Mindfulness Matters: D-E 360° Enrichment Session Challenges, Engages Students and Parents

A Mindfulness Forum Enrichment Session sponsored by D-E 360° was held in early March. “Offering a special session for both students and parents on mindfulness is a great example of how we can follow through on our school mission of ’life-long learning’—by paying attention to a person’s complete mindset,” notes Dr. Sherronda Brown, program director of D-E 360°.

The event, held at the Hajjar STEM Center, provided an introduction to mindfulness—what it is and some of the basic science around how it benefits the brain and body. Approximately 20 students from both Middle and Upper School grades, together with their parents, were able to choose from several workshops and also heard from alumnus Zach Hodges ’11 about how mindfulness can be used as a tool for engaging in social justice. A recent graduate of Columbia University, Zach earned a degree in religious studies and describes himself as “passionate about the intersections of education, peace activism, and social justice.” He is currently working part-time as an apprentice for NYC-based psychotherapist and meditation teacher Loch Kelly, who is an emerging voice in modernizing meditation practices for secular audiences.

Student sessions included Mindfulness for Stress & Anxiety; Mindful Movement; Mindful Communication; Mindfulness for Positive Mindset; and Mindfulness and Attention. The Mindful Communication session featured role-playing exercises centered on dealing with people who can cause tension and creating real- life, practical strategies for dealing with peer pressure and anxiety— whether prompted by stress from academics, from activities, from friends, or even from family. Dr. Brown notes, “Zach’s theories around ’engagement with compassion’ were also an exciting springboard for students’ discussion on how people can actually make positive change in the world, when they arrive at problems from a place of peace, calm, and empathy, as opposed to tension and strife.” Earlier this year Zach led a popular, eight-week-long “Practicing Peace” workshop for Upper School students, which developed students’ experiences with activism through a variety of disciplines.

Response to the parent participant sessions was “extremely and unexpectedly very positive,” according to Dr. Brown. The adult-targeted sessions included Mindfulness and Attention: Helping Adolescents Learn to Sustain Attention; and Mindfulness and Self-Care: Caring for Yourself so You Can Care for Them. Dr. Brown says that parent participants were challenged to discuss how they often spend so much time and energy caring for our children that they put themselves last. “The session covered the fact that without ’recharging’ their own batteries, parents are less energized for their family, and a catch-22 can ensue,” she says.

The “aha moment” for parents occurred when session facilitator Alan Brown reminded everyone of typical airplane pre-flight safety instructions. “Recall that travelers are always informed to place an oxygen mask on themselves first, prior to assisting their loved ones with their masks,” notes Dr. Brown. “Suffice it to say, the session helped to cover the fact that it’s useful to initially try to best care for oneself before most effectively caring for others.”

Editor’s Note: The D-E 360° Program will offer a “Mindfulness Retreat” this summer as part of its Deep Dive: Immersive program offerings for students in grades 7–11. For details visit de360.d-e.org. Questions about the “Mindfulness Retreat” or D-E 360° can be directed by email to: browns@d-e.org.

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