16 Guidelines as a school curriculum

“The 16 Guidelines offers a perfect complement to our mindfulness program.” – Doug Allen, School Principal

Grandview Heights School in Edmonton, Canada is a public school with outstanding academic results which attracts extremely high performing, bright, successful students. “I truly believe our students are the leaders of tomorrow”, says Principal Doug Allen. “Because we want our future leaders to be caring, ethical citizens, we have made a three-year ethics class mandatory for our junior high students”.

Doug explains that in contrast to the school’s former approach to ethics, which was more theoretical and academic, “this year we wanted to find a way to more authentically engage our students with common societal values and encourage them to embody these values as they grow as citizens and leaders. The 16 Guidelines has been our answer.”

Adopting the 16 Guidelines is also seen as a strategy for deepening and strengthening the students’ mindfulness practice. “Although the 16 Guidelines do not provide a comprehensive mindfulness program, the reflections in the book mesh well with and support our broader mindfulness initiative,” explains Doug. “I believe that developing values such as kindness, patience, and the others presented in the 16 Guidelines needs to be a component of a mindfulness practice. That the 16 Guidelines does this in a secular fashion is absolutely critical. I am happy about the global ‘mainstreaming’ of mindfulness, but I do worry that is often presented in a vacuum, empty of heart. 16G helps us avoid doing that.”

Doug, and the Assistant Principal Leanne Moncrieff, are leading these classes themselves, and are the first to say that it is a work in progress. A typical lesson starts with a mindful breathing exercise followed by an attention-grabbingvideo or story.  They then introduce the ‘Guideline’ and organize the class into a jigsaw activity in which every student is given the responsibility for a certain section of the chapter.  The students then form groups and discuss a set of structured, guiding questions. The class often ends with the chapter reflection presented in the book.

“I have found the Guideline framework  to be a relevant, contemporary and effective teaching tool which fosters student reflection, insight, and a deeper understanding of oneself,” says Leanne. “Using real people as exemplars creates engagement and connection. This is most effective for drawing out discussion and allows students to make sense of the content. We love the way the Guidelines are represented.”

“We take advantage of whatever we can and sometimes adjust on the fly,” says Doug.  “For example, when Nelson Mandela passed we had just finished discussing Patience. We did a short study of Mr Mandela’s life and accomplishments and discussed whether he was an exemplar of Patience and Humility.”

Grandview students seem to be enjoying the new approach to their ethics class.  Sophia, a grade 9 student, says the stories are “understandable and relevant to my life. The layout is appealing and easy to engage with.”  Her classmate, Nicole, says that the “book uses examples that I understand, and the role models are current so it’s not just boring history.  We learn more about people we have heard of so it helps us reflect on our history and apply values to today’s world.”   Both students explain that the humanity represented by the role models shows that we all have the same potential. “It feels like we do have power and can do something to improve ourselves and the world. It is motivational and encouraging and makes us want to grow and make a difference.”

Though this is new territory for Doug and Leanne, and they would be happy to discuss their program with anyone interested in learning more. They can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.