With childhood anxiety levels at record highs, Marblehead students are experiencing more zen in their school days thanks to Inner Explorer, a mindfulness program funded by the Rotary Club of Marblehead.
“I really like it because it is calming and refreshing,” said Penny, a first-grader at the Brown School.
One of her favorite Inner Explorer practices is the Shark Fin, a breathing exercise.
So far this school year, students in kindergarten through high school have participated in about 500 “mindful minutes,” according to Assistant Superintendent for Learning Julia Ferreira.
“We use Inner Explorer daily in our classroom right after lunch as a way to calm down and refocus before starting our academics again,” said Rachel Leavitt, a Brown School teacher. “They have learned the routine well and go to their seats right away when they see the lesson open. They enjoy singing the song at the end. The students are happy after using the app.”
A teacher at Veterans Middle School reported using Inner Explorer after lunch to assist students in “resetting” and also doing some guided breathing with student athletes.
Inner Explorer launched in 2011 and is now in 3,500 schools around the country. Co-founder Laura Bakosh came to speak to the Rotary last month. The program is geared exclusively to schools, with mindfulness practices customized to specific ages. The video and audio exercises are played on classroom smart boards and run five to 10 minutes.
“With 10 minutes a day, we can change the trajectory of the lives of children,” Bakosh said.
Schools that use Inner Explorer report better attendance and fewer suspensions, according to Bakosh. She shared statistics suggesting a significant, measurable reduction in stress and anxiety and improvements in behavior and academic achievement among students and schools who use the program.
“Kids are more compassionate, kinder and connected to one another,” Bakosh added.
Town Moderator Jack Attridge, who was at the Rotary meeting, said he has been using Inner Explorer and seen the results.
“I started practicing and it’s amazing. You miss it when you don’t do it,” he said. “It’s a foundational tool we all need in our lives.”
The Rotary’s Nancy Archer Gwin brought Inner Explorer to Marblehead.
“We wanted to find a way to reach as many and help as many children develop a skill set to deal with stress and anxiety,” she said. “As a club of like-minded people, we felt we all share in the responsibility to our kids, to help take care of young people’s mental health and well-being.”
Rotary Club of Marblehead is funding the Inner Explorer program for Marblehead schools at the cost of about $18,000 a year.
It is holding a 5K for Mental Health on Sunday, Nov. 5, at 11 a.m., to help raise money to keep the program going. Learn more at marbleheadrotary.com.