Many of today’s children spend more time relating to a phone screen than an actual human being. So when it comes to a child’s social-emotional development, this high-tech trend is certainly a cause for concern.
Many experts believe the rise of technology has led to the demise of emotional intelligence – the ability to identify one’s own feelings and the feelings of others. Psychology Today describes excessive technology use as an “external mechanism that disrupts your kid’s ability to be present with his or her thoughts and feelings.”
This reality has struck a nerve in the Beach Cities, particularly with parents in Hermosa Beach City School District. What began last year as a simple conversation between parent Jennifer Buchsbaum and Superintendent Patricia Escalante about the need for enhanced social-emotional programming, has become a multi-stakeholder community initiative: The Hermosa Beach Empathy Project.
The goal? Promote empathy in the classroom in conjunction with the mindfulness lessons currently taught by teachers through Beach Cities Health District’s MindUP program. Since 2011, teachers in the Hermosa, Manhattan and Redondo Beach school districts have been trained by BCHD to deliver the MindUP curriculum, which includes breathing and meditation exercises, lessons on brain function and social-emotional learning.
To bolster its existing program, BCHD is launching a pilot MindUP Parent Volunteer program at Hermosa Valley and Hermosa View schools. Mirroring the format of its acclaimed LiveWell Kids nutrition program in Redondo Beach, BCHD’s MindUP pilot program will also use trained parent docents to reinforce the lessons being delivered by teachers in the classroom.
“The goal of the MindUP Parent Volunteer program is to cultivate a sense of emotional intelligence,” says Ali Steward, BCHD director of youth services. “We know through research that if students are equipped with the behaviors of practicing empathy and social awareness, they can be more resilient to conflicts such as bullying. By including parents in the learning process, we’re setting them up for success.”
The pilot program will add five parent-taught MindUP lessons to 15 currently being taught by teachers. BCHD is responsible for developing the new curriculum and training parent docents like Jennifer Buchsbaum to deliver it in the classroom.
“The opportunity for a parent to participate is invaluable because it helps them connect with their child on a deeper level,” says Buchsbaum, whose daughter is a third grader at Hermosa View. “My daughter loves it when she sees me in her classroom. We both look forward to it. It is a win-win.”
To learn more about MindUP, visit bchd.org/mindup.