In this dissertation I will be looking at how the inborn spirituality of primary school children might be nurtured and developed through regular access to and use of a prayer space: a sacred space set aside for children to think, reflect, question, and rest in the presence of God. My decision to focus my research on prayer spaces in schools is two-fold. From a spiritual point of view, I am interested in the topic of how and why children pray, and the impact that has on their spiritual development. Secondly, my work within local primary schools as part of my job has led to an interest in how I can engage better with schools in order to develop children’s spirituality beyond occasional assemblies or RE lessons. The findings of this study will provide me with insights and information immediately applicable to my job as Children’s Worker.
There are 3 main aims for my study:
To look at how spirituality develops in children: By studying the work of well known theorists and practitioners in this area, such as Nye, Lamont, Piaget, Fowler and Westerhoff, I will summarise the key elements of spiritual development in the early years of childhood.
To study prayer as a tool for spiritual development: I will be using the above information to assess where prayer fits in, in addition to studying further material which indicates a link between prayer and spiritual development.
To establish if prayer spaces are conducive to spiritual development in a school context. By observing established prayer spaces in primary schools, I hope to ascertain exactly how and why these spaces might encourage prayer and thus contribute to spiritual development.
As this is a predominantly qualitative research project, it is difficult to give an exact hypothesis as I am not seeking to prove or disprove a particular theory. Instead, I hope to gain an insight into the effects of prayer spaces on children’s spiritual developmental stages. Many theorists and practitioners have studied the subject of child spirituality but few look closely at how prayer fits in, especially prayer within a school context. Therefore I will be interested to see how prayer and schools fit together, and suggest how schools can use prayer spaces to support an ethos of self-reflection, growth and personal development.