Learning Approach

Buddhist Experience Curriculum

A comprehensive presentation of the practices and principles included in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, our Buddhist Experience Curriculum (BEC) represents the core of our innovative approach.

At the center of this curriculum is an understanding of basic goodness—the intrinsic goodness that pervades all beings. We are currently crafting the elementary school curriculum, using the five aggregates (skandhas)–or the composite aspects through which we experience the world– as a vehicle for exploring reality and who we are. We articulate this through the lens of “the buddha within,” and it unfolds through six courses (one per year):

GradeCourse TitleBuddhist Focus
1The BodyBuddha nature
2The SensesAggregate of form
3Befriending EmotionsAggregate of feeling
4StoriesAggregates of concept/perception and mental formations
5Consciousness: Everything, No “Thing”Aggregate of consciousness
6Timeless Awareness: Everywhere, No “Where”Going beyond (Transcendence)

Using the five aggregates as a scaffolding, the curriculum then progresses through three trimesters of approximately 13 weeks each, exploring and deepening the recognition of basic goodness.

The Buddhist Experience Curriculum is anchored in the core teachings of Awareness, Love and Compassion, Wisdom, and Joy, and progresses through expanding applicable units focused on “Understanding and Caring for: Self → Others → World”:

  • First Trimester: Understanding and Caring for Self: Awareness
    • Awareness is knowing, just as it is.
    • Knowing ourselves, others, and the world as they are.
  • Second Trimester: Understanding and Caring for Others: Love and Compassion
    • Love and Compassion is how we love and care.
    • How we love and care for ourselves, other living things, and the world.
  • Third Trimester: Understanding and Caring for the World: Wisdom
    • Wisdom is understanding ourselves, the world, and how to act.
    • Basic goodness is our true nature and we act wisely when we make kind and compassionate choices.

The result and outcome of this approach is a school ethos of joy, which we define as what happens when we connect with our basic goodness; with our intrinsic awareness, love and compassion, and wisdom.

View-Meditation-Application

Emerging through an ancient Buddhist framework, each area of our curriculum includes three elements: view, meditation and application. These three together provide a multi-dimensional way of examining a topic that includes cognitive, affective, and non-conceptual forms of learning.

TergarSchools_Infographic_ViewMeditationApplication

The view is our understanding about a topic. It is often linked to cognitive forms of learning and is most closely related to what happens in traditional learning environments. 

Meditation refers to our experience of a topic. It targets the felt-sense of experience and includes a range of forms of learning that explore awareness, love and compassion, wisdom, and joy.

Application refers to applying our learning in daily life. This includes a broad range of engaged and experiential learning activities that help facilitate changes in students’ habits and lifestyles as they engage with others and the world. 

Through this framework, learning unfolds on the cognitive (view), affective (meditation), and behavioral (application) levels, resulting in a transformative learning path for every student involved.

Four Pillars of Learning

Experiential: Each element of our curriculum begins with lived experience. This approach helps facilitate an organic and personalized learning experience.

Contemplative: Each step of the curriculum includes age-appropriate practices that derive from the Kagyu and Nyingma lineages.

Inquiry-based: Each element of the curriculum emerges through inquiries as opposed to statements of fact. In this way, the curriculum promotes curiosity and exploration.

Engaged: As we inquire into each curricular subject, each element of the curriculum includes opportunities to apply the teachings in our daily lives.

Integrated Academics

Our integrated academic curriculum emerges from the view of basic goodness—all beings are intrinsically good, and learning is a process of discovery. In turn, our classrooms are spaces for exploration as opposed to instruction on specific knowledge. Topics and themes are explored through an experiential and constructivist approach, utilizing real-world examples to help scaffold knowledge and skills that are directly impactful to our students’ lives. Moreover, our curriculum is spiraled in its approach, reiterating topics with increasing depth and complexity, allowing students to make connections within and across subject areas.

Units and lessons, as well as traditional subjects of art, science, math, and literary arts, emerge through the four baskets: communication, culture, environment, and design. By taking this approach, we accomplish two goals. First, we are able to take an integrated approach to each element of our curriculum and avoid compartmentalizing that can stunt students’ ability to make connections. Secondly, by using these four baskets, our students are able to see their studies in the real world—when an architect visits the campus, for example, the students can more easily see their process of design.