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.  As in any system, we must consider all its parts.  This reminds me of an Indian folk talk – Seven Blind Mice (captured in a book by Young, 1992).  In this tale each seeing impaired mouse explores an object that stands in front of them.  Each mouse has a different experience as only a part of the object is explored.  The outcome for each individual mouse is an incomplete thus incorrect image.  Only the last mouse covers the entire body of the object and only this mouse is able to perceive the whole of the object—It is an elephant with a rope type tail, palm leaf shaped ears, etc.  

The need for understanding the entirety of a system is applicable to our desire to look at spirituality in education.  We must also look at what happens at the beginning of life.  We must ask ourselves, “How can we maintain and grow the spiritual essence that is found at the birth of an infant?” To look at spirituality any other way compromises what we will find; what we actually see; and what we can do to strengthen a child’s spiritual development.

Please join me in this blog on spiritual development as I look at spiritual development in young children through reflections of my research and changing thoughts and experiences.  Here is a look at what I call the system of spiritual development.  

(From Inspiring Wonder, Awe, and Empathy:  Spiritual Development in Young Children.  By Deb Schein, 2018, p. 138)



Beginning a career in Early Childhood Education in 1972, receiving her PhD in 2012, Deb now provides professional development for EC educators and teaches at Champlain College.  She is an editor for Soul to Soul – an online journal for practitioners and researchers interested in all aspects of children’s spirituality.  Deb has written two books on spirituality, and continues to research the relationship between spiritual development, nature, play, peace, and well-being. You can find out more about her at growingwonder.com