UK educational system.

Introduction to Buddhist Festivals This includes information about all the major Buddhist festivals, plus why, how and when we celebrate festivals. It includes activities and reflections. This sheet is a resource for teachers which can be adapted for different age groups.

More will be added to this in the coming months - among other things they are working on an introduction to death in the Buddhist tradition for the local cemetery.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Outreach work at the Bristol Buddhist Centre

Vitarka’ is the Schools and Educational Outreach project based at the Bristol Buddhist Centre. In 2007 they were successful in a grant application to the UK Government’s ‘Faith Community Capacity Building Fund (FCCB); and this year has seen the fruits of their work.

They have recently been featured in a new book ‘Faith Communities Pulling Together - Case studies from the Faith Communities Capacity Building Fund’, published by the UK's Community Development Foundation and available for purchase or free download.

As the report itself states – “The (Vitarka) project focused on creating practical foundations for the Bristol Buddhist Centre’s outreach work with schools, and then increasing its work with schools. The intention was that the work would contribute to greater community cohesion, by enabling children and young people to learn more about faith and increase their understanding about people of different faiths.

Kamalamani, coordinator of the Bristol Buddhist Centre's Vitarka project“A part-time schools and educational coordinator with experience as a teacher was employed. Her first priority was to create the resource pack for schools. The material was based on what teachers had been asking for, including a guide to Buddhist festivals, meditation and ‘stilling’ exercises, a form of sitting meditation.

“She also built up a database of local primary and secondary schools to which she could then send a mail shot explaining what the Centre could offer. This included lessons, assemblies and materials, for example a Buddhist Shrine Kit which was available for schools to borrow. Follow-up material was made available for the teachers, placed on the Centre’s website”.

In addition Kamalamani - the coordinator of the Vitarka project - has conducted her own review, which is available online here.

See also the FWBO's Clear Vision Trust website for award-winning education packs on Buddhism for all key stages.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Moving Sounds annual report

Being a world-wide community, the FWBO is full of diverse people and projects, all more – or less – closely affiliated with “The FWBO”, and, as a result, all more or less well-known among the wider FWBO sangha.

Moving Sounds is an example - they’re a small but innovative ‘Community Interest Company’ run by Keith, Ed, Caspar, and Jo, four mitras from the UK’s Buddhafield and Brighton sanghas. They specialise in music and drama workshops for schools, everything they do carrying a skilfully-delivered social message but also being a lot of fun - a certain Head of Geography is on record as saying "The only way the students could have enjoyed it more is if they had been stuffing their faces with chocolate at the same time!"

Their recently published annual report is full of gems such as the RECYCLED ORCHESTRA, which combines the experience of playing recycled percussion as a group with performance, video, discussion and group activities about waste and climate-change; the ECO SHOW, which presents broader ecological issues in a fun and entertaining way using theatre, clowning, plenty of music and different characters to explore topics including energy use, global foot printing, oil consumption, and alternative energy sources. They’ve just commissioned a local artist to make a pair of giant feet (for the USA, we wonder why!) and performed music and storytelling workshops about ‘How to Make the Best World Imaginable’ at the World Environment Day

Alongside that, they have a strong link to Africa – Ed and Caspar recently returning from an extended trip there with ‘THE GREAT EMBAIRE’ in their hand luggage. The Embaire is the biggest xylophone in the world, originating in Uganda and played by 10 people simultaneously for several hours – usually accompanied by plenty of dancing and celebration.

In Africa they made a promotional DVD for XPERA UGANDA - Africa’s first opera company. The idea is that this will enable XPERA to apply for funding to run community opera projects in Uganda, there will then be many possible links to Moving Sounds' own community opera projects in the UK through the UK's Knowledge Transfer funding programmes.

As part of their trip Ed and Caspar made many links with people and organisations in Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Zanzibar, Malawi and Mozambique – all of which could potentially become projects that integrate creative workshops with cultural sharing, documentation and training trainers for capacity building. Moving Sounds plan to focus on funding for these projects in 2008. They're a great example of how Buddhist principles can make a real difference in the world without ever calling themselves 'Buddhist'. We wish them well…

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Bristol's Vitarka Project

For the past nine months the Bristol Buddhist centre have been running the ‘Vitarka Project’. Kamalamani reports –

In April this year we were successful in being awarded £4,400 from the UK government’s Faith Communities Capacity Building fund. This was to enable us to contribute to the development of a culture of tolerance and mutual respect through outreach work to schools and the wider community

I was appointed as Schools Outreach Development Worker for the Buddhist Centre later in the month and have since been thoroughly enjoying co-ordinating schools work. My main priority has been to make contact with schools, so that they know what’s available to them in terms of visiting the Centre and having visitors to their schools. To give you an idea of what the schools work covers, please read on!

One of my first assignments was hosting a visit from Chew Valley School. This was particularly significant for me, as Chew Valley is the secondary school I attended! We’ve developed a ‘School Visiting Kula’, my hope is that this will build sangha friendships, as well as provide a great capacity for schools – it’s a multi faceted and talented team.

I’ve spent time reviewing existing resources and adding some new resources from Clear Vision (for example, their DVDs entitled'Pilgrimage: An Indian Spiritual Journey' and 'Buddhist Centre in the City: A Tour of the Manchester Buddhist Centre' - both great, interesting film making). I hope to continue this process to build the resources of the kula and to be able to signpost teachers to relevant and interesting resources.

In terms of local networking, I’ve found it very interesting to meet with Bristol City Council’s Social Inclusion Officer, the Interfaith Consultant, local SACRE representatives and members of the Bristol Diocese, to find out what’s already going on in and around Bristol. Bristol schools face significant challenges, with one of the highest rates of exclusion of pupils from schools in the country, and ongoing tensions between some ethnic groups. It seems that the need for interfaith and social inclusion work is greater than ever, to support schools and the wider community.

Earlier in the summer I was a facilitator at the Childrens’ Interfaith conference, run by Bristol City Council. This was a really interesting day and I was particularly struck by hearing children talk so openly about the similarities and differences between their faiths. It was very moving and heartening. I hope this event will become a regular fixture in Bristol’s calendar.

The Future
There is a huge amount of scope for the Buddhist Centre to continue to develop its schools and educational work, and I imagine that this area will blossom and grow over the next few years. It would be great to have ongoing partnerships with a high percentage of schools across the city. Potentially, this work also goes beyond schools work, into broader interfaith work, community cohesion and meditation in schools, to mention but a few.

So I thought I would finish with a few of the questions and comments from some of the children I’ve met and enjoyed working with so far, given that they are by far and away the most important focus of this project…

“When you’ve been enlightened, can you become unenlightened?”
“Are the three jewels to do with each of the elements?”
“Will the Buddhist lady be black?” (question to a teacher before my visit, from a Muslim girl)
“Do you still cry when you’re a Buddhist?”
“Does Buddhism stop crime?”
“Will you be reborn as a Buddhist if you’ve been a Buddhist this lifetime?”
“We’re like flowers miss aren’t we? Cos we die too…”

Click here for our Autumn schools programme.

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