Educated Minds

Educators and administrators from public schools are looking for new and innovative forms of teaching that are within reach, and address the challenges particular to schools with limited resources in low-income neighborhoods. As Principal Franklin sits behind her desk at Bret Hart Elementary, in San Francisco CA, she reflects upon what she believes her students need most to succeed, and it comes down to one simple, yet powerful word, "Love".

EDUCATED MINDS follows the lives of a handful of 5th grade students along with their committed and progressive thinking teacher, Mr. Ben. With the school year moving forward, a community-based organization called Mindful Schools located in Oakland, California, introduces a set of powerful secular tools to the class designed to aid and enhance their learning experience: "We use a simple but powerful technique called mindfulness to teach children how to focus, manage their emotions, handle their stress, and resolve conflicts. Instead of simply telling children to do these things, we show children how - through direct experience. It allows children to make wiser decisions in the heat of the moment, rather than only in retrospect." Mr. Ben and his students agree to be a part of the process, and their journey begins with the question, "What is mindfulness practice?" As mindfulness practice becomes part of their weekly routine, we observe the ways in which the class and Mr. Ben adjust to this new learning tool, how they identify with it, and the ways in which it can be positively applied to other aspects of their lives long after Mindful Schools has left the classroom.

EDUCATED MINDS seeks to raise awareness about the practice of mindfulness, and to encourage and foster support so that more under-resourced public schools can benefit from such programs.

 

This discussion guide serves as a framework to foster dialogue on how mindfulness practices can benefit schools and communities. 
Themes

  • The health benefits of mindfulness practice.
  • The commitment that educators have to their student's success.
  • The impact of stress in learning environments.
  • The celebration of children's desire to learn, and the support they receive from parents, teachers, administrators, community outreach programs, and one another.

Discussion Questions

In the film, Megan says, " When students are faced with stressful trauma, mindfulness can bring some ease around that situation."

  • What does she mean by this?
  • What is secular mindfulness practice?
  • What is the goal of Mindful Schools?

As mindfulness practice is introduced to the classroom:

  • How did the students respond to the mindfulness training?
  • How does Rayquan describe being mindful by the end of the film?
  • How did Mr. Ben respond to it?
  • What three words would you use to describe their experience with mindfulness practice?

According to the 2000 U.S. census, residents of Bayview Hunters Point (where the school is located) possesses one of the highest rates of poverty in San Francisco, with 30% of families earning less than $10,000 per year, and a median household income of $29,640 annually.

  • In the midst of these inequities, why is it so important that programs like Mindful Schools be available to this community?
  • What kinds of stressors do students from low-income schools face?
  • What kinds of challenges to educators face?

At the end of the film, Mr. Ben says, "Mindfulness practice has become a daily part of our routine, and the kids are beginning to use the word in their everyday language."

  • What other kinds of setting could this practice also have benefits?
  • How might you benefit from mindfulness practice?
  • What reservations may you have?

Some of the teachers at Bret Hart were concerned the program would take away from class time.

  • What was Mr. Ben's response?
  • What could be other challenges?
  • What are way those challenges could be addressed?
  • What would you want to know if you were considering supporting such a program in public schools?

Ultimately public schools need more support, on a broader scale what kinds of resources and policies could create an equitable educational system? What other kinds of resources or elements of education do you feel children are lacking in public schools today? 

 

Partner Organizations

EDUCATED MINDS was made in partnership with the following community organizations:

  • Mindful Schools: Mindful Schools is an organization comprised of teachers and practitioners of mindfulness practice, a set of techniques that strives to instill and improve concentration, preventing and resolving conflict, and other mental aspects of the mind. Mindful Schools primarily works with children in the K-5 age range, which include approximately 8,500 students in 34 schools concentrated mostly in Oakland, CA and Alameda County. Their current mission is to teach these children mindfulness practice as a preventative measure against stress and conflict, and also as a means of preparation for better study habits and awareness. Approximately 66% of the schools and children Mindful Schools work with are considered to be socioeconomically disadvantaged. They work with schoolteachers and other programs such as UCSF's Healthy Environments and Response to Trauma in Schools (HEARTS) mental health program in order to facilitate mindfulness practice in schoolrooms. Mindful Schools intends to expand to other parts of the Bay Area, with the hopeful vision that someday mindfulness will become compulsory curriculum in addition to traditional areas of K-5 education in the Bay Area. The Mindful Schools program typically consists of an 8 week curriculum, teaching classrooms two 15 minute sessions twice a week, with 5 additional minutes devoted to journal keeping to track students' personal progress. Mindful Schools stresses its secularism and maintains no affiliation with any religious groups.

