MindUP has been a massive endeavor for you and your foundation. What is it that motivated you to take on this project?
It’s something I had been thinking about for many years: How do we bring our children back to a sense of well-being? When we look at the dropout rates, the violence in schools and bullying, it’s time for us all to ask: How do we give our children a sense of hope? I really wanted to help in any way I could. I wanted to give teachers some new tools they could use in the classsroom.
The program aims to teach children self-regulation—how to manage their emotions and stress.
The children learn about mindfulness, to think about how they think. They spend time doing meaningful acts of kindness, and they have daily brain breaks that teach them to focus their minds.
What is a brain break, and why do you feel it is so important to learning?
Brain breaks improve your ability to focus. Three or four times a day, you take two minutes to get quiet and follow your breathing. You relax your body. You relax everything. When you quiet down the emotions and noise in the center part of your brain, the prefrontal cortex lights up. This is where executive function takes place. This is the part of your brain that really retains information, remembers, innovates, and creates.
What would you say to teachers who explain the curriculum and their school day are already packed.
I know teachers have way, way too much to do. You bet I do. Between the testing and other stresses. MindUP is not something that’s going to take all of your time and all of your effort. This is going to improve kids’ focus and energy and help teachers build classroom community.
MindUP is now used in the U.S., Canada, Britain, and even Venezuela.
I’m so proud of the MindUP program. Our research is exciting, and there’s more to do. Our first study showed that students using the program were more optimistic and did better in the classroom. Our children really were supporting one another for the first time. The aggression and bullying went down on the playground.
I am so grateful to the teachers who have shared this path with us. After mothers, teachers have the most important job in the world. How could we live without you?