The Present is a spiral curriculum for children aged 3-12 and the adults working with them, developed by a schoolteacher (Tabitha Sawyer), a neuroscientist (Dusana Dorjee) and a mindfulness teacher/trainer (Sarah Silverton).
The learning is introduced through neuroscience stories, activities, exercises and practices, with an emphasis is on living more mindfully than learning to meditate; being more mindful rather than doing mindfulness. The learning can be woven through all aspects of life in school, including opportunities to offer it within teaching regular lessons, so designed for teachers within schools to deliver (although visiting teachers can also offer this curriculum as it is first introduced into a school).
The curriculum offers a clear programme to deliver (seven themes and four opportunities) at school with lots of “getting started” content in the materials, but there is encouragement for teachers and children to be creative and tailor the programme to suit the situation and context. The programme can easily be continued beyond the initial 14 weeks.
The learning builds children’s resources (e.g., resilience, self-care/self-management, focus, decision-making and connection). It invites children to practice mindfulness in school, at home and in other areas of their lives, supporting them to flourish and manage difficulties more skilfully.
The curriculum is available through the mediums of English, Welsh and Chinese.
Theme One – Here and Now
Exploring with friendly curiosity what’s present through our sensing. Learning to tune into and be with what our senses offer us.
Theme Two – Focusing
Exploring the experience of focusing to discover the ways we can focus as a human being. Learning too about the ways we can support ourselves to focus where we choose but also the ways we become distracted.
Theme Three – Choosing
Tuning in to the experience of choice and choosing to become aware of our choices and notice the consequences of our choices. Are there choices that happen out of habit that we’re not aware of? How can becoming more aware of our choosing and choice-points help us to make wiser choices?
Theme Four – Connection
The connecting theme aims to explore the experience of being connected. What does it feel like when we are connected? How do we connect with activities, experiences, people, pets, objects and to ourselves?
Theme Five – Human Body
This theme offers the chance to tune into our bodies and connect, or reconnect, with what our bodies tell us. The body’s messages can be an important source of wisdom. The human body has habits mindfulness can help us get to know and learn to respond to skilfully. For example, as human beings we are hard-wired to react to perceived threat in certain ways that will be with us all of our lives. Understanding these human patterns can help us to make informed choices about how we respond.
Theme Six – Human Mind
This theme offers the chance to focus on our thoughts and habits of mind in a little more detail. What are thoughts? How do we actually experience them? Are they experienced as sounds, images or both? Do they have favourite places that they like to go to? This theme offers the chance to focus on our thoughts and habits of mind. What are thoughts? How do we actually experience them?
This theme allows us to explore how thoughts and emotions are connected. For example, how do certain types of thoughts feel in the body, such as worrying, happy or creative thoughts? How can thoughts lead us to behave in certain ways? How do some thoughts carry us away to places we didn’t choose to go to? How can we cultivate awareness so that we can recognise the mind’s habits and create more choice in how we respond?
Theme Seven – Noticing Change
As we practice mindfulness, we become more aware of our internal experiences, such as feelings, emotions and thoughts, as well as external experiences. We notice more clearly how everything changes through the moment-by-moment unfolding of an experience. The changes and movement of experience can support us to be curious and in tune with the here and now. We learn that we are in relationship with experience, but not necessarily in control of it.