This fall semester 2020, Hsi Lai Temple held the first virtual Dharma school for the Kids and Youth. The classes were held online every Sunday and concluded on December 13th. The topic this semester was the Bodhisattvas and how to apply the teachings of the Bodhisattvas to their own life. The Dharma school for Kids learned about Manjusri and Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. Every class had meditation, Buddhist teachings, story time, exercise, and art class. There was also a special environmental science activity to make their own enzyme solution and encourage a no-waste lifestyle.
The Dharma School for Youth students, on the other hand, learned about the 5 Great Bodhisattvas: Avalokitesvara, Manjusri, Samantabhadra, Ksitigarbha, and Maitreya, and each class was a unique experience as it was taught by a different teacher who had their own style and perspectives to share. Classes generally began by bowing to the Buddha, reciting a prayer, and doing meditation, followed by a lecture, videos, and activities. Discussions were also an integral part of the classroom experience to keep the students engaged and help them build confidence by speaking out and sharing their thoughts.
Both Dharma Schools for Kids and Youth had the students work on a final project for the Dharma Day Celebration, which in Buddhism is the commemoration of the Day that the Buddha compassionately decided to share the Dharma with the world to liberate sentient beings from suffering. On this basis, the Dharma School for Kids' last project was to put compassion into action and they learned how to make holiday cards for hospice patients in the shape of tea cups (with a tea bag inside). The Dharma School for Youth students, on the other hand, were also assigned a project where they had to present on the Bodhisattva of their choice via any creative means they chose. The youth shared well-thought-out PowerPoint presentations, art, and reflections to share how they were inspired by the Bodhisattvas. All projects in both Dharma Schools were well-thought-out and delivered with sincerity.
To show gratitude to the dedicated Dharma School for Kids and Youth students, the temple put together gifts for the students that were delivered via safe and thoughtful means. Hsi Lai Temple gave a small token of appreciation to the students who had attended class regularly, participated in class, and who showed a genuine interest in learning about Buddhism. Students with the Dharma School for Kids who had consistent participation in the class were rewarded with a present at a drive-thru event at the temple. It was a wonderful experience for the students and teachers to meet briefly in the drive-thru. For the youth class, souvenirs were mailed out to the students instead, as another way to promote a safe handoff during the COVID 19 pandemic.
It was a wonderful semester online for the Dharma Schools, and the utilization of the online platform turned out to be a great alternative to keep the temple connected to the community, and more importantly, to continue propagating the Dharma to future generations with the hope of having a brighter tomorrow. Especially during this challenging time with a pandemic ravaging society worldwide and spreading pain and suffering, the temple stands as a beacon of light to remind the students that good can always be found in the midst of misfortune. While virtual class settings are not ideal compared to face-to-face interactions between students and teachers, everyone participated wholeheartedly and made the best out of the situation. Next semester, the Dharma School classes will also be held online as the temple remains mindful that the pandemic has not been subdued yet. Teachers will be preparing another enriching semester of classes to continue the temple's objective of spreading the Dharma to help students cope, heal, and look forward to a better future.
Here is a video of the students learning about Manjusri Bodhisattva: https://youtu.be/ksK9PYV8uSE