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A Mindful Education

By Drew Nucci, Math Teacher, Director of EE Ford Summer Teachers’ Colloquium

7th gr mlkThe Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.  Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” Thinking intensively and critically is definitely at the core of a Prep education. Active discourse is at the center of pedagogy, but recently, we have placed greater and greater emphasis on the development of character as a necessary accompaniment to intellect. A poignant example of this commitment is the redesign of Seventh Grade TAP, our school-wide service learning program.

I once heard that you have to have yourself before you give yourself away. We don’t want to foster just service in TAP, but mindful service. Seventh grade TAP is about building mindfulness and community. Each TAP session is broken into two parts. In the one part, students perform service on campus, taking care of their space with diligence, patience, and a mind for detail. They clean all of the rooms on campus as well as doing all of the recycling each week. In the other half of TAP, however, students have an actual class that is focused on Character and Community. We have been employing a well-researched curriculum from the Hawn Foundation called Mind-UP. This curriculum teaches students about how their brains work so they can better understand what is happening when they are, as they put it, “not in their right minds.” Through weekly meditation techniques and group discussions, the students begin to understand that they have more control over their states of mind than they had previously thought. They discuss strategies for pro-social behaviors as well as what to do when things go wrong with friends, with family, even with teachers.

From these conversations and the realizations that inevitably follow, the students start to extrapolate their personal and social values into social justice arenas. In the second semester, students will turn this mindfulness practice and positive social dynamic outward to the Santa Fe community. They will fundraise in the Terry Fox Run and be introduced in January and February to some of Santa Fe’s non-profit organizations. Then, the seventh grade teachers will help students design an Independent Service Project that they can perform in the fourth quarter. So, in one year, students go from being strangers in a foreign land to binding together in community and mindfulness, and then taking that momentum out into the world for the betterment of themselves and society. Giving with mindfulness.