Resilient children mindful of themselves and the environment.
In a time of great uncertainty and stress due to the pandemic, children and young people are among the most fragile categories and those most exposed to psychological and emotional distress.
Numerous studies have verified that almost 8 out of 10 people feel stressed at a medium-high level. Among those most affected are young people and children, who have suddenly seen their rhythms, habits of life, and social and emotional relationships vanish at school and in their contacts with friends, and who have often absorbed the worries and sufferings of their parents.
Tension, irritability, sleep disturbances, attention and concentration difficulties, and aggressive behavior are found more and more frequently in childhood.
Merigar and ASIA have been active with projects in schools aimed at promoting the well-being and social-emotional development of children through activities that promote a concrete application of Buddhist principles and values.
In September 2021, the project “Breathe the Earth. Resilient children mindful of themselves and the environment” started in the primary schools of the municipalities of Mt. Amiata and Rome, Italy, thanks to funding from the Italian Buddhist Union.
The goal of the project, which lasts one year, is to spread the values of awareness, respect for the environment, and the interdependence of all living beings, typical of the Buddhist view, in primary schools, and increase resilience and environmental awareness among students and teachers.
More specifically, the main theme of the project is awareness from two different points of view: on the one hand, awareness of oneself, one’s emotions, thoughts and body, and on the other, awareness of the environment, understood both as contact with nature and as knowledge of the delicate phase that our planet is experiencing and therefore learning about the issues of environmental protection and climate change.
The underlying principle is that rediscovering this unity with oneself, with the Earth and with other living beings, and overcoming the sense of separateness is a source of psycho-physical well-being and helps to develop a broader view of citizenship and healthier relationships based on respect for oneself, for others, and for the environment.
Self-awareness is developed through two activities:
– training in mindfulness with which children acquire the ability to recognize and manage difficult emotions, calm their minds, improve relationships, and increase learning capacity, all benefits confirmed by the growing number of scientific studies and neuroscience experiments that have taken place in recent decades.
The trainings are also aimed at teachers in order to support the teaching staff, increasingly exposed to difficult and stressful working conditions, and to facilitate the mindfulness training for students.
– Yantra Yoga-Kumar Kumari training: working on the mind, body and energy improves flexibility, coordination, concentration, and balance. As numerous experiences in the school environment have shown, yoga contributes to a harmonious development of children’s personalities. For some time now ASIA and Merigar have introduced this practice in schools and been able to see its potential in terms of satisfaction and impact. The activities were in fact well received by students, teachers, and parents who gave very positive feedback. The support teachers, in particular, highlighted how yoga has been able to actively involve even students with particular frailties or needs.
To increase environmental awareness, we focus on these two activities:
– the creation of school gardens, to regain the relationship with nature, with open spaces, with oneself and with the work shared between classmates. The goal is to transfer to children the ability and interest to take care of the environment around them and the living beings that populate and live there. Through experiential learning, observation, and participating in discussions, children have the opportunity to acquire basic knowledge on issues such as the advantages of organic and synergistic agriculture for the health of people and the planet, the importance of biodiversity for protecting ecosystems, the effects and risks of climate change, and urbanization.
– the Earth seen from space: to educate children to be aware of the environment and of issues related to climate change through a series of meetings based on interactive activities and STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art Mathematics) that fosters the intellectual and reflexive, manual and creative capacities of children by stimulating comparisons with others and a critical spirit, through the use of satellite images from the European Space Agency.
The project will end in August 2022.