News, Topics & Events

  The Case for Discussing Spirituality in Schools

By VICKI ZAKRZEWSKI | Greater Good Magazine/Science-Based insights for a Meaningful Life
Research suggests that spirituality may be a natural developmental process – so waht does this mean for secular schools?
“I believe in reincarnation because it just makes sense!” exclaimed 10-year-old Jesse in the middle of a lesson that was on anything but reincarnation.

This wasn’t the first time one of my students had brought up a topic related to spirituality or religion. In fact, I found during my years of teaching that most of my students were both curious about and eager to discuss these subjects—a bit of a conundrum when schools generally consider these to be taboo subjects.

Interestingly, however, scientists are beginning to find that just like cognitive, physical, and emotional development, spirituality may also be a universal developmental process—which, given that teaching is informed by child development, raises the question: Can spirituality play a role in secular education?

Read More

What Multicultural Families Can Teach Kids About Character

By SCOTT SEIDER, ANNA CARPENTER, CHARIS KANG, DEREK TITCHNER, HEHUA XU, YEZI ZHENG | Greater Good Magazine/Science-Based insights for a Meaningful Life
There are more multiethnic and multi-faith families than ever. A new study reveals how their values and traditions are coming together.

Rishi Mehta and Nora Saperstein decided before they even had children that they wanted to integrate both Rishi’s Sikh religion and Nora’s Jewish religion into their family life. When their twin daughters turned 13 years old—the age at which Jewish children typically participate in Bar or Bat Mitzvahs—Rishi and Nora put together a coming-of-age ceremony that combined elements of both Sikhism and Judaism.

“It was a very public sort of community-based way to make our kids feel part of the multiple communities they were part of,” explained Rishi.  In the months leading up to the event, Rishi and Nora worked with their daughters to study important tenets of both religions. 

Read More

 

Cultivating the Spiritual Core

The Fetzer Institute and CSE co-hosted a Learning Summit, “Cultivating the Spiritual Core,” offered virtually November 11-12, 2021. Over 200 participants joined us live for keynote addresses from Dr. Lisa Miller and Dr. Timothy Shriver, as well as sessions from Linda Lantieri and Meena Srinivasan, John Bickart, Gerard Senehi, Laura Bakosh, and the Holistic Life Foundation. These sessions explored various practices which support spirituality in K-12 schools, as well as offering participants a space for reflection and dialogue around their own work.
Recordings are available on our website:
Watch Here.

CSE Supports the Awakened Campus Summit

Campus-based professionals are reporting a surge in spiritual seeking and an increase in requests by students for support to explore existential questions. Awakened Campus Summit seeks to honor this moment by offering a platform for professionals to share ways to engage suffering as an invitation for spiritual growth in college students. Presentations from practitioners and researchers will share recent science, practices, and novel approaches to wellness on university campuses. The Summit offers a cross-roads for sharing among our national community of professionals, dedicated to improving the lives of college students. 

For more information, to submit a proposal, or to register, Click Here.

20 Opportunities to Transform Yourself While Teaching

By JOHN BICKART | Teacher/Author
A workshop taken from actual experiences that honor spirituality in education.

Participate in 20 interactive examples of moments in teaching where the teacher can have a transformative experience. Each is a practical example where you experience an opportunity to model truly transformative learning for students. The activities of the workshop anticipate that each participant will be able to perform the following.

  • Intuitive Teaching where the teacher is open to new ideas while telling.
  • Teacher / Student Reversal where the teacher is open to learning from the student by active
  • True Learning Modeling where the teacher experiences true gratitude for the student, becoming a model of the highest form of a true teacher.   Learn More:  bickart.org

Looking at Spiritual Development as a System

By DEBORAH SCHEIN, Ph.D | Early Childhood Educator

Let me introduce myself, my name is Deb Schein and I am an early childhood educator who has done some research in the field of spiritual development.  The goal of my research was to produce a definition of spiritual development that could be used for all children.  In the United States that means no reference to God and religion.  (Yet, for those who want to interject a religious lens, there is certainly room to do so. We might explore this in another blog.). 

