On the outskirts of Daylesford stands a primary school that embraces mindfulness as a way to navigate the uncertainty of a COVID future.
There’s no denying it, the last year for most has been a rollercoaster. Wide spread lockdowns, job losses, business closures and relentless uncertainty has taken its toll on people’s wellbeing.
But if you took a walk around The Daylesford Dharma School these days, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s somehow bypassed them. Kids, parents and teachers seem unphased by events of the last year. Why? Well it’s built into the DNA of the school, where the standard Australian Curriculum is merged with Buddhist philosophy to teach that “Change is certain” and everything is connected. Teachers, parents and students share in open conversations about challenges, opportunities, developing resilience and positive communication to navigate these trying times.
Each morning, as the school bell rings- the kids stop what they are doing to place their hands on their hearts, slow their breathing and bring their attention back to the task at hand, learning by experience.
Each week the school is guided by an awareness theme. This week’s theme is Deep Listening and Loving Speech. Students learn the difference between listening and hearing, and how to tap into their own feelings through a series of activities including role play and short guided meditations.
According to recent research, kids who use mindfulness have better emotional regulation, better academic performance, lower depression and anxiety scores than kids who don’t.
It was noticeable when the first lockdown happened that having a mindfulness practice for the kids was really important. It brought them together each morning and set the pace for each day. From the first Zoom mindfulness session it was clear that the teachers were still doing their morning meditation practice together and then bringing a calm focus into remote classes.
While the research supports the benefits of mindfulness, the Principal, Jennifer Willis, understands some hesitancy parents may have about it being taught in schools.
“We often go through times when new practices become ‘buzzwords’ or seem like passing trends. I understand that there has been a lot of attention on mindfulness that may leave some people feeling a bit sceptical. I think when it comes to mindfulness, if we look beyond labels to the rich history of the practice we realise that, when taught to children in school with the goal of developing a life-long habit of being present, engaged, aware and compassionate, we are offering them a gift that many of us as adults are now seeking to embrace ourselves in this ever busy world”.
Daylesford Dharma School will be running an Information Night on Wednesday 9th June, 7-8 pm and an Open Day on Thursday 10th June 9.30- 11am.
Further information, contact the principal, Jennifer Willis (email: firstname.lastname@example.org, phone: 03 5348 3112).
Clare Spencer is a parent whose children attend the Daylesford Dharma School.