with Fiona Jensen
This workshop will explore important questions for public school based mindfulness programs. In October 2015, Calmer Choice began navigating challenging waters created by a concerned parent (and school committee member) who very publicly articulated concerns regarding mindfulness being taught in public schools. The specific concerns involved First Amendment issues regarding the separation of church and state, and the potential for harm to students while being taught mindfulness in public schools. With these allegations being aired (with extensive local and some national media coverage), legal action was also threatened. Despite these challenges, Calmer Choice did not lose a single participating school, and in fact, increased both school and community support.
An overwhelming demonstration of support from the community strengthened the resolve of the organization and our commitment to providing mindfully-based social emotional education in public schools. This experience became an opportunity for our growth as Calmer Choice found itself at the forefront of an emerging dialogue regarding the First Amendment and mindfulness education in public schools. Gaining considerable knowledge and expertise through this experience, Calmer Choice would like to share important lessons it has learned for ensuring safety and secularity of its public school programs.
• This will be an engaged interactive workshop with both small group and larger group discussion.
• The workshop is designed to provide participants with an opportunity to explore how their own perspectives and worldview influence their teaching of mindfulness and why understanding this in consideration of the First Amendment is essential when teaching in public schools.
• There will be opportunity for participants to share experiences and ask questions to learn from one another.
Fiona Jensen, OTR/L is the Founder and Executive Director of Calmer Choice, a non-profit organization that provides mindful awareness and social and emotional learning programs to students throughout Barnstable County, Massachusetts. Fiona started Calmer Choice in 2009, in response to the emotional devastation experienced by the community after the tragic death of several Barnstable High School students and graduates. To date, Calmer Choice has reached over 11,000 students in 8 different school districts across Cape Cod. Beyond its work with children and adolescents, Calmer Choice provides programming for parents and educators, and collaborates with researchers at Tufts University and Yale University to establish precedents for the impact of mindful awareness on overall health, wellbeing, and academic performance. A graduate of Tufts University, Fiona is a tireless advocate for children, and was featured in the April 2013 issue of Mindful Magazine, Cape Cod Life and various other publications. In 2014, Fiona Jensen received the Courage of Conscience award on behalf of the Peace Abbey, an international humanitarian award presented to the likes of Mother Theresa and Maya Angelou.
A quote taken from this award reads “Like other recipients of the Courage of Conscience Award, Fiona took a personal challenge and tragedy and transformed a sense of hopelessness and despair into an organization that would address the issues of violence, suicide and self-destructive behaviors in young people.”
Adria Kennedy, MSN, CNP is the Program Director at Calmer Choice. She has been with the organization since 2009, and has been an integral part of creating the vison for the organization, the programing for schools, and the training program for instructors and teachers. She is a board-certified family psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner with MSN from the University of South Alabama. Ms. Kennedy has over 20 years of nursing experience working with families and children in the community, as a school nurse, and in psychiatric clinical practice. Throughout her career Ms. Kennedy has integrated a mindfulness-based approach into all her work. She has served on advisory boards of national, regional and local maternal child health and mental health organizations and views mindfulness education in schools as an important public health intervention. Most importantly, she is a wife, mother of two awesome teenage children, and is loved daily by three dogs and three horses.
Katie Medlar is the Director of School and Community-Based Programming. Katie has been with Calmer Choice since its inception in 2009. She comes to this work with over 18 years of living and learning with mindful awareness. She studied Human Development and Elementary Education at Lesley University and has a background in teaching and education. As a Calmer Choice instructor and trainer, she has worked directly with thousands of children and hundreds of classroom teachers on Cape Cod. Katie’s expertise has been essential in developing and implementing the Calmer Choice curriculum (pre-k- high school), the instructor training program, working with classroom teachers and creating parent programing. She finds immense joy in watching children and adults find connection to themselves and others. Katie feels fortunate to live on Cape Cod, to have raised her two sons, ages 16 and 23 there, and to be part of an organization that cares so deeply about the well-being and future of its beautiful community.