Mindfulness gives kids in isolated communities the tools they need
- A total of 8 regional schools in Gippsland will share and implement mindfulness learning
- More than 270 students will benefit from the program
MELBOURNE, 13 JUNE 2019
Damian Lappin is principal, teacher and all-round handyman at Loch Sport Primary School. He has to be, with just 16 students, Loch Sport is one of the smallest schools in Victoria.
But size hasn’t stopped Loch Sport Primary School from joining dozens of other schools around Australia, in benefitting from a mindfulness program that aims to improve the long-term mental health of students.
The school, based in Gippsland, Victoria, has been selected by not-for-profit education and mindfulness organisation Smiling Mind as the latest beneficiary of an opportunity that offers the mindfulness program to Australian schools for free.
The offer has been made possible by a three-year charitable partnership between Smiling Mind and Frasers Property Australia. Now in its second year, the charitable partnership aims to reach 90 schools and bring the benefits of mindfulness to an extra 75,000 Australian children.
At Loch Sport, the program will reach far beyond the tiny town on the Gippsland Lakes. Loch Sport Primary School will join seven other small schools in the region, who will come together for the mindfulness training and to provide ongoing support to each other. Mr Lappin says combined more than 270 students will benefit from Airly, Bundalaguah, Cobains, Cowwarr, Nambrok-Denison, Seaspray and Wurruk primary schools as well as Loch Sport.
“This is a great opportunity for us all to get the same message,” Mr Lappin says. “It will make it easier for us all to get together for different activities in the future, to have a common language and understanding and it will also help us plan for richer activities.”
Mr Lappin says tools such as mindfulness for mental health were important in small, isolated communities.
“One of the biggest challenges for our kids is the isolation, there aren’t many things for the kids to do in the community, so we are always looking for opportunities. Being a small school, there is also nowhere to hide – if you are having a bad day, everyone knows about it.
“Mindfulness can help them adjust their focus when they need to, to give them a gap between the action and the reaction. Embedding that skill is a life skill, not just for school.”
Mr Lappin says teachers in regional areas often miss out on professional development because of their location. “We have to bring everything in that we need and that’s often hard to do.”
Smiling Mind Chief Executive Officer Dr Addie Wootten says bringing the benefits of mindfulness to all communities, regardless of where they are, is important.
“Working with students in particular is so important so they can start forming healthy habits early in life, as well as learning to build awareness and resilience” Dr Wootten says.
“With one in four secondary students and one in seven primary students suffering from a diagnosed mental illness it’s vital that we, as a community, do everything we can to take a proactive approach to preventing this health issue into the future.”
“We are making real progress reaching into more and more Australian communities.”
So far, the charitable partnership has allowed Smiling Mind to reach an extra 22,100 school children and more than 1,000 teachers through participation in training workshops. Globally the guided meditations and mindfulness activities available via the Smiling Mind app is reaching 1.8 million students.
Dr Wootten says some of the benefits of introducing mindfulness into schools can include:
- Managing stress
- Developing emotional intelligence
- Enhancing creativity
- Enhancing decision making and problem-solving skills
- A sense of calm, clarity and contentment
Dr Wootten says that teachers, and parents, are positively impacted by students enrolling in the program.
“Teachers learn the skills they need to guide their students through the program and they can apply the techniques to manage their own stress. We also conduct a workshop for parents in each of the school communities we work in so that they can learn about mindfulness, support their children and also learn the techniques themselves,” says Dr Wootten.
Dr Wootten says the program, via the Smiling Mind app, is tailored to each year level and teachers receive support from the organisation over the whole school year to help introduce mindfulness into the classroom.
Rod Fehring, Chief Executive Officer of Frasers Property Australia, says Frasers Property not only looks at the physical environment people want to live in but all the other factors such as lifestyle, physical and mental health that contribute to overall wellbeing.
Frasers Property’s donation of $700,000 over three years – provided via the Frasers Property Foundation – enables Smiling Mind to offer the Smiling Mind professional learning program to educators at schools each year over the three-year partnership. In 2018 Smiling Mind signed on 23 schools through the partnership. Loch Sport Primary School is one of 30 schools expected to benefit this year.
“Our charitable partnership with Smiling Mind is a great opportunity for Frasers Property to make a contribution to creating healthy communities in Australia and it supports our goal of creating communities where people feel truly connected. This is one way we can make a positive long-term impact on children,” says Mr Fehring.
To find out more about how to register your school, visit: info.smilingmind.com.au/frasersprogram.