Today, I would like to talk about the importance of seeing spirituality as a system, especially as we consider spirituality in education.

Read More

News, Topics & Events

The Case for Discussing Spirituality in Schools

By VICKI ZAKRZEWSKI | Greater Good Magazine/Science-Based insights for a Meaningful Life
Research suggests that spirituality may be a natural developmental process – so waht does this mean for secular schools?
“I believe in reincarnation because it just makes sense!” exclaimed 10-year-old Jesse in the middle of a lesson that was on anything but reincarnation.

This wasn’t the first time one of my students had brought up a topic related to spirituality or religion. In fact, I found during my years of teaching that most of my students were both curious about and eager to discuss these subjects—a bit of a conundrum when schools generally consider these to be taboo subjects.

Interestingly, however, scientists are beginning to find that just like cognitive, physical, and emotional development, spirituality may also be a universal developmental process—which, given that teaching is informed by child development, raises the question: Can spirituality play a role in secular education?

Read More

What Multicultural Families Can Teach Kids About Character

By SCOTT SEIDER, ANNA CARPENTER, CHARIS KANG, DEREK TITCHNER, HEHUA XU, YEZI ZHENG | Greater Good Magazine/Science-Based insights for a Meaningful Life
There are more multiethnic and multi-faith families than ever. A new study reveals how their values and traditions are coming together.

Rishi Mehta and Nora Saperstein decided before they even had children that they wanted to integrate both Rishi’s Sikh religion and Nora’s Jewish religion into their family life. When their twin daughters turned 13 years old—the age at which Jewish children typically participate in Bar or Bat Mitzvahs—Rishi and Nora put together a coming-of-age ceremony that combined elements of both Sikhism and Judaism.

“It was a very public sort of community-based way to make our kids feel part of the multiple communities they were part of,” explained Rishi.  In the months leading up to the event, Rishi and Nora worked with their daughters to study important tenets of both religions. 

Read More

 

Cultivating the Spiritual Core

The Fetzer Institute and CSE co-hosted a Learning Summit, “Cultivating the Spiritual Core,” offered virtually November 11-12, 2021. Over 200 participants joined us live for keynote addresses from Dr. Lisa Miller and Dr. Timothy Shriver, as well as sessions from Linda Lantieri and Meena Srinivasan, John Bickart, Gerard Senehi, Laura Bakosh, and the Holistic Life Foundation. These sessions explored various practices which support spirituality in K-12 schools, as well as offering participants a space for reflection and dialogue around their own work.
Recordings are available on our website:
Watch Here.

CSE Supports the Awakened Campus Summit

Campus-based professionals are reporting a surge in spiritual seeking and an increase in requests by students for support to explore existential questions. Awakened Campus Summit seeks to honor this moment by offering a platform for professionals to share ways to engage suffering as an invitation for spiritual growth in college students. Presentations from practitioners and researchers will share recent science, practices, and novel approaches to wellness on university campuses. The Summit offers a cross-roads for sharing among our national community of professionals, dedicated to improving the lives of college students. 

For more information, to submit a proposal, or to register, Click Here.

Around the Globe

Kids for Peace

Kids for Peace, a global nonprofit and home to The Great Kindness Challenge, mobilized its network to join together and create the world’s longest recycled paper chain, each paper link decorated with messages of love and hope. Kids for Peace is home to The Great Kindness Challenge, providing a platform for youth to actively engage in socially-conscious leadership, community service, global friendships and thoughtful acts of kindness.

Read more here.

Indigenous Youth at COP26 to Influence Policy

By ARI SHAPIRO, ASHLEY BROWN, NOAH CALDWELL, MIA VENKAT | NPR

Nine Indigenous youth climate activists journeyed to Glasgow from around the globe to attend COP26. They came here with a shared view of how lands and waters are connected, and how to care for them. They would also like to see plans to protect human rights and Indigenous rights spelled out in the text of the COP agreement. But, even though they have had meetings with top officials, these activists are sometimes on the outside looking in, trying to carve out space for their people. Now that they’re at the conference, they say it sometimes feels like everyone wants to put them in a box and force them to conform to standards with a history of colonialism. 

