I kept good on my promise to bring more interesting projects for the middle schoolers. A few off them expressed interest in math, a few expressed interest in flowers, and a lot of them expressed interest in more focused & detailed work. I planned a lesson about mandalas, starting with their origin (a symbol of prayer by Tibetan monks) and bringing it to modern use by us non-monks as a tool for mindfulness. I started the class by asking how stressed out they usually feel, on a scale of 1-5, at the end of the school day. Almost all answered a 3 or above. I explained to them the way working on, or even just coloring in a mandala, can be a focused and calming task to help ground them in the present. Many of them wanted to just color in, but a few were interested in drawing their own. I passed out graph paper and gave a simple tutorial: divide your page into quadrants, and mirror whatever you draw across all 4 of them. They really impressed me with their work, and when I asked how their stress level differed at the end of class, all said they felt noticeably calmer.
When we got to our second grade class, it was just five of them. For the second week in a row, we were working with a small group. We all sat at the same table again and did a group Valentine’s craft. We asked each student to start by designing a heart in the center of their page, and then pass it around the table and let their neighbors add their own flair to it, one at a time. It started off great, but by the time we had made it all the way around the table the kids were losing interest. I shifted gears and taught them to make a string of paper hearts by cutting along a folded piece of paper. We talked about what it means to show love, and how they each express it to their family. Miriam made me laugh when I said “I show my mom I love her by cooking for her,” to which she indignantly responded “Well, I don’t know how to cook!!”