About This Resource
Lesson: Boundary Walk
Unit: Taking Your Seat
Grade Level: All
Duration: 45 minutes + add-ons as needed
Tags: Orientation, mandalas, setting boundaries, unseen beings
Students walk the entire boundary of the school. This is more than a lesson plan, it is a unique “mini-unit” that helps acclimate students to their new environment or reacquaint them with a familiar school environment. Adding to the central activity of walking the boundary of the school, we have included a menu of activities to choose from to incorporate living sciences, academics and the dharma. A companion unit on personal boundaries is embedded. We encourage teachers to customize this plan to fit your age group and add any of the academic or sustainability standards you can meet within this lesson.
What are boundaries? Are boundaries real? What happens if you don’t know your boundaries?
- What are the boundaries of our school?
- What are natural boundaries?
- What are the fabricated/contrived boundaries of our school?
- How do we prevent getting lost?
- Who are our neighbors?
- What are my personal boundaries?
- What happens when someone crosses our boundary? How do you react, or how have you in the past?
- What are some healthy ways to let someone know when they have crossed the boundary?
- How do boundaries change?
- Who decides where boundaries are? Is it a fair process?
Why is teaching this important? How is it relevant to their lives?
- Students will be more relaxed and able to learn if they feel at home on campus and have a sense of place
- Students will be responsible caretakers of this land if they connect with it.
- If students feel inspired and curious by this experience they may be more connected to the philosophy of the school
- Students who feel safe and protected will be able to trust those who are guides at the school
- Students will be both gentle and empowered through an understanding of boundaries and how to hold them.
- Familiarize with the school property map
- Ask questions! Make sure you can answer the guided questions.
- Walk the land at least once before lesson
- Become oriented with the 4 directions on campus
- See specific materials based on activities selected
Teachers lead students along the entire perimeter of the property and secure the boundary with substances and good wishes. Along the way they should engage in a variety of nature based activities curated by the teacher.
How do you draw the students’ attention?
- Assess prior knowledge.
- Read a story of someone getting lost, oral or written. (see list below)
- Think about being lost or not knowing your land. Something about the importance of knowing where you are.
- Invite a member of the local Native community or Buddhist community to talk about place and/or do a local deity ceremony.
These cross all age groups, select what is appropriate for your class
Boundaries, physical, emotional, material, imaginary
Reading a map
Lenape Native Tribes used to live here
Khyentse Foundation currently “owns” this land
|Understand||Recognize that we are custodians of land, that there are no real landowners
Property lines are imaginary and important, empty yet apparent
We are part of a caring community
|Do (what will students do?)||
Observing the natural resources
Walking the boundaries
Hone awareness of this particular piece of land.
Standard 3: Geography
Students will use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of the geography of the interdependent world in which we live—local, national, and global—including the distribution of people, places, and environments over Earth’s surface.
STRONG SENSE OF PLACE: The strong connection to the place in which one lives. Students will recognize and value the interrelationships between the social, economic, ecological and architectural history of that place and contribute to its continuous health.
Teaching Tolerance Standards (browse for ideas on deeper topics that can be covered)
Living Sciences | Nature Based Activities
- Spatial Orientation and Scale – Look at a map of the region and the property. Predict how many steps it would take to get from one end of the property to another.
- Direction/Compasses– Introduce the cardinal directions. Orient students to learn how to use a compass. Stand in a circle and have everyone walk north.
Guided observations/Scavenger Hunt Prompts
- Collecting – Make a list of things to collect and return to the classroom like a rock, or just ask them to find something inspiring to collect and share.
- Simple observation scavenger hunt (Models)
- Read the Landscape – Make observations about the various trees – infer the timeline of them taking over this land – what evidence is there of what came before? [Dan can lead]
- Initiate a change over time observation activity – each student picks a spot to observe daily/weekly/seasonally. [Dan can lead]
- More advanced observation list:
Trees competing for light
A tree growing under another tree
A plant growing from a stump
Evidence of living things
Leaves from 2 different trees
A plant living an arms length from the ground
An acorn with teeth marks
A tree wound or scar
A log with root like fuzz under
Sensory Focused Activities
- Meet a Tree – close eyes and observe the tree with other senses. Step back and have students try to guess which tree they were exploring.
- Bark Impressions – Place a paper on the bark and rub with a pencil until the impression is taken. This can be worked into comparing the bark of various types of trees.
- Set the boundary with ceremony – Use Kochi bells, incense, flowers, colored rice to mark the boundary, setting an intention
- Visualization – Visualize a bubble around the entire property, rainbow colored interlocking symbols protecting us. Maybe blow bubbles as we walk. Or do giant bubbles on lawn
- Introduce the idea of a mandala, a circle inside the square of the property. Find the center of our mandala.
- Identify Sacred Spots – Find areas where we feel the sacred is more powerful. Decide where should the new Buddha Statue go
- Listen – Quietly sit and listen. What sounds did you hear? How far can you hear? What sounds are harmonious?
