School visits are a wonderful way for children to engage with Kadampa Buddhism. A good school visit can inspire whole schools – students and teachers.
An example lesson plan is downloadable at the bottom of this page along with other resources.
Teaching school visits is different from teaching normal GPs and events.
If the whole visit is interactive and the students are involved in the activities, then they learn, remember and enjoy themselves, rather than if they are sitting listening for long periods of time.
The purpose is not to get them to practice Dharma, but to provide them with information and show them about Buddhism in a fun and engaging way.
We should always give the students the choice whether to get involved or not. For the activities, we need to explain that it is up to them by wording it correctly, e.g. “If you want to, we can meditate together,” or “would anyone like to volunteer to do a prostration / offering?”
The school visit is just the introduction – we are introducing the topics and demonstrating the activities, so ideally the visit will empower the students and school teachers to be able to continue the activities after we leave, rather than them just forgetting.
Give the School Teacher a follow up pack (in the downloadable resources at the bottom of this page) so that the students can continue the learning after the visit has finished.
You can also direct them to this website and the ‘For School Teachers’ page.
We are not the definitive Buddhist word, what we offer is just a perspective from the Kadampa Tradition, we cannot speak on behalf of other traditions. Many school teachers have had little or no training about Buddhism. They collect their learning material from a variety of sources, much of which is very out of date, quite complex and not stimulating for the children (they tell us this!).
Often what schools learn is Theravadan Buddhism and some of their questions may be about this. It’s fine to just say that we don’t know what other traditions do and go on to explain what we do.
The person teaching the school visit does not have to be on FP or TTP, they just need to have a love of children and knowledge of the subjects taught.
It is good practice for all those involved in the school visit to have a DBS check – people are expecting this more and more (some schools require it). See FAQs document for more information.
Also, some schools may require you to bring photo ID.
Hints and tips
Make sure you have all the details before the school visit (refer to ‘school visit check list’ sheet).
It is normal for ordained people to wear zen and chogo. Lay people should wear smart clothing.
On the lesson plan you may notice that the timings are quite short.
Children have quite short attention spans and very much appreciate a faster pace of delivery, moving on to a new topic and activity to capture their interest and enthusiasm.
Generally it seems best to steer away from technical words (especially the robes) as they get so caught up in the correct words, that they completely lose the meaning.
Probably don’t sit on the throne, just a normal chair in front or to the side.
If they are primary school children (up to age 11) the pupils are quite used to sitting on the floor. It’s probably best not to provide cushions – they just play with them! If they are secondary school pupils, (aged 11 or over) they will probably want to sit on chairs.
If there is time, it is nice to offer juice (this needs to be prepared beforehand) and have a guided tour of the Centre (possibly small groups at a time, while the others are having the juice and going to the toilet. This is a time where it is quite easy to be left alone with just the children, you need to be aware of this).
If you’re visiting the school:
Arrive in plenty of time. Some schools are quite hard to find, parking can be difficult and there is usually a signing in procedure. Also you will need time to set up the little shrine.
Usually it’s fine if you ask to leave a few flyers in the staff room to advertise childrens and adult classes.
What is the purpose of a school visit?
To help children develop an interest and enthusiasm in Buddhism. To help them see that Buddhism is fun, simple and very practical, and can help everyone solve their daily problems.
To introduce themes and activities in Buddhism, so they can continue their learning after the visit.
To provide them with plenty of interesting and enjoyable activities (in the follow-up pack, downloadable at the bottom of this page) that they can carry on doing after the visit is over.
What do we do on a school visit?
See Lesson Plan (downloadable at the bottom of this page).
What is a standard payment from the school?
Your choice – generally between £10 and £25 per hour.
Travel expenses can be 40p per mile if necessary.
Who can do school visits, is it just people on FP?
No. Anyone who is good with children can. This is at the discretion of the Resident Teacher.
Do they need to be DBS checked?
It is good practice to. All those involved – the Teacher and any assistants need to be CRB checked – people are expecting this more and more, and you can put this on any publicity e.g. your website.
You can use old DBS checks from previous jobs (this is called ‘Portablity’ and has been verified by the DBS themselves). There is no time limit for DBS checks (this has also been verified by the DBS themselves).
If you don’t have a DBS check at all, there are good cheap, fast and efficient companies that can do it on the internet. E.g. Schools First Ltd. (approx. £35 and 4 weeks).
It is important to keep a photocopy of the most recent DBS check for each person in the office.
For a ‘them to us visit’ do we need a risk assessment?
Yes – see Standard Risk Assessment pro-forma (downloadable at the bottom of this page).
Is it ok for children to be involved in devotional activities?
Yes, and is very much encouraged. It forms a large part of the visit because the children find it fun and enjoyable, it engages them in the learning process and makes the visit memorable for them.
Can we pass statues, robes, stupas and other items around?
Yes. This creates good imprints for the children, not obstructions, and they very much enjoy it.
What is the teaching style?
Different from normal GPs and events, interactive – getting the students as involved with the activities as possible. We are not trying to get them to practice Dharma, we are just giving them information, showing them the practices, stories and activities. We should give the students the choice whether to get involved or not. We do not need to be afraid of doing very Buddhist activities. We are introducing the topics and demonstrating the activities to empower the students and school teachers so their learning can continue after the visit
Do we need to inform them to only bring vegetarian food to our Centre?
You decide (this can be viewed as extreme by the parents and teachers).
If you are going to play the Buddha Bingo game as part of the session you will need to print out these:
How to play Buddha Bingo instruction sheet
The Cards the children will have
The Flash Cards you will hold up one by one
The Bingo markers they will put on their cards
Ideas for the meanings of all the symbols
Here are the documents that make up the Follow Up Pack, this can be printed and given to the school teachers so that they can continue the learning after the school visit:
Introduction document to the follow up pack click here
Script for guiding a meditation for KS2 school children click here
How to make your own mandala offerings document click here
Make your own mandala template click here
How to make your own Kadampa Buddhist Shrine click here
Picture of Buddha Shakyamuni for shrine click here
Picture of Liberating Prayer for shrine click here
Picture of Stupa for shrine click here
Short Play of the Life of Buddha that can easily be performed by school children click here
Simple worksheet to discover the symbolism of Buddha Shakyamuni click here
Resources available info sheet click here