Anxiety and stress are rampant in high schools across the country, and here on Maui a group of high school seniors is looking for a solution. When the senior class at Hawaii Technology Academy was asked to create a project that included writing a grant proposal, the teens developed a mindfulness project that includes a dedicated space for meditation and a biofeedback station to help students learn how to monitor and recenter their emotions and energy.
HTA Maui high school seniors identified, wrote, and submitted the grant proposal as part of their expository writing class. The goal of their project – called MindfulNEST – was to create a safe space for students to decompress from the over-stimulation and stresses of school and life by using mindfulness practices. Research shows that such practices support students’ ability to improve personally and academically, as well as provide schools with an alternative approach to punitive interventions.
As a result of the proposal, Hawaii Technology Academy, the state’s largest public charter school, was awarded a national grant for its Maui Campus “to nurture mindfulness practices during the school day.”
“As a student, I believe this project is needed to support mindful practices for students to come back to their ‘true self,’” said Janae Wong, one of the students who wrote the grant. “Students will be able to better engage with others and accomplish tasks when they’re calm and have had the space to release anything that’s impacting them.”
The grant will also help train faculty to use restorative justice practices for both education and discipline, to further cultivate a supportive school environment where students learn critical life skills as they develop academically.
Educator Jenn Fordyce said it is important for her senior students to learn about how adults use writing in real-life situations. “I know grant proposals are required across a wide variety of careers,” said Fordyce. “They can also use these writing skills to seek funding for their own educations or creative projects after graduation. Having students decide the need and the solution before seeking funding helped them feel invested in the project and the quality of their work.”
The MindfulNEST project is 100 percent student-led, and is supported by school administrators. In addition to the dedicated meditation space and biofeedback station, the MindfulNEST will feature a six-person station with wireless headsets that allows students to tune into meditation or mindfulness recordings, meditation floor pillows, and fidget items.
The MindfulNEST project was made possible by a grant from Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Image courtesy HTA