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Our Project: Modern Mindfulness for Schools
Stress in our society is at an all time high. Within the educational system teachers are overwhelmed and under pressure to perform. Rates of depression and anxiety for young people are off the charts. We see evidence of this in recent school shootings, suicides, bullying, and drug and alcohol use. Our schools are in crisis. Teachers and students need the tools to learn to positively manage stress, take care of themselves and each other, communicate compassionately, and work together to solve these difficult problems. Mindfulness is that tool.
Mindfulness is the study of attention. Through practicing simple techniques such as relaxing your body, listening to sounds, setting positive goals, we learn how to pay attention in a way that creates more happiness and success.
We have created Modern Mindfulness for Schools out of a passion to see decreased stress and suffering in the world. As a group of leading educators in the field, we want to see a world where our young people are given the skills they need to be compassionate, successful, and happy. From this desire we have created an innovative web app especially for teachers in the school system. This program allows educators of any and all experience to learn along with their students and incorporate lessons into the classroom with the guidance of the program. It’s quick and easy to implement, yet the lessons are deep and steeped in decades of mindfulness experience.
How's the project coming? Really well! Thanks for asking!
While developing our program, we wanted to partner with a school so that we felt we were creating software for actual teachers. We wanted real feedback from real people to make it as useful as possible. Smilie Memorial School in Bolton, Vermont took us on and helped us fine-tune Modern Mindfulness and then pilot the program at their school this past year. The teachers and staff at Smilie Memorial are really excited about what it has done for the students and the school as a whole. Teachers are using the program every day in every class!
After our collaboration in developing Modern Mindfulness, we asked teachers to fill out a questionnaire before and after the program was implemented. These results are based off of only one semester of the program running! These charts represent the improvements the teachers saw in their students, their school, and in themselves, respectively.
And, since our pilot, our program is now running in 8 Vermont schools!
And, some words from faculty at Smilie ~
"I have been using the new mindfulness program and I am LOVING it!! The changes and improvements you made have been perfect! . . . I am doing it as part of my morning meeting!! I have incorporated the skills and techniques across the day as we build our classroom community! . . . It is all so exciting! . . . It is truly remarkable and an inspiration to all!!"
- Helen-Anne Cafferty, Teacher, Smilie Memorial School
“Your materials are stellar, your presentation was clear and concise, and teachers appreciated how hard you worked to make your mindfulness site a product that met their needs. We are well on our way to being a mindful school.”
- Mary Woodruff, Principal, Smilie Memorial School
If you want more information on the scientific link between mindfulness education and increased wellbeing, please visit our site - http://www.cml.me/research
So, why do we need your help?
While we have developed and piloted the program, there is still more work to do! We have several schools that are asking for the program, and everyday we receive emails from people around the world who want to access the program online. We want to be able to deliver. Please help us to do that! Here is how we will use the funds:
- We'll add the ability to sign up and pay online
- By supporting us here, you can get the course at a discount rate and help us by giving feedback on the course
- With the feedback we get from our kickstarter.com early adopters, we'll make it a better program
Here's our story.
The Center for Mindful Learning was founded in 2010 by Soryu Forall. Soryu, a dynamic and passionate mindfulness teacher, started his journey in 1994 as a young man in search of resolving the suffering that he saw in the world. He spent over 10 years training in the east and eventually decided to come home and bring back what he had learned. Once back in the US, he spent several years teaching mindfulness to thousands of children and hundreds of teachers, and soon realized that his teaching would have a greater impact on the educational system and the community if he formed an organization that had the capacity to reach a larger population. In close collaboration with renowned teacher Shinzen Young, who is known for his innovative “interactive, algorithmic” approach to teaching mindfulness: (http://www.youtube.com/user/expandcontract) Soryu set about creating an organization that would be able to reach these goals. CML was born out of this partnership with Shinzen and other leading educators in the field.
When we first started at CML, we looked at our staff and the expertise we had: yoga teachers, mindfulness instructors, a software developer and a teaching artist. Together, we had a lot of experience teaching youth. Soryu had most recently been teaching a program he piloted called “Mind the Music,” which was a program for teaching mindfulness to teens through popular music. Two of our staff, Lindsay Foreman and Sofi Dillof, had created The Vermont Community Yoga Project, a program developed to teach empowerment and stress-reduction practices to youth and underserved populations. Lida Winfield had spent the past six years teaching educators how to use dance and theater in the classroom as an instructional tool for academics. This work has brought Lida to hundreds of schools across the country giving her experience of how to integrate an outside program into a school system. And Ted Holtz had more than fifteen years experience developing software products, and had spent much time using modern technology to help engage teens with mindfulness.
We wanted to bring mindfulness to as many youth as possible, but there are only a few of us and we were limited in what we could do. First we had the idea to train educators to teach mindfulness to their students, but we soon realized that teachers have very little time and it takes years to become an effective, competent mindfulness instructor. So instead, we decided to build a software program that could replace the need for years of experience. We didn’t know if it would work, we took the risk, tried it out, and we are so proud of the results! We are so excited about the opportunity to bring this program to the world and would be honored to receive your support!
Where can we find you?
CML is a 501c3 non-profit in Burlington, Vermont that brings together a group of mindfulness, education, and technology professionals.
Soryu Forall designs the curriculum. He has more than 15 years experience teaching and practicing mindfulness as his full-time occupation. soryuforall.budsa.org
Ted Holtz has over 15 years experience in technology startups and software development. www.breathingsoftware.com
Lida Winfield runs creative educational programs for schools. She our expert on what works and doesn't work in the educational system. www.lidawinfield.com
Lindsay Foreman supports our programs in the schools. She brings a caring and patient heart to work everyday. www.cml.me/contact-us-2/teachers/lindsay-foreman
Harrison Heyl teaches mindfulness to youth and adults, and also contributes his experience in business, government and education to this project. http://www.cml.me/contact-us-2-2/teachers/harrison-heyl
Sofi Dillof not only trains and certifies yoga teachers, she has worked with a number of national brands. She's great working on our image and design projects. www.bowdownyoga.com
Is my pledge tax-deductible?
CML is a 501c3 non-profit registered with the IRS. All or part of your contributions may be tax-deductible. Please consult with a qualified tax professional for more details.
Risks and challenges
This biggest obstacle to teaching mindfulness in classrooms is delivering expertise. Mindfulness is easy to do, but hard to teach.
Early on we’d developed training courses for teachers. The teachers had a great time and learned a lot. We even made some money, but we were really disappointed in how few teachers actually felt like they were able to teach well after the classes. We looked at other programs and it seemed similar . . . it’s just hard to give a teacher the experience they need in order to guide their classroom on their own.
So we set about creating a web app that would fill in the gaps. The app gets out of the way at the times a teacher is doing what they’re good at. But in the places where mindfulness expertise is needed, the software shines. The software guides the class, the teacher leads by example and keeps the class organized. The software asks questions in a way that encourages self-trust, and the teacher communicates the relevance of the practice to the rest of the class day.
As teachers have extremely busy schedules, we designed the app work in only 5 minutes a day.
Teachers also have very little time to learn all the subtleties of guiding mindfulness, so we integrated a series of video trainings into the course itself. This way a teacher can start immediately with no experience, and learn as the students learn. At the end of the semester-long course, the teacher should have the skills they need to guide the class on their own. Or, if they like, they can continue to use the web app to guide the class.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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