A group of Ladysmith Intermediate students taking part in the Mindful Expressions video series. (Submitted photo)

A group of Ladysmith Intermediate students taking part in the Mindful Expressions video series. (Submitted photo)

Vancouver Island school and artist introducing students to mindfulness

Ladysmith artist Jessica Lowry created a series of 36 videos to help students learn the practice

A Vancouver Island school and a Vancouver Island artist are combining to give students a ‘mindfulness toolbox’ to combat stress induced by the pandemic.

Ladysmith artist Jessica Lowry received an Artist in the Classroom Grant from ArtStarts, a charitable organization that expands the role of art in education to activate learning and nurture creativity in British Columbia’s young people.

Due to COVID-19, Lowry cannot be physically present in the classroom, so she created a series of 36 videos on mindful expression to help students cultivate a sense of calmness and kind awareness. Lowry only received funding to create 18 videos, but she decided to double the amount.

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“I really wanted it to be accessible and flexible to every classroom, and every teacher. So, if a short, engaging, three minute meditation was valuable to a teacher they could repeat that. If that wasn’t working for them, they could go on to the next video and see how that worked,” Lowry said. “I wanted to make sure there was enough there that students and teachers had something to grab on to.”

The videos meet cross-curricular education goals, teaching students language arts, fine arts, and physical education.

Lowry blends her experience as a classically trained actress with her experience as a certified Iyengar yoga teacher to make mindfulness practices accessible to students.

There are two categories of videos: character study, and mindful movement. The mindful movement videos help students understand their bodies ‘as an instrument’, and get them grounded before they work on the character study. The character study videos task students with creating their own characters, and studying fictional characters.

“There’s an active journaling component after every exercise so the kids can have something tangible that’s their own. It’s not meant to be marked or graded,” Lowry said. “I wanted to create something for the kids that was about process over product, especially during this particularly stressful time.”

Ladysmith Intermediate School (LIS) teacher, Kimberley Greenwood said that students have been more stressed out during the pandemic.

“Right now students are stressed about COVID. Even things like remembering their mask before going to the grocery store, how often they have to wash their hands, how often they have to hand sanitize. There are things that are not the norm right now,” she said.

“It all depends on the family’s demographic, but yes there’s absolutely students who are a lot more stressed.”

Greenwood said program has proven to be effective even though LIS students have only been participating for two weeks. Greenwood said she believes the program can help build connections and friendships among the students.

“I’m hoping that this will give the students something in common to chat about on the playground,” she said. “If teachers are doing this before students go home, maybe their energy levels will be a bit more calm — or during transition times, if the morning is a bit harder as students transition to school, this is a tool students can use to help them.”

LIS teaches grades four to seven, and roughly 300 students will be taking part in the Mindful Expression program until the end of June.

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