How many grade 11/12 high-school students (around the world!) can say they’ve visited a Buddhist Monastery? What do you suppose happened when some students from Morell Regional High School had this opportunity? Keep reading…
On May 29th, 9 students from Ms. Carolyn Pendergast’s Island History class, along with two other staff members were given such a tour in the main Prayer Hall. Upon the rainy, noontime arrival, the students were provided with an umbrella; and at the end of the visit, while the students were leaving on their school bus, they were given a warm, joyful send-off by the Venerable monks.
Typically, for a mid-day outing, you would expect to see students overjoyed to be out of school on a field trip, and certainly there was no exception here. However, to see their expression of amazement once they entered the Prayer Hall was priceless!
The one-and-half-hour presentation consisting of 8 mini sessions/activities was well organized, well-paced, funny, informative, and relatable to the teens. How do you know if the presentation was interesting and engaging? Because the students were not only paying attention the whole time, they were asking really neat questions at every moment they were given the opportunity. They were intrigued with all of it: the brief tour of what’s in the prayer hall, given by Venerable William; what it’s like to be a monk, explained by Venerable Daniel; the monks’ outreach work of baking rolls for the community (producing their own wheat flour), as explained by Venerable Peter; the debate and logics (and humour!) of “whether or not being angry is valid (or sensible)” – an actual debate demonstrated by Venerables Alick and Frank; and Venerable Jonathan’s personal story of why he aspired to become a monk coming from LA where he was a teen. During this last session, the attentive silence was broken by the students asking questions, questions, and more questions, answered patiently, honestly, with a side of humour and in an approachable manner by Venerable Jonathan.
Wait! So what’s the connection between a History class and a Buddhist Monastery? What inspired Ms. Pendergast to take her students on this kind of field trip?
Ms. Pendergast’s approach to teaching is very progressive. Her motivation to bring her students to the Monastery was for the students to ask, who now live on this wonderful Island and are proudly calling it their home. Ms. Pendergast wanted the students to learn and explore first-hand the integration of the Island’s historical past – its inhabitants including the Mi’kmaq People, the Acadian, British, Scottish, Irish, Syrian/Lebanese and other Settlers – with the present! There are now many new Islanders, including the monks from GEBIS, who are contributing to the culture and diversity to the Island’s rich historical landscape – a little history lesson.
Kudos to the students of Morell Regional High School who are smart, curious, enthusiastic, and were very respectful during the tour. It was truly an unforgettable experience filled with laughters, smiles and positivity.