Symmetry and Gratitude: Students Create Mandalas

Drawn from classroom activities and a variety of inspirations, some Mount Madonna School (MMS) students are enjoying creating mandalas from found and gathered natural objects.

“In the preschool and kindergarten (Pre/K), students did a lot of mandala art for cultural awareness and their more recent projects are an extension of that, shared Pre/K Director Hema Walker. “It is such a beautiful, hands-on way to explore the concept of mandalas and the idea of symmetry. And it helped our home-bound children to get outdoors and appreciate the beauty of nature.”

Second grade students have done several activities with mandalas, connected to their studies in geometry and art.

“Because the second graders had a frame of reference for how mandalas are made, I asked them to create one using either materials found in the home (dried beans, rice, etc) or make one using materials found in nature such as leaves, flowers or rocks,” commented second grade teacher Prema Gammons. “I thought this would be a fun and engaging way for the students to flex their artistic muscles within a familiar structure.”

First grade teacher Cassia Laffin noted that Buddhists use mandalas as a form of prayer and meditation.

“Creating a mandala can be a calming activity for our minds,” said Laffin, “and for many, this is much-needed right now. For our recent activity, I gave just a few guidelines, included a couple of examples and posted those to my lesson plan ideas so students got the idea. This assignment was inspired by a book a student gifted me over the holidays and I am so excited because it ties together art and nature.”

Laffin noted that the inherent symmetry of mandalas is also relevant in other parts of the curriculum. In math, for instance, first graders have been learning about symmetry and recently completed symmetry art projects in which parents cut out half of an image from a magazine. Students then glued it down and drew the other half.

“Math involves a lot of patterning so this is also a great opportunity for not only putting into practice our lessons on symmetry but also on patterning,” explained Laffin. “This week we are also focusing on gratitude and as children connect with nature we feel that gratitude for our beautiful surroundings and others.”

“Along with suggestions on gratitude, I shared with students a photo of something I came across in my neighborhood, a rock placed on top of a mailbox with the words ‘thank you’ painted upon it,” Laffin continued. “I included the photo and asked students to create a painted rock for their mail carrier. I will also, this week be including suggestions to pick a bouquet and leave a note, as well as to create some sidewalk chalk art for their neighbors! I want to provide various forms of mandala making-from paper and pencil to making mandalas with things from the kitchen, another using toys, and another using shoes. I will be spreading these out over a period of weeks.”

One family, so inspired by this creative outlet and their daughter’s interest in the project, has decided to document the mandala’s she creates each week, along with dedications, to compile into a book.

First grader Cala Watson was inspired to share gratitude for her teacher with a mandala dedicated to her.

“This mandala is dedicated to Cassia because she is nice, happy and appreciative of others,” shared Watson, “like a blooming flower.”


Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of marketing & communications, [email protected]

Nestled among the redwoods on 375 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a community of learners dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believe a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.