Dharma Heroes: A Weekly Program for Introducing Dharma to Children

Unit Plan

Dharma Heroes: A Weekly Program for Introducing Dharma to Children

About This Resource

Summary This document helps parents and educators introduce children to a selection of Dharma Heroes—people who followed in the footsteps of the Buddha—though a series of assemblies or weekly gatherings. Through oral storytelling and inquiry, children explore what is meaningful and relevant about these life stories. Each assembly follows an easily modified pattern with several other elements, including songs, tea, mudras, mindfulness, and more.




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Duration: 20-30 minutes weekly over 8 weeks


This is a suggested arc of storytelling and a basic structure for introducing dharma in school assemblies. These assemblies are meant to build community and connection around shared values and to help students feel like active participants in the development of Middle Way’s unique model. Buddhism is introduced through stories, songs, rituals, and direct instruction at  weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly gatherings. These could also be adapted to an afterschool, weekend or camp program. This assembly arc was developed and implemented by MWE at the Middle Way School of the Hudson Valley in 2021-2022. 

After the life of the historical Buddha is established, the students shift focus to lineage holders, great masters, practitioners, sages, and other figures who were inspired by and helped continue the teachings of wisdom and compassion attributed to the historical Buddha: Dharma Heroes. We encourage teachers to include a balance of  Historical, Contemporary, Female,  Male,  Non-binary,  Asian, East Asian, Western figures.

Throughout, we give cues that students have the potential to harness what the Buddha demonstrated, framing his accomplishments and realizations as tools in his toolkit. We tell them that we all have this toolkit and weekly assemblies are where they can pick up new tools.

Essential Question

Who were the great teachers and wise people of Buddhism, and what can we learn from their life stories? 

  1. Nine Point Structure
  2. Featured Dharma Heroes
  3. Approach
  4. A Note on Mudras
  5. Atmosphere
  6. Biographies of Dharma Heroes
    1. Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche
    2. Kanjuro Shibata Sensei
    3. Joan Halifax
    4. Xuanzang
    5. Princess Mandarava
    6. Thich Nhat Han
    7. Padmasambhava
    8. Leonard Cohen
  7. Book Lists, Texts and Media
Nine Point Structure

Two dharma practitioners lead the assembly, which follows a set pattern with 9 elements: 

  1. Atmosphere 
  2. Entering the mandala
  3. Introduction/Expectation setting
  4. Tea for teachers 
  5. Meditation 
  6. Interactive storytime
  7. Mudras
  8. Closing 
  9. Links for extended study in the classroom

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