Shearer, GRC developing mindfulness program

Published 2:00 pm Saturday, April 22, 2017

George Rogers Clark High School and Shearer Elementary are taking part in a pilot program for what could be a new district-wide mindfulness curriculum.

Mindfulness is defined by University of Massachusetts Medical School professor of medicine emeritus Jon Kabat-Zinn as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally.”

“We want to teach students how to control their puppy mind,” GRC special education facilitator Kara Davies said.

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The “puppy mind,” Davies said, represents human curiosity and thought processes. She said the goal of the program is to get students thinking past their amygdala, which is the part of the brain that controls the fight or flight response.

Mindfulness helps participants to focus on the moment, using breathing as a way to relax and center oneself.

Davies and school psychologist Allison Nelson are partnering with several professionals to develop the curriculum, including Erin Smith of the OM Place, Clinical Social Worker Cindy Reed and Katie Scherrer, a former children’s librarian known nationally for teaching yoga and mindfulness.

Davies said the program is still in its first phase as the curriculum is being pieced together by the team through working with GRC and Shearer students and observing the results.

She said that there are plans for a second phase once the first is completed that will help implement the new curriculum throughout the district.

The curriculum focuses on five pillars: awareness, the brain, focus, social and emotional comfort, and resilience.

Davies added that as part of the first phase the team is offering free yoga classes at the high school from 3:45 to 4:45 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays. The classes are aimed at fostering an interest in yoga among teachers and students, but others in the community are welcome to take part.