On separate occasions recently, two local area teachers enthusiastically shared with me an experience they had just had with actress Goldie Hawn. One had attended a workshop at The Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY; the other, a lecture. Both teachers were clearly inspired and very motivated to bring what they had gained into their classrooms.
Fueled by all the problems affecting today’s youth in our country, Ms. Hawn now heads up a program called MindUP. MindUP teaches children how to be in touch with their emotions and manage stress through focused breathing, focused attention, relaxation and awareness. Assembled by a team of neuroscientists, doctors and psychologists, children are also taught about how their brains work – the idea being that if they understand how their minds function, they will be better able to understand and control their behavior.
Suzanne Lang, an art teacher who lives in Newtown was truly impressed with how much knowledge Ms. Hawn had about the recent research on neuroscience as well as about the ways in which the brain works.
“I had an opportunity to experience a small portion of what the program involves,” remarked Suzanne, “and saw for myself that by taking a very short mental break, and clearing your mind, you re-energize your brain and are able to focus so much more clearly.”
The MindUP program is being used in many schools across the U.S., Canada, and Britain with positive results including, better reading scores, better attendance, less aggression, closer relationships and better stress management.
“It's crucial to take the stress away in order to open the mind up for learning,” Hawn says.
Holly Tortora, a teacher in Fairfield, CT. has been incorporating what she learned through the MindUP workshop into her fifth grade classroom with impressive results:
“The breath work found in mindfulness activities enables my students to develop focused attention, regulate emotions, and develop an inner resilience which helps to facilitate in them an ability to deal with stressful situations in a relaxed manner.”
“When my students feel in control of both their minds and bodies and have a deeper understanding of how they react to situations," continued Holly, "it empowers them to move forward with a fearless spirit.”
Holly told me that her students report having a calmer attitude toward homework and she has noticed a “less confrontational attitude.”
“My students,” remarked Holly, have needed less monitoring on work and have exhibited a sense of personal responsibility for their work.”
Hopefully this is just the beginning of what will, eventually become a regular part of a school curriculum.