Pupils Meditating and Engaging in Philosophy

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Michelle Duff
Dominion Post, New Zealand

If reading, writing and maths are not enough for young minds, some Wellington 6-year-olds are also tackling life’s great existential questions.

That’s if they are not busy meditating, of course.

Philosophy and meditation are on the timetable at two Wellington schools, which have introduced the unorthodox subjects to engage children and help them to use their minds in different ways.

The eternal question of “Why?” is addressed during philosophy at Island Bay School, while at Miramar’s Holy Cross School, meditation is seen as another way for children to feel calm and closer to God.

When visited by The Dominion Post, a classroom of Holy Cross children sat with their eyes shut tightly and legs crossed, breathing slowly.

“Meditation makes me feel happy, and also afterwards it makes me relaxed and calmful,” said Dallas Arthurs, 10, after the five-minute session.

Others had been thinking about God, or about those less fortunate. “I feel sad for all the people because some people have no food, and I felt sad for the people who have no homes or anything,” said Bailey Abbie, 9.

Principal Celeste Hastings said the school had introduced meditation so children could learn the importance of taking time out.

  • “In this day and age, when everybody can be really busy, we think teaching kids the skill of slowing down and just having a bit of quiet time is a life skill, really. It’s asking them to stop and just be a little bit reflective.”

    Parent Francesca Ngan said it was a great initiative.

    Her son Zachary Lorenz, 9, told her it made him feel calm. “It is really quite lovely.”

    It was hoped the whole 218-pupil school would eventually participate in the classes, taken by Sister Ema Konokono from Our Lady’s Home of Compassion.

    In Australia, programmes to teach Christian schoolchildren to meditate have been in place since 2006.

    Philosophy is gaining traction at Island Bay School, where United States Fulbright scholar Thomas Wartenburg has been training teachers and teaching classes of 6-10 year olds.

    The focus was on encouraging children to talk about the “why” questions that they were already asking about how the world worked, he said.

    “Not all of the questions are philosophical but many are, and I think it’s important to help kids to make sense of the world. It’s never too young.”

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