Link to article here

Students Engage in Community Service at the Dakota Zoo

By KAYLIN McGLOTHEN | KX NEWS

Bismarck Public Schools is teaching their students that giving back is key. With the weather steadily growing colder, there is work that needs to be done to clean outdoor recreation areas. Two groups of Wachter Middle School- 8th grade students made their way to the Dakota Zoo to help in their clean up efforts. While at the zoo they helped to rake leaves. Over the course of two days, 300 students were able to take part in the project. The school hosts a community service event every year around this time. Wachter Middle School teacher, Kevin Schmitcke, says this is a great opportunity for kids to work together outside the classroom.

Read more here.

Refelections…

Looking Up…

By BETH STYLES | Producer, Composer, Artist

Over the holidays you might have caught the new satirical science fiction film called “Don’t Look Up”, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence as two American astronomers who find themselves having to go on a giant media tour, trying hopelessly to warn humanity about an approaching comet that will destroy civilization… all the while our government (Meryl Streep plays the POTUS!), is wayyyy out to lunch.

The film has a fun, tongue and cheek tempo to it, attempting to use this metaphorical meteor plowing towards earth (i.e. climate change?) while we’ve been slowly spiraling hypnotically into the depths of a redundant, mundane, social media pseudo cyber world, and governments seem not to hear or care, despite the pleading of doctors and scientists around the globe for us to “just look up” as the actual, factual, visual, physical proof is RIGHT IN FRONT OF OUR EYES. Sigh… Hence the insane movie title – reflecting the shouting chants among the conspiracy theorists “don’t look up”.  Which is funny, not funny… as here in “real life” we may have the luxury of a few more minutes and another bucket of popcorn before impending doom ensues… or do we?

Since Covid emerged, I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling as though a giant comet hit the world; my world – impacting life and the day to day rhythm of just about everything I didn’t realize I took for granted.  That said, there have been a few, pleasantly surprising, meaningful, pearls of wisdom.

Read more here.

 

The Power of Hope

Dr. Dan Tomasulo, SMBI’s Academic Director, wrote a new book: “Learned Hopefulness: The Power of Positivity to Overcome Depression” which has been named one of the best books for depression in 2021. Dan shared: Hope is the only positive emotion to require negativity or uncertainty to be activated. Learned hopefulness demonstrates how hope can be taught and cultivated, and how doing so gives us the ability to become more resilient in the presence of daunting obstacles. As a result the new science of hope is improving outcomes in medicine, education, psychotherapy, and business—and this is only the beginning of understanding its potential.

Link to Dan’s book: “Learned Hopefulness”

Read the article about the best books for depression HERE.

Creating a Spiritual Community

By AMY L. CHAPMAN, Ph.D | Research Director/Spirituality in Education

I had the pleasure of presenting the main research of CSE at the Symposium on the Spirituality of Children hosted by Virginia Theological Seminary in late October 2021. While I often present our research, and our work is often well received, this particular presentation felt like a spiritual community. The people who were together shared from their own practice, and felt that our research reflected what they had seen in their classrooms over the last several decades. That, too, felt aligned, as our research was conducted by interviewing and observing master educators to understand what they did. It truly felt as though we were co-creating a spiritually supportive conference space, one where everyone felt seen, known, and valued. It was a profound experience for me! You can view the recordings from the Symposium here.

A New Years “Note” of Reflection | Spirituality in the Arts

By BETH STYLES | Producer, Composer, Artist

As the world takes another ‘tour’ around the sun, choirs and a multitude of musical artists are still waiting for theirs… since health warnings still loom for public gatherings, and especially singing.  There was a glimmer of hope before Omicron, and as the director of a community inspirational choir (New World Chorus), I know how much the group was looking forward to reuniting for some outdoor holiday singing after canceling last year.  Fondly known as the “Street Angels” annual event, the choir traditionally takes a spin around town on a yellow school bus, singing for seniors, serenading at the Stamford Town Center, and jingling at the Palace Theater as children gleefully emerge from the Nutcracker.  This has always been a special outing, where the choir is not under pressure like at a concert venue, doing what they love, and having the unique opportunity to share joy and surprise passersby – a gift that never gets old.

