We spent two wonderful days at Gorse Hill Primary School delivering mindfulness to children, parents, and staff. We began each session by introducing ‘Stepping out of Autopilot’ and looking at something with a ‘Beginner’s Mind’. We wrapped Maltesers in foil and asked the children to examine this object very closely before allowing them to eat it. We asked them to pretend they were aliens who had never seen this strange shiny object before. Looking at something from the beginner’s mind is something that children do automatically as they discover new things, but as children grow they begin to lose the curiosity around things we see in every-day life.
The younger children were really interested in the crinkling sound of the silver paper as they examined the object. They came up with lots of lovely vocabulary to describe it such as crinkly, crackly, shiny, sphere shape, and smooth chocolate. They immediately began to make predictions of what may be inside the foil such as a pebble or a marble. The older children commented on things they didn’t expect such as the smoothness of the chocolate in the mouth and the way the Malteser dissolved on the tongue. One child said, “Normally when I eat chocolate I don’t notice the smooth texture because I eat it so quickly”.
We introduced listening to sounds to the younger children by playing a few musical instruments. We asked them to close their eyes as they were transported away from automatic pilot and were able to focus entirely on the sounds they could hear. They were eager to tell us what the sound of each instrument reminded them of, such as rain falling on a roof, a frog croaking and a snake rattling. They used really interesting vocabulary to describe what they heard. They enjoyed sitting in stillness and tried very hard to keep their eyes closed!
The older children were introduced to a ‘Noticing Distraction’ meditation. The feedback from this was really encouraging. One pupil, at the beginning of the session, had difficulty sitting still and had called out many times. After this meditation, she told us that she was now aware of how busy her mind had been and was able to calm this internal chatter by focusing on the breath. The transformation in that one session was quite remarkable.
We ended each session with a short, seated body scan. The children told us they didn’t usually notice how their clothing and shoes felt in contact with their skin. They had never thought about what it felt like to sit in a chair. They didn’t realise they could feel their feet on the floor and noticed lots of different sensations in the body. Most of all, they felt totally relaxed and said it had taken their worries away.
At the end of the day one, we delivered an introductory session to parents, who were interested in what mindfulness was all about and also wanted to work with their children on mindful activities. At the end of day two, we delivered an introductory session to the staff, who said they hoped to continue with the mindful practices as they thought it would help to reduce their stress levels.
We would like to thank Kirsty Chrysler, Deputy Head, for organising, and inviting us in to deliver, the two wonderful mindful days. We received really nice feedback from staff and children about the whole experience.