Thursday, March 17, 2011

AUSTRALIAN SCHOOL CHILDREN LEARN MINDFULNESS

Mindfulness has become core curriculum at, among other places, Yarraman Oaks Primary School. This school in Noble Park, Victoria, Australia is just one of a growing number of Australian schools and colleges that have embraced the practice of mindfulness to improve focus and stress management.

Yarraman Oaks Principal Bill Liston was so taken with mindfulness after attending sessions by meditation teacher Janet Etty-Leal (pictured above, at Yarraman Oaks) at a principals' conference four years ago that he asked her to train his staff so they could run weekly sessions for all students.

"It is a lifetime strategy to help them cope with the day-to-day relationships with other children, with the pressure to achieve these days," he says. "It allows them to get things into perspective, and to do things in a calmer manner."

Sometimes the meditation sessions run at the start of school or after a break to help students to concentrate. Teachers also run shorter meditation sessions called "capsules" to break up two-hour classes.

Ms Etty-Leal has run mindfulness programs at more than 40 Victorian schools in recent years. She has also trained school principals, careers teachers and counsellors and Education Department staff, as well as running programs for healthcare professionals and for many companies, including Australia Post and Tattersall's.

Her recent book, Meditation Capsules, a mindfulness program for children, brings together the techniques she has taught in schools.

Dr Craig Hassed, deputy head of Monash University's department of general practice, has been teaching mindfulness techniques to trainee doctors and GPs since 1991. He also provides mindfulness training to staff and students at many Melbourne secondary schools, but particularly independent schools such as Carey Baptist Grammar, Melbourne Grammar, Geelong Grammar and St Michael's Grammar. Each week he flies to Canberra to run training sessions for staff at the Australian National University.

Other schools such as Methodist Ladies College are using mindfulness to help students focus during Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) study and exams.

Dr Hassed says Ms Etty-Leal has adapted mindfulness techniques for children so that the practice is taught through play, games and activities. "She has a special way with children."

Ms Etty-Leal says mindfulness is essential for primary-age children, particularly with the increasing incidence of syndromes such as attention deficit disorder. "If children are unable to settle and manage emotions such as anxiety, then they are not learning."

Children face many distractions, she says, such as mobile phones and digital technology, which makes it difficult to think deeply. "Neural pathways can become scrambled and less effective, which disrupts learning. When moments of sustained focus, silence and stillness become rare experiences, some children even find them uncomfortable, associating them with negative feelings such as boredom and disconnection."

South Australian psychologist Carmel Wauchope plans to use Ms Etty-Leal's meditation capsules as a base for her PhD research on the effect of mindfulness on adolescent anxiety and depression. She says at least 200 high school students will be tested before, during and after completing a meditation course based on Ms Elly-Leal's program.

Ms Wauchope trains her clients in mindfulness in her practice, Astute Education & Psychology Services. "I'm amazed by the results, particularly with young people with drug and alcohol issues. They say that meditation is better than using drugs because of the kind of space it puts them in, away from stressors. It is exceptionally useful for a range of situations."

NOTE. This blog sets out a simple form of mindfulness sitting meditation.


RELATED POSTS

MINDFULNESS FOR CHILDREN

MINDFULNESS FOR SPECIAL-NEEDS STUDENTS

MINDFULNESS MEDITATION INCREASES WELLBEING IN ADOLESCENT BOYS

MINDFULNESS AND YOUTH TRAUMA

MINDFULNESS, FUNDAMENTALISM AND A TALE OF TWO CITIES

GOLDIE HAWN'S LOTUS GROWS IN THE MUD

TEACHING CHILDREN TO BE MINDFUL

MINDFULNESS AND TEENAGERS' BRAINS



1 comment:

  1. The Mindfulness Foundation School Campaign will influence decision makers and raise awareness with the help of impassioned supporters who are willing to advocate on this important issue.
    Mindfulness Meditation in Schools

    ReplyDelete