After discovering mindfulness and meditation in her personal life, Heather Bizewski, a science teacher at Mepham High School, proposed a course to pass along its educational benefits to interested students.
“I experienced many benefits from developing mindfulness practices,” she said. “By using mindfulness and meditation practices, I was able to identify the limiting beliefs that I had about certain aspects of life.”
Once approved by the district’s curriculum committee in fall 2018, Bizewski and fellow teachers Brook Stehl, also from Mepham and Dawn Sullivan from Kennedy High School, wrote the course curriculum for the Scientific Basis of Mindfulness course.
“I began noticing when my students vocalized their limiting beliefs, for example I have heard many students say, ‘I can't do math,” she added. “When a person makes a statement like that, they are shutting down the opportunity to learn. I wanted to find a way to get my students to understand how they can overcome those limiting beliefs.”
The course focuses on the science behind mindfulness practices. They teach students about the structure and function of their brains and how incorporating mindfulness practices can potentially “rewire” your brain in positive ways.
“So far, some of the concepts we have studied include genetic traits and their influence on personality development and negativity bias, which shows how our brains are hardwired to look for the ‘dangers’ in our surroundings which leads to focusing mostly on the negative in situations,” Bizewski explained.
Mepham High School senior Amanda Green chose this course as a follow up to AP psychology, as her future career plans include perusing a degree in that field.
“Even from these few weeks in mindfulness and meditation, I can see a difference in myself,” she noted. “I have learned to let the negative things go and not to let them ruin my day. I feel overall happier and better prepared to deal with a bad situation.”
In addition to the scientific concepts that they study, the class also puts mindfulness into practice by using guided meditations and breathing techniques. They also spend time learning about and creating self-soothing tools for students to use outside of the classroom such as gratitude journals, stress balls and mala “worry beads” beads.
“It is my hope that through this course students will be able to develop a growth mindset and create a ‘toolbox’ of coping strategies for the stressors they experience in their lives,” Bizewski added.