1: Make a Sand Painting (Elementary, Secondary)
In the Tibetan sand mandala, brightly colored sand is arranged in a complex design incorporating symbols that have sacred meaning to practicing Buddhists. The process of making a mandala is important as an aid to meditation.
Direct the students to work in groups and make sand paintings using personal symbols. Provide tubs of uncolored sand and sand in primary colors (mix powdered tempera with the sand). The sand paintings can be made in large, shallow cardboard boxes. Give the students plastic funnels in various sizes, small sticks, straws, and forks for creating details in the designs. When the sand paintings are finished, ask the students to explain their symbols to the class.
2: Make Art Impermanent (Elementary, Secondary)
After the students have done the "Make a Sand Painting" activity above and have talked about the symbols in their designs, have them sweep up and discard the sand, as is the tradition with sand mandalas.
3: Capture the Event (Elementary, Secondary, Language Arts)
Have someone document the "Make a Sand Painting" and "Make Art Impermanent" activities with a camera or video camera. Ask the students to write a descriptive paragraph explaining what their symbol means and how they depicted it.
4: Sense the Five Senses (Elementary, Secondary)
Through the five senses-sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell-people gather impressions of their environment. Discuss the five senses and how we use them for pleasure, learning, and survival. Discuss the images used for them in the sand mandala and their placement in the four corners, outside the realm of enlightenment.
Have the students create pictures of the five senses, using images of significance to them. Point out how in the mandala the monks combined some senses, enabling them to show all five within the four corners. The students can combine some of their images too.
Have the students collect images from magazines and other sources and create a collage of the five senses.
5: Design a Monument (Secondary, Science, Social Studies)
Images of stupas appear in this mandala. Stupas are Buddhist monuments that in their earliest form were dome-shaped burial mounds. Because the Buddha's relics were buried under such mounds, the stupa became a sacred symbols of the Buddha. Stupas are often surrounded by gateways aligned with the four cardinal directions. Projecting above the dome is a narrower form, sometimes covered with tiered umbrellas.
Discuss these elements and have the students notice how they are depicted in the mandala. Discuss monuments the students are familiar with. Have the students design their own buildings, drawing diagrams. When they have finished, discuss their architectural concepts and how they were represented.