Since the beginning of the school year, it has been my mission to create more opportunities for my high school English students to participate in hands-on activities. I noticed that in the math department’s storage room (near the teachers’ bathroom lol) there were a bunch of math manipulatives just gathering dust. So after asking permission, of course, I appropriated a container full of pattern blocks.
Remember playing and learning with these back in your elementary school years? Fun right? So they’ve been sitting on my shelf all year long. I kept wondering how I could creatively use these in a meaningful way in my teaching. I had already figured out a few ways to incorporate the use of LEGOS, but for some reason, I was drawing a blank when it came to the pattern blocks.
I honestly don’t know how I came up with this idea, but it suddenly occurred to me that by using pattern blocks, you can create beautiful mandalas.
I did some research on the definition and origin of mandalas. I’ve seen coloring books featuring these beautiful creations, and I knew that they had their origins in Eastern religions, but that’s about all I knew. I found out that the word “mandala” is Sanskrit for circle. It means, “a geometric figure representing the universe in Hindu and Buddhist symbolism.” The second definition is, “a symbol in a dream, representing the dreamer’s search for completeness and self-unity.” Mandalas have significant meaning, often on more than one level. The design of the mandala (can be circular or square-like) can help the focus of practitioners of meditation. Generally speaking, mandalas have an inner core and outer rings. The core and rings have symbolic meaning. They can represent the universe, a journey, enlightenment, a path, separation, protection, the nature of human experience, truth, the cycle of life, and much more. Once I found out this information, it didn’t take long for me to figure out how to use mandalas in my classroom. My seniors are almost finished reading Life of Pi. Pi, the main character, follows three religions–Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. How perfect would it be for my students to analyze Pi’s character, journey, and transformation through the creation of a mandala? The mandala design and block choices could symbolize Pi. Then I started thinking that mandala design could work for the analysis of not just fictional characters, but for everyday people as well.
I am so excited for my students to start creating their mandalas for Pi’s character. If you’d like more information on how mandala design could work for your classroom needs, please check out the following link:
Analyzing Characters and Personalities Through Mandalas
Students analyze characters or personalities through the creation of a mandala and the writing of an essay. This is an interdisciplinary activity! This activity works for ELA, science, math, history, psychology--virtually any subject matter. What is a mandala? The word “mandala” is Sanskrit for circle. It means, “a geometric figure representing the universe in Hindu and Buddhist symbolism.” The second definition is, “a symbol in a dream, representing the dreamer's search for completeness and self-unity.” Mandalas have significant meaning, often on more than one level. Have your students studied fictional characters? Have they researched noteworthy people from history, science, math, the arts, or politics? This challenging and creative activity asks students to represent the character or person they have read about and/or studied through symbolic means by asking them to create a mandala with pattern blocks. The mandala design, block shape choices, and even color choices can represent aspects of the person's journey, accomplishments, challenges, decisions, motivations, and much more. In addition to the mandala design, students are also tasked with writing an essay explaining the symbolism inherent in the mandala design.