At the present time Religious Education is not a foundation National Curriculum subject, and although there are government guidelines, it is down to each local community to establish, usually through SACRE a Locally Agreed Syllabus. This means that although coverage is likely to be similar, there may be variations on the structure and organisation of material. For this reason I cannot make general reference to units of work, but I have tried to take an overview and make suggestions where a visualisation may be used to support learning in a certain topic or theme. Look out for the RE Link box at the top of each page. It's not comprehensive, but may be of help. There is also a current shift towards a more philosophical approach in the teaching of RE, encouraging children to engage with the 'Big Questions' (see the Sapere website resources) and visualisation can be a powerful medium for facilitating exploration of ideas. If you have used visualisation in the classroom in any other way please let me know.
I would just say at this point, please don't underestimate the value of the experience itself. For many children, their entire day is crammed with movement and noise, and the experience of stillness may be very new to them. I've seen Year 6 boys gaze in amazement (dare I say awe and wonder) following a visualisation, as they let out a relaxed sigh and take a long stretch, as though waking from a deep dream. When working with children who are new to using visualisation I always ask how it felt, and invariably words like "calm, relaxed, peaceful" are used. Sometimes phrases such as "it seemed really real," or "I didn't want to come back to the classroom" reiterate that it was very much a positive experience for them. I'm convinced that this has value in helping children to understand what motivates religious belief. Why do people pray? This question might elicit a different response in the light of this new experience, and help children appreciate the benefits of finding time for inner space and quietness.
So, to come back to where I started, gardens are often sanctuaries from the hustle and bustle of life. For many this is what the experience of prayer is like. Secret implies this experience is intimate and personal. In both Islam and the Judao-Christian tradition the world in its perfect state is portrayed as an unspoilt garden. Furthermore in the parables of Jesus gardening imagery (seeds, weeds and stony soil) is used as a metaphor for the state of the soul. We begin to see that the Secret Garden Visualisation could be a springboard for exploring any or all of these themes.
Enjoy exploring using visualisation.
Look out for the RE Link box which appears alongside the title of each Visualisation script. Here you will find some suggestions of how the visualisation could be used, and where it may fit within the RE syllabus.
"What does any of this have to do with teaching RE?"
This was a comment made by a Year 5 teacher following a demo lesson where I used The Secret Garden visualisation. Yes, the teacher could agree that the children enjoyed the experience, and a quiet atmosphere had been created, but she couldn't see beyond that. While many teachers can appreciate the benefits of using visualisation to settle children and create a calm classroom environment, some may be unsure how to incorporate its use into RE planning.