Read more here.

On Science & Spirituality

The Reverend Norman Hull, chaplain at Campbell Hall in southern California and CSE fellow, has recently written a reflection on his work encouraging middle school students to share their spirituality through the school’s Chapel program. As Norman describes, “A 6th-grade boy reflected in chapel on his love of science by saying, ‘In science there is always a new challenge and something new to do and that is what keeps it interesting. He went on to connect the Bible message from Isaiah to his homily by saying that, ‘it reminds me of how God’s ways are more spectacular than our ways and this connects to my love of science because with science you can understand so much, but there’s always so much more you can’t understand.’ When students realize that there is so much they don’t know, they are tapping into the mystery and sacredness of life.” Norman’s reflection for the National Association of Episcopal Schools Chaplain’s Blog, “Connections Between Spirituality, Chapel and the Classroom,” can be found can be found HERE. 

Around the Globe

Kids for Peace

Kids for Peace, a global nonprofit and home to The Great Kindness Challenge, mobilized its network to join together and create the world’s longest recycled paper chain, each paper link decorated with messages of love and hope. Kids for Peace is home to The Great Kindness Challenge, providing a platform for youth to actively engage in socially-conscious leadership, community service, global friendships and thoughtful acts of kindness.

Read more here.

Indigenous Youth at COP26 to Influence Policy

Nine Indigenous youth climate activists journeyed to Glasgow from around the globe to attend COP26. They came here with a shared view of how lands and waters are connected, and how to care for them. They would also like to see plans to protect human rights and Indigenous rights spelled out in the text of the COP agreement. But, even though they have had meetings with top officials, these activists are sometimes on the outside looking in, trying to carve out space for their people. Now that they’re at the conference, they say it sometimes feels like everyone wants to put them in a box and force them to conform to standards with a history of colonialism. 

Link to article here

Students Engage in Community Service at the Dakota Zoo

Bismarck Public Schools is teaching their students that giving back is key. With the weather steadily growing colder, there is work that needs to be done to clean outdoor recreation areas. Two groups of Wachter Middle School- 8th grade students made their way to the Dakota Zoo to help in their clean up efforts. While at the zoo they helped to rake leaves. Over the course of two days, 300 students were able to take part in the project. The school hosts a community service event every year around this time. Wachter Middle School teacher, Kevin Schmitcke, says this is a great opportunity for kids to work together outside the classroom.

Read more here.

Refelections…

Looking Up…

By BETH STYLES | Producer, Composer, Artist

Over the holidays you might have caught the new satirical science fiction film called “Don’t Look Up”, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence as two American astronomers who find themselves having to go on a giant media tour, trying hopelessly to warn humanity about an approaching comet that will destroy civilization… all the while our government (Meryl Streep plays the POTUS!), is wayyyy out to lunch.

The film has a fun, tongue and cheek tempo to it, attempting to use this metaphorical meteor plowing towards earth (i.e. climate change?) while we’ve been slowly spiraling hypnotically into the depths of a redundant, mundane, social media pseudo cyber world, and governments seem not to hear or care, despite the pleading of doctors and scientists around the globe for us to “just look up” as the actual, factual, visual, physical proof is RIGHT IN FRONT OF OUR EYES. Sigh… Hence the insane movie title – reflecting the shouting chants among the conspiracy theorists “don’t look up”.  Which is funny, not funny… as here in “real life” we may have the luxury of a few more minutes and another bucket of popcorn before impending doom ensues… or do we?

Since Covid emerged, I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling as though a giant comet hit the world; my world – impacting life and the day to day rhythm of just about everything I didn’t realize I took for granted.  That said, there have been a few, pleasantly surprising, meaningful, pearls of wisdom.

