For five minutes each day the classroom is quiet and students take a mindful moment ... a yoga pose, taking deep breaths or focusing on the quiet. This mindfulness practice helps students become more self-aware and better regulate their emotions and behavior.
The Crim Fitness Foundation's Mindfulness Initiative is intended to help alleviate chronic stress and lessen the traumatic impact of the water crisis on Flint students, parents and educators. "Mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, nonjudgmentally," explained Sarah Sullivan, Crim Mindfulness Program Director. "When the water crisis hit, the positive impacts of mindfulness became even more important as Flint students were confronted with the potential of cognitive difficulties due to prolonged lead exposure."
Today, 23 schools in five districts offer mindfulness training and programming to teachers and students in kindergarten through sixth grade. In the 2016-2017 school year, 3,357 students participated. And three schools are taking mindfulness to the next level by developing
Mindfulness Centers where students can elect to spend 20 minutes a day practicing yoga, guided visualizations, or simply taking some quiet time to refocus before returning to class ready to learn.
The Crim's research team is studying the program. Teachers are reporting benefits such as:
• An increase in cooperative and prosocial behavior
• Improved regulation of emotions
• Fewer behavior problems
• Greater sense of empowerment
Elizabeth Wise is a mindfulness instructor at Durant Tuuri Mott Elementary School in Flint. "When practicing mindfulness with students in the classroom, I see an almost immediate physical response," she said. "I see a softening in their faces, and the chest and shoulders relaxing. It is amazing how willing and eager children are to drop into a calm space. Little invitation is needed, they know the routine and readily allow themselves to settle into quiet and stillness."
She says all her students love doing yoga, and she observes them making a connection between their movements and breath. "They are noticing how using their breath can help them remain calm and make better choices. Students welcome the opportunity to sit quietly with focused attention, even just for a moment."