Guest blog post by René Peña-Govea, teacher at San Francisco’s June Jordan School for Equity and team member of the Culture of Mindfulness LIGHT Awards project:

On the first weekend in February this year, most of our team had the pleasure of attending the Bridging the Hearts & Minds of Youth mindfulness conference in San Diego focused on engaging youth in diverse mindfulness experiences. This conference provided us the opportunity not only to learn new practices for ourselves and to do with our students, but also to learn about research on the effects of mindfulness and network with colleagues doing similar work.

Some presentations, such as the keynote by Dr. Angela Grice, “Using Mindfulness-Based Practices in Schools to Cope with Trauma,” added depth to our knowledge of mindfulness as a way of addressing trauma, as well as strategies for differentiating the practice for students of different ages and experiences.  Others, such as the presentation of research posters bolstered our theoretical understanding of the benefits of mindfulness with empirical data; one point in favor of the practice for teachers is that when teacher-training programs incorporate mindfulness, those participating teachers remain in the profession longer. This decreased turnover is beneficial for both teachers and students.

We also learned some practical applications of mindfulness that, while not specifically for high school aged students, could apply both to our own practices and be adapted to fit our students. Team member Lenore Kenny noticed in the “Self-Regulation and Sensory Integration” workshop, that the mindful movement exercises designed for younger children could help our students with ADHD by focusing them on their sensory experiences. She pictures a mindful space where students can go and listen to something, smell lavender oil, or engage in another sensory experience to de-escalate themselves when needed. Likewise, Team Lead Amber Lancaster attended the “WOW Factor” workshop and took away valuable team-building activities that could be used for groups of any age, such as a ro-sham-bo tournament that becomes a whole-group cheering match encouraging the contestants or “take a compliment,” “leave a compliment” exercises that felt like a creative way of envisioning gratitude. René, the author of this post, attended the workshop centered on “El regalo del elefante,” a Spanish children’s book designed to teach mindfulness practices along with a narrative, and learned activities that could also be used with children of all ages and language abilities.

Thank you so much to the LIGHT Awards for allowing us to fully engage in our mindful professional development. We enjoyed ourselves and learned a lot that we will take back to our own practices and those we teach our students.  Here is a photo of us after sailing the beautiful Marina Bay!


Mindfulness Team members at conference