As a producer, composer of spiritual music and director of a community interfaith choir, most of my work got put on hold indefinitely, basically blasting a big intergalactic hole in my annual calendar of ‘feel good’ events. Throughout the year, I would normally be collaborating with diverse houses of worship, clergy and local government leaders to gather people of many backgrounds together. I miss hearing the choir sing songs about love and world peace, watching the interaction between them and the community – and the sharing of a uniting, inspirational experience.  Boo.   But then.. it happened.  One evening, sitting outside on a rock.. I ‘looked up’. 

Gazing at the stars, taking in nature and the universe… I sat quietly, becoming deeply present to the majesty all around me.  I also thought about how I loved astronomy, reminiscing about the courses I took in college, but have since not paid attention to it, not really – and I began to fall newly in love with science.  Wow… so much has happened since I was 12.. ;)!!  Suddenly, I found myself listening to podcasts and immersed in YouTube videos of some of the great thinkers of our times.  I even began to challenge some of the foundational ideas I’ve based most of my life on – and consider, that perhaps I have been so focused on my ‘good deed doing’ and choral sheet music, that I too, had slowly become oblivious to the world around me; that it was time for me to expand my view – and yes, I probably would’ve missed a giant meteor coming towards me.  And maybe this was an unexpected gift that I so needed.

Through the years, I’ve engaged in myriad conversations on spirituality with individuals from many walks of life.  That said, since my events are known as ‘interfaith’ gatherings, and since the choir members and concert attendees are usually connected to various faiths whether they are observant or not, most describe their experience of spirituality as a meaningful connection to something greater than themselves and typically use language such as their ‘connection to God’ or a ‘Divine energy’, or a ‘higher power’.  The spectrum is wide… so I thought, but I now realize (here comes the comet…), that I have been ironically ‘tone-deaf’ to a segment of people who are equally devoted to world peace, moral integrity, love and compassion – yet express spirituality sans a ‘supernatural’, or ‘cosmic’ power as the source.  I’m speaking of the estimated 14% of human beings who identify as secular humanists, atheists, free thinkers to name a few; (thank you Sam Harris* for your exquisite writing, teaching and inspiration for this blog/reflection) – people who I have overlooked and inadvertently excluded for years, all the while intending to be the most inclusive, multi faith, multi-cultural, LGBTQ, safe space for all people to come together “in the name of love and unity” … dang it!  So, full speed ahead, the wording of “interfaith”, is ready for it’s overdue face-lift.  Thank you unexpected, humbling, metaphorical meteor for helping us draw this new, hopeful, authentically inclusive, spiritual line in the sand.  As we set sail into 2022, here’s to looking forward, and looking up.

*Sam Harris – philosopher, neuroscientist, podcast host, author, and a leading intellectual voice of our time.

Beth Styles is an award winning composer/producer/artist, whose work has been celebrated in diverse houses of worship across the country and performed by some of the great artists and cantors of our time.

The Power of Hope

Dr. Dan Tomasulo, SMBI’s Academic Director, wrote a new book: “Learned Hopefulness: The Power of Positivity to Overcome Depression” which has been named one of the best books for depression in 2021. Dan shared: Hope is the only positive emotion to require negativity or uncertainty to be activated. Learned hopefulness demonstrates how hope can be taught and cultivated, and how doing so gives us the ability to become more resilient in the presence of daunting obstacles. As a result the new science of hope is improving outcomes in medicine, education, psychotherapy, and business—and this is only the beginning of understanding its potential.

Link to Dan’s book: “Learned Hopefulness”

Read the article about the best books for depression HERE.

Creating a Spiritual Community

I had the pleasure of presenting the main research of CSE at the Symposium on the Spirituality of Children hosted by Virginia Theological Seminary in late October 2021. While I often present our research, and our work is often well received, this particular presentation felt like a spiritual community. The people who were together shared from their own practice, and felt that our research reflected what they had seen in their classrooms over the last several decades. That, too, felt aligned, as our research was conducted by interviewing and observing master educators to understand what they did. It truly felt as though we were co-creating a spiritually supportive conference space, one where everyone felt seen, known, and valued. It was a profound experience for me! You can view the recordings from the Symposium here.

