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National organizations to provide mindfulness training in Flint schools

FLINT, MI -- Mindfulness trainers from across the country will visit Flint Tuesday, Nov. 8, in an effort to help the city's students control the behavioral effects of lead exposure.

Teachers at Flint Community Schools will receive mindfulness training from two CEOs and a co-founder of three national organizations on Tuesday while students are off for Election Day. 

Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment, intentionally and without judgement. It is not associated with any religion or belief system, according to Christina Ferris, development director for the Crim Fitness Foundation, which coordinates the training.

Teachers will then use their training to help students in their classroom focus, deal with problems more effectively, and make choices on how to respond to difficult situations instead of just reacting, Ferris said.

"With the water crisis hitting and more kids affected by lead exposure - lead exposure affects the prefrontal cortex of the brain, and that's the part that controls reasoning," she said. "So that means more behavioral issues and ADHD. Mindfulness training gives them the ability to focus and concentrate, and it actually helps mitigate some of the effects of the lead."

Schools in other communities that started using mindfulness training saw fewer referrals to the principal's office and fewer expulsions, according to Ferris.

"Kids learn how to deal with peers and respond and react to stressful situations better," she said.

The Crim's team of programming partners include:

  • The Hawn Foundation, founded by actress Goldie Hawn, who is expected to make an appearance at the training session Tuesday, either in person or by video. The MindUP program created by the Hawn Foundation consists of 15 lessons "brought to life by a teacher in the classroom, (and) each lesson offers students new mindful strategies that can increase self-control, focus, empathy and optimism," according to the foundation's website.
  • Inner Explorer, a program that aims to create a daily practice of at least 10 mindful minutes to help children focus and reduce behavior issues.
  • YogaEd, a group that created a yoga curriculum for schools to give young students the "tools to effectively approach life challenges," according to its website. Ferris said it's like a "plug and play" yoga program that uses videos for a guided yoga program designed specifically for students in a classroom setting.
  • Research efforts in the mindfulness training are coordinated by Grace Bullock, Ferris said, author of "Mindful Relationships: Seven Skills for Success - Integrating the Science of Mind, Body & Brain."

    The Crim Fitness Foundation has provided mindfulness training to teachers and students for the last four years, but never before have representatives from national programs come to the city to do a training workshop, Ferris said.

    "It's really important work on so many different levels. We can assess what kind of an impact this is making over time and begin to share that with other communities that might have similar issues," Ferris said.