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Being mindful may make kids more successful

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What does mindfulness look like in a school? It's like when your teacher used to tell you to put your head down for quiet time- taken to a whole, new level.

"Mindfulness is the ability to pay attention in the present moment non-judgementally," says Sarah Sullivan, of the Crim's mindfulness program. Intitially designed for adults, the Crim put pilot classes in several flint schools.

"When the water crisis hit, we realized mindfulness could be a mitigation to the impact of lead. and so we felt it was imperitive to expand district-wide. And, at the request of the superintendant, we were able to do that. And so last year, we piolted in all 11 flint community schools," Sullivan says.

Flint's Northwestern High School had the second highest participation rate last year, says principal Kelly Fields, "It's been a really beautiful experience for the young people in this community to take part in."

Fields believes one reason her students embraced the idea so readily, is because she, in a way, introduced the concept to students two years prior.

"I was just like, 'look, kids need to do yoga,'" Fields says, "And so I started working with the football coach and went in and started working with them. And so we already had some kids who were aware of it."

The Crim supplies a software package, called InterExplorer, that takes kids through guided meditation and teaches breathing techniques, along with other mindfulness tools.

"Students and staff reporting that they are feeling a stronger ability to focus, to pay attention, to deal with stress in healthy ways," Sullivan tells me.

The practice of mindfulness is believed to reduce stress and promote mental well-being, something Fields believes can benefit every child, "They need to have exercises and opportunities to understand how to come back to breath, how to be centered, how to visualize themselves walking away from conflict, how to visualize themselves doing well on a test."

But does it make a difference in kids' school performance?

Fields says early data suggests it might, "The highest performing teacher, as far as using mindfulness, she logged more minutes than anyone else in the district; and her students- the class that recieved that mindfulness practice- had some of the highest scores academically in our school."

The district expects to gather more data this year, to get a true picture of how well "living in the now" will lead to successful futures.

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