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Bringing mindfulness to class

Young girl sits meditatively with eyes closed.

OBSERVER STAFF REPORT

The Champlain Valley School District is making mindfulness practice a regular part of classrooms through a donation from Project HOePpnEr.

The donation supports a district-wide subscription to Inner Explorer for all students, teachers and families in the district.

Inner Explorer offers daily audio-guided mindfulness practice to give teachers and students the opportunity to practice together and encourage families to practice with their children.

The 5-10-minute sessions guide students through breathing and relaxation exercises, awareness of senses, use of thought and developing compassion.

Sue and Joe Hoeppner established Project Hoeppner after their 17-year-old son Paul’s death by suicide.

“Initially, our goal was to prevent teen suicide by encouraging teens to ask for help,” the Hoeppner’s said in a news release. “Unfortunately one of the things we realized is that help is hard to find. As we find ourselves further removed from Paul’s death, we realize that preventing teen suicide is more than identifying and addressing the crisis. It’s providing tools, teaching strategies and creating habits that kids can access their whole lives.

“We see Inner Explorer as an important part of an overall strategy to promote health and wellness for kids. We are excited to provide Inner Explorer to the Champlain Valley School District and look forward to expanding it to other Vermont schools.”

Local schools are beginning to implement Inner Explorer this spring, with a goal of full use in all schools, kindergarten through 12th grade, next fall.

“I am thrilled that we have access to Inner Explorer,” said Rachel Petraska, counselor for the school district’s Virtual Learning Academy. “Inner Explorer introduces students to the practice of selfcare, an important skill needed in life. It supports students in learning self-regulation skills, practicing mindfulness and supporting their overall mental wellbeing.

“(This) is a true gift to our whole educational community.”

Families in the school district will have access to the program for home use on weekends, over the summer and on holiday breaks.

“We know that stress and anxiety have increased over the past year,” said the school district’s director of integrated wellness, Tony Moulton. “The practice of mindfulness, when offered and applied in a structured, easily accessible format like Inner Explorer, has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety.

This tool in the hands of our amazing teachers, educators, students and families can help teach emotional regulation skills and build resilience. We are so grateful to the Hoeppners for this opportunity.”

For more information, contact Moulton by email at tmoulton@cvsdvt.org.

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