School District 71 is looking to a new mindfulness program to help students handle the stress of the classroom and life in general.
The program is called Inner Explorer and is described as an “evidence-based mindfulness program for school communities.” Assistant superintendent Geoff Manning told schools trustees at their Oct. 26 board meeting that some schools have been working with IT already, but it will be available for all now.
“This is the first time we’ll have every school participating,” he said.
The item had not been on the agenda as the district only just lined up the arrangement. Manning said the program can be tailored for students at all grade levels through the school district.
“It’ll fit the broad range of all students,” he said.
He also said it had been proven to improve students’ academic performance and also fits in with the school district’s emphasis on mental health in its strategic plan.
On its website, Inner Explorer is described as an audio-guided mindfulness program and one of the few programs formatted on mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), which has been researched for almost 40 years. It provides daily practice that moves from concrete to more abstract concepts. It is aimed at building skills such as attention, self-awareness and emotional regulation. Daily practice should yield about 30 hours of mental health training a year. Among its attributes, the program is designed to be easy to implement, with no curriculum, preparation or planning, and no cause any stigma as classes practise together.
Inner Explorer says its program has been used in more than 7,000 schools for more than 2.2 million students to provide more than 18 million “mindful” minutes. Proponents have cited the program’s benefits of helping students with anxiety, depression, addiction, stress and other mental health conditions. Mindfulness is often defined as the ability to be fully present or aware. It is sometimes associated with Buddhism, though advocates say the two are not always associated. The practice has opponents though. For example, a 2018 Newsweek article noted conservative Christian groups in the U.S. were opposing what they saw as “forced Buddhist meditation” in school environments.