- Persuasive Writing – Write a persuasive paragraph about why we should place the Buddha in a specific place
- Journal about the feelings about this land
- Measure distances
- Can the student give directions to different areas on campus?
- Can the student point to the 4 cardinal directions?
- Can they draw the shape of the school grounds?
- Draw the parameters of our bio-region (watershed) and/or community (e.g. class, school, and/or neighborhood).
- Document the heritage and current condition of the place in which we live (e.g. drawing a picture, acting out a play, writing a poem, making a collage), and provide a vision of what they want that place to look like in the future to an authentic audience (e.g. other classrooms, a nursing home, a parent event).
- Create a celebration of the unique cultural character of our place.
Resources and Materials
For teachers (Background to better understand the subject)
- Setting Personal Boundaries
- Lenape Indians – https://nanticoke-lenape.info/history.htm
- Hudson Valley’s Tribal History
- Traditional Associations of the 4 directions
- Tibetan 4 directions
- The Mind Up program has good guided exercises using the 5 senses
- The MindUP Curriculum: Grades PreK–2: Brain-Focused Strategies for Learning—and Living
- National Museum of the American Indian: Home Page
- Native American Ethnography – New York State Museum Albany
- Book: “The ABC’s of Ecology” → Great introduction to ecology activities; Dan has a copy
- Book: “Project Seasons” → Nature based activities organized by season; Dan has a copy
For students: Materials they could use or access
Note from Noa: I crowdsourced from friends for stories about getting lost. I haven’t vetted this list yet. Welcome feedback on any of them.
- Hansel and Gretel
- Red Riding Hood
- Sylvester and the Magic Pebble William Steig
- William Steig’s Brave Irene (strange link with Al Gore reading it!)
- Owl moon
- Where the Wild Things Are
- The Girl and the Wolf
- Tiger Tiger Is It True is a good one about being lost in your thoughts but finding home again. Not really lost in the forest, but still lost in the mind
- Lost and found
- Mine for Keeps
- Home from Far
- Willow and Twig
- Flat Stanley – Jeff Wolf
- The cartoon The Point, which is really about being exiled and learning to see the world in a new way)
- The Night Kitchen
- Harlequin and the Gift of Many Colors
Books about personal Boundaries
- Let’s Talk About Body Boundaries, Consent and Respect – by Jayneen Sanders (Paperback)
- My Body Belongs to Me from My Head to My Toes
- My Body! What I Say Goes!: A book to empower and teach children about personal body safety, feelings, safe and unsafe touch, private parts, secrets and surprises, consent, and respectful relationships
- Momo by Michael Ende
- Hello Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly (5th grade readers)
- Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo. Michael is washed overboard
- Morpurgo’s books are historical novels – Alone on a Wide Wide Sea is another about about children orphans sent to live in Australia after WWII told through one person journey Arthur Hobhouse … although mature subject beautifully told, my son at age 7 loved the audio book – was our road trip book for ages. Story includes Arthur holding on to really fragmented childhood memories he can’t be sure of through a tough life …. and there are uplifting endings. The story of these orphans is remarkable, people thought it was offering new lives, but also took children away from their culture and heritage into lives where often abused or, as Arthur, treated as cheap or free labour. It’s written well for kids.
- Tommy’s Camping Adventure. Not necessarily about kids “getting lost” but more about the youngest in a family who is trying to find his place, his true value to the group and after being refused many “jobs” around the campsite, the family decides to go for a hike, they lose their bearings and he helps them find their way back to their campsite. And discovers his job/role in the family unit. Was my favorite book as a kid…highly recommended:)
- James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl. James finds his way to a new kind of home after many harrowing adventures.
- Wrinkle in Time
- Magic Treehouse
- The Magician’s Nephew can’t be told in one sitting, but it’s a good one. It’s neat that not a moment has passed when the children get home.
- All the Way to Lhasa
- Wizard of Oz
Cross Content Connections
Perception – how the brain works
Fight or flight brain chemistry
Role of boundaries in nation-forming, in societal conflict
Science of stones
Writing letters/making arguments for where the Buddha should be placed
Forms of measurement (the crazy story of the “foot”)
|Humanities||Different traditional associations with directions
Different methods of tracking through cultures
Lenape culture (best would be a guest visitor but not possible this year) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lenape
You can open a discussion about personal boundaries and how these are different for different people. [Book suggestion]
|Embodiment||Walking the land
Using the five senses
Create signs for around the school and classroom
Draw the landscape
This land is your land https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxiMrvDbq3s
|Contemplative/Dharma||Finding a spot for the new Buddha statue – maybe each class can choose a place and have a representative make a case on a council (democracy)
Unseen beings lesson plan
Visualization (see below image of a sky full of rainbows)
Recognizing school as a sacred space. Establishing altars and altar keeping practices.
Request local deities and other unseen beings for permission to study on this land. Burying special objects, marking the sacred space of the school itself.