You may have been hearing students talk about the brain a lot lately around campus, at assemblies, in class and even at home. Amygdalas, the hypocampus, breathing, happiness and mindfulness have been top priority across our whole school.
This year Green School has been implementing a comprehensive Mindfulness Program. The foundations of mindfulness (and the MindUP curriculum implemented in Primary) are based on four foundations: neurosciences, self-awareness, emotion regulation and social action. Over the course of the program students learn about the brain and how it functions, in the process gaining insight into their own minds and behaviors as well as those of people around them. It fosters self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision- making. The essential work of mindfulness is accomplished through repetition of a Core Practice – deep belly breathing and attentive listening. It is dedicated to the belief that the child who learns to monitor his or her senses and feelings, becomes more aware and better understands how to respond to the world reflectively instead of reflexively.
Mindful attention centres on conscious awareness of the present moment: by focusing our attention and controlling our breath, we can learn to reduce stress and optimise the learning capacity of the brain. Feeling stressed, angry, upset, overly happy? Students are encouraged to ‘Breathe first!’. Inviting students to take three deep slow breaths calms the amygdala, allowing the prefrontal cortex to process and make rational decisions, accessing information held in the hippocampus the storage vault of memory and learning. When we feel calm and peaceful, information flows freely and our amygdala can send incoming messages to the conscious, thinking reasoning brain. But, if you are in a high emotional state, for instance seeing a snake makes you start screaming and jumping, your amygdala is on high alert. When we are in a high emotional state the amygdala prevents and blocks messages accessing the prefrontal cortex and it is processed on the spot as freeze, flight or fight, you react without thinking. Fear and anxiety effectively shut down higher order thinking. Those three, deep, slow breaths calm the amygdala opening pathways and allowing messages to flow. We are able to recall facts and remember that snakes sense vibration and if we stand very still, the snake won’t notice us and will slither away. We are safe and have exercised the true state of mindfulness.
Facilitating self-awareness in our students, promotes self-management. When individuals are mindful of themselves a greater social awareness is fostered with friends and peers, leading to empathy and understanding of different perspectives. This then encourages responsible decision making concerning ethical, community and environmental related issues and concerns. This positive psychology, in essence, has assisted to sculpt individuals who are mindful of their impact on other people and the environment encouraging informed, responsible, thoughtful choices.
Mindfully yours, Ibu Libby