 

  • Affiliate Program: UCSF's Healthy Environments and Response to Trauma in Schools (HEARTS): UCSF HEARTS is a project within Child and Adolescent Services, Dept. of Psychiatry, UCSF-San Francisco General Hospital. "Children who have been traumatized through family violence, maltreatment, physical injury or exposure to community violence often develop emotional, behavioral, cognitive, and relationship difficulties that can make it more challenging for them to learn and function well in school." The main goal of UCSF HEARTS is to create school environments that are more trauma-informed and supportive of the needs of traumatized children, so that all children, including those who have experienced trauma, can learn in their classrooms and be more successful members of their school communities. UCSF HEARTS has been working closely and collaboratively with SFUSD in the development, implementation, and evaluation of the project. UCSF HEARTS is also collaborating with Mindful Schools, integrating both organizations' expertise to think systematically about how mindfulness-based interventions can help to alleviate the suffering in children and school staff caused by chronic trauma and stress, as well as to bring these interventions to some of San Francisco's most under-resourced, over-stressed public schools.
  • Participating School: Bret Harte Elementary, San Francisco: At Bret Harte Elementary we are committed to providing an environment where every student achieves to their fullest potential. Each and every Bret Harte student is taught to learn without limit. As a school, we develop and articulate programs and partnerships that create a learning community characterized by high academic and social expectations.
    (415) 330-1520

 

Facts & Resources

Facts

  • Bret Harte Elementary is nestled in the Bayview Hunter's Point district, located in the Southeast region of San Francisco, where the poverty rates are the highest in the city and has the highest infant immortality rates in California. (www.NCTAF.org).
  • In 2009, Michelle Obama visited Bret Harte Elementary to celebrate a new mural on the playground, which was created by students at Bret Harte and their supportive community.
  • According to the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, 46% of new teachers in America leave the profession within five years.
  • "Mindful schools has successfully used a scientifically proven technique called mindfulness to teach concentration, attention, conflict resolution, and empathy to over 11,000 children and 500 teachers in 41 schools, 71% of which serve low-income children." (Mindful Schools)
  • "Numerous studies have shown that mindfulness is a powerful tool for combating multiple mental and physical problems and disorders, for example, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Mood and Anxiety Disorders." (Mindful Schools)
  • "Scientists are discovering that helping clients shift their neuro-chemical responses in the brain from the fight-or-flight response of cortisol to the calm-and-connect response of oxytocin primes the brain to alter the ways neural networks process emotions, thoughts, memories, and feelings." (www.lindagraham-mft.com)
  • As of the year 2008, the school employs about 15 certified staff members, one of which is the principal, and the other 14 being schoolroom teachers. The school profile report notes that the school employs no official counselors, resource teachers, or librarians as of the Fall 2008 semester.

 

Resources 

      General Resources

       

      Meet the Filmmakers

      TIMOTHY GEE is a cinema major at San Francisco State University. He has a strong interest in issues of social justice, and is interested in the role documentary film and the media at large can play in addressing social inequalities faced by oppressed minority groups throughout the world. In addition to making documentary films and hoping to become a director of photography for feature films, Timothy dreams of shooting underwater photography of endangered coral reefs to publicize their importance to the public. He also wants to witness the Golden State Warriors and the San Jose Sharks win championships, a feat his beloved San Francisco Giants had accomplished during the 2010 season.  

       

      TUANA HUNT is inspired to create through meaningful design and be of service for optimal living and earned a degree in Holistic Health, Theatre Arts (costuming), social justice, and film making at SFSU. Her tools include design, performance, production, and now film making. In her free time she facilitates an urban girl's group, explores mediums for storytelling, dance, creative collaborating with others, plucks at a harp, and likes playing in the dirt. "Insights into the nature of the mind, how it influences us, and where it lives, offer an opportunity for us to fully realize our true powers. An awareness of this knowledge allows us to actively participate in the unfolding of our individual lives as well as contribute to the evolution of our collective world." ~ Bruce Lipton

          NICOLE LUCERO's dream is to create meaningful films that will inspire positive change in the world. Nicole was born and raised in San Diego, California and her experience growing up so close to the border inspired her to explore the roots of poverty and eventually led her to become an activist for the rights of undocumented people. Through applying her knowledge of both Cinema and Raza Studies to filmmaking, she believes that she will be able to be a voice for oppressed and marginalized communities and give life to their stories on film. Nicole plans on entering a graduate program in Ethnic Studies.

           

          HEATHER RUDOLPH lives in San Francisco, CA. This is her first time working with the medium of documentary film, seeking to bridge her background in Sociology to the art form. She enjoys art, food, travel, and fashion. "People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within." ~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

            

            ANTHONY SABATINO has always had a passion for moviemaking. At San Francisco State University, Anthony took on not only student films, but also music videos and independent films. Recently, writing screenplays, lighting or gaffing, acting, and directing short films are his strong points of the production process. Documentary filmmaking is now an interest that has become a knowledgeable and pursuable path for Anthony, since being involved with the Documentary for Social Justice and Health class at SFSU.

             

            *The information on these pages is provided by the student film makers and does not represent an endorsement or verification of statements from the Health Equity Institute