You’re never too young to practice mindfulness. Just ask volunteer Andrew Nance, who has been teaching students at Dr. Charles Drew College Preparatory Academy (k-5), McKinley Elementary School and Herbert Hoover Middle School.
He begins with about a minute of focus time — or maybe less, like 30 seconds — and students work up to practicing about two minutes of mindfulness throughout his course.
“We’ll do games,” Andrew explained. “I give them a nice analogy: your mind is like a puppy. It likes to wander around. It likes to wander to the future. It likes to dig up the past. And our job as the owner of the mind is to kind of get it to heel to the present moment.”
It’s a great analogy for the students and adults working with them, like Andrew and their teachers.
“They can say, ‘Oh, my puppy mind is wandering again.’ Or I can say that to them,” Andrew explained. “It’s about noticing all that we can be aware of as humans. We do mindful listening, so let’s go outside this room. What do we hear? We hear kids. We hear a fan. We hear some strange noise over there. And just notice how you can turn up those skills at any moment if we want to.”
Students learn to be “in the moment,” and for many this is the only time they are taught to be aware of the chatter and turmoil that may fill their minds and lives. Studies show that most students, especially those with difficult home lives, crave these 20 minutes of mindfulness instruction, where they learn self-regulation, reflection and other forms of social emotional learning.
Stacy Gonzalez, a transitional kindergarten teacher at Charles Drew, where Andrew has been teaching, told him, “I strongly feel that you are teaching them skills that could one day save their lives.”
Now Andrew’s hoping to expand this practice for kindergarten through fifth-grade students at Dr. Charles Drew College Prep Academy. We’re looking for Education Fund volunteers who have a background in meditation and are interested in adding a mindfulness session to their work during the school year. (It’s okay if your regular volunteer work isn’t at Charles Drew.) Andrew will offer a three-hour training class early in the fall semester based on the curriculum he is using and conduct a follow-up session later in the semester. If you’re interested, email Tom Laursen, our Senior Coordinator of Public Engagement at: tlaursen @ sfedfund.org