A New Years “Note” of Reflection | Spirituality in the Arts

By BETH STYLES | Producer, Composer, Artist

As the world takes another ‘tour’ around the sun, choirs and a multitude of musical artists are still waiting for theirs… since health warnings still loom for public gatherings, and especially singing.  There was a glimmer of hope before Omicron, and as the director of a community inspirational choir (New World Chorus), I know how much the group was looking forward to reuniting for some outdoor holiday singing after canceling last year.  Fondly known as the “Street Angels” annual event, the choir traditionally takes a spin around town on a yellow school bus, singing for seniors, serenading at the Stamford Town Center, and jingling at the Palace Theater as children gleefully emerge from the Nutcracker.  This has always been a special outing, where the choir is not under pressure like at a concert venue, doing what they love, and having the unique opportunity to share joy and surprise passersby – a gift that never gets old.

And then, once more, heartbreak set in, as we needed to cancel yet again.  Of course, this melancholy postponement can never be compared to the despair of Covid’s real life losses, or to urgent issues such as addressing the emotional toll of isolation on children and/or seniors.  And while isolation for any and all of us impacts society as a whole, this is more of a reflective “note” on how when this beloved musical treasure seemed indefinitely missing, the human spirit rose up with clever solutions to conquer this saboteur, or musical “Grinch” if you will.  

I’m speaking about the new world of “virtual choir videos”.  When the ban of public singing sank in, taking a million breaths away… like many other producers, I donned my parachute and took a leap of faith into this new world – even launching a new division of my production company called “Virtual Sanctuaries”, to help support music directors and choirs across the country.  By now most folks have likely seen this phenomenon on social media – and for sure, it really helped soften the blow, providing some refuge for the time being.  Choirs met on Zoom to practice, albeit muted, but at least connecting, and working together on music to record.  Ok, alone… in a quiet room… but then VOILA! Modern technology brings it all together…  and before you knew it, in an unexpected harmonious twist, virtual choir videos slowly became a new powerful, inspirational tool used by choirs worldwide.  Kind of like a new era of “MTV”… choir version. 

Perhaps well said by the now world famous “virtual choir” genius Eric Whitaker, “the virtual choir would never replace live music or a real choir, but the same sort of focus and intent and esprit de corps is evident in both, and at the end of the day it seems to me a genuine artistic expression.” 

If you’ve ever had the experience of singing in a choir, you’re not a stranger to its power.  And/or if you happen to be an admirer of this art form, you’ve likely been moved in the presence of its majesty – be it Gospel, American Classical or Pop, Theater ensembles, or Mormon Tabernacle-ish, just to name a few.  So what is this power magnifique? What is this Je ne sais quoi ingredient that brings on the goose bumps?  The words I’ve most often heard to describe this experience by both choir and audience, be it secular or religious repertoire, is deeply “spiritual”.  And I’ve come to understand that people use this word to describe that which is indescribable.  And, perhaps, if we had to name it, we might describe it as universal love.  

Music, can spontaneously transform an unbearable moment of despair into an unexpected joy.  And, in particular, expressed by a chorus – young and older, can shine a light on the glorious connection that is innate in human beings.  Here’s to the wonder of it all – and the hope that we get to experience that spiritual, indescribable, magic up close and personal in this new year! 

On Science & Spirituality

The Reverend Norman Hull, chaplain at Campbell Hall in southern California and CSE fellow, has recently written a reflection on his work encouraging middle school students to share their spirituality through the school’s Chapel program. As Norman describes, “A 6th-grade boy reflected in chapel on his love of science by saying, ‘In science there is always a new challenge and something new to do and that is what keeps it interesting. He went on to connect the Bible message from Isaiah to his homily by saying that, ‘it reminds me of how God’s ways are more spectacular than our ways and this connects to my love of science because with science you can understand so much, but there’s always so much more you can’t understand.’ When students realize that there is so much they don’t know, they are tapping into the mystery and sacredness of life.” Norman’s reflection for the National Association of Episcopal Schools Chaplain’s Blog, “Connections Between Spirituality, Chapel and the Classroom,” can be found can be found HERE.