HOLMDEL, NJ: Stop, breathe, be mindful...
What is mindfulness exactly? Mindfulness is defined according to Wikipedia as: "The psychological process of purposely bringing one's attention to experiences occurring in the present moment without judgment, which one can develop through the practice of meditation and through other training".
It's about being present, non-judgemental and open....today it also means the beauty of separating from your electronic devices, stopping, relaxing, being aware, in the present moment.
Mindfulness is scientifically proven to help improve both mental and physical health. It is a stress reducer that relaxes the mind so that true listening can occur. The results of practicing mindfulness make for a better teaching and learning experience and creates a more thoughtful nonjudgmental and peaceful environment.
The Holmdel School District has implemented a mindfulness initiative that is in its third year of a multi-year strategy for whole school change around learning and practicing Mindfulness. The district has engaged an expert in the field, Mr. Alan Brown of Learning to Thrive, to support this initiative.
A recent example of the success of the district's mindfulness implementation is an assignment from teachers Dr. Christie Riso and Ms. Christina Nigro. The directions of the assignment were to create calming music with sounds of nature, narrated by an inspirational recorded voice.
Upon completing a study of the characteristics of “meditative” music, William R. Satz School Music Technology students created mindful meditation music of their own. The music developed by the students’ are now part of a catalog of over 50 recordings available to teachers across the district to use in their classrooms. With more students scheduled for this marking period long course this year, Holmdel’s Mindful Music Collection is guaranteed to grow.
“This musical project is evidence that our strategy is paying off, and in innovative ways we had not even anticipated when we started,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert McGarry. The Holmdel School District’s efforts to build mindfulness into school and classroom practices got a significant boost recently with new resources creatively designed by the district’s own middle school music students!
The district initiated a study of mindfulness in 2017 with a focus on the practices of educators training first and then teaching the practice to the students. “Many schools look to teach mindfulness to children but skip the critical step of providing the adults a chance to understand and develop experience with their own mindfulness practice” Mr. Brown stated. “Holmdel’s approach is at the cutting edge of social-emotional learning best practices, where the conversation more and more is shifting to how we resource teachers to have the same skills we hope to teach our students,” Dr. McGarry added. Children learn by example ad including mindfulness in the skill set of the teachers is an example for the children.
This year, the district launched its second Mindful Educators Cohort, a group of educators from across the district who, like the previous cohort, will engage in two on-line courses as well as in-person trainings with Mr. Brown. Dr. Dineen Seeley, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, stated, “Our district is committed to supporting the social and emotional health and wellness of our faculty and students.” “Building our capacity to teach mindfulness is one way we are doing this,” she added.