Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”- Artisotle

HeartFirst Education is a new organization whose mission is to educate the whole child, heart first. Our current education system focuses far too much on educating the mind and far too little on educating the heart. Schools once relied on families and churches to address matters of the heart, but in today’s society that is no longer effective as many children live in broken families struggling with addiction, mental illness, incarceration and the list goes on and on. If we want to bring up our children as conscious, kind, and conscientious human beings, then we need to teach these things with as great of emphasis as we do math, science, and language arts.

The Dalai Lama also feels this is the missing piece in education:

My wish is that, one day, formal education will pay attention to the education of the heart, teaching love, compassion, justice, forgiveness, mindfulness, tolerance and peace. This education is necessary, from kindergarten to secondary schools and universities. I mean social, emotional and ethical learning. We need a worldwide initiative for educating heart and mind in this modern age.

At present our educational systems are oriented mainly toward material values and training one’s understanding. But reality teaches us that we do not come to reason through understanding alone. We should place greater emphasis on inner values.”

Fortunately, mindfulness practices and social and emotional learning (SEL) practices are now being implemented in schools across the nation with positive results. Research indicates that social and emotional learning programs do not take away from traditional academics. In fact, they improve it. Students who were exposed to SEL had an 11% rise in academic scores. Mindfulness implementations in schools have also shown promise for academic success with research indicating that both high risk and general education students exposed to mindfulness showed improved academic performance and school attendance.

Other scientifically proven benefits of mindfulness and SEL programs in schools include:

  •         Improved attention span.
  •         Increased compassion.
  •         Greater impulse control.
  •         Reduced stress.
  •         Strengthened inner resilience.
  •         Decrease in attention deficit issues.
  •         Improved overall health and well-being.
  •         Decrease in depression, anxiety, and hostile behavior.
  •         Improved relationships and social skills.
  •         Increased optimism and positive emotions.
  •         More successful later in life.

Our education system today also focuses heavily on abstract concepts while children are taught very little about connecting to the natural world around them and engaging in practices to help nurture and sustain it for future generations. HeartFirst Education believes in getting children outdoors as much as possible and teaching them to connect with their environment and preserve it.

Here are some fast facts about children today and nature (courtesy of the National Wildlife Federation):

  •         Children are spending half as much time outdoors as they did 20 years ago.
  •         Children who play outside are more physically active, more creative in their play, less aggressive, and show better concentration.
  •         Sixty minutes of daily unstructured free play is essential to children’s physical and mental health.
  •         The most direct route to caring for the environment as an adult is participating in “wild nature activities” before the age of 11.
  •         Kids are only spending minutes each day outdoors whereas screen time is at an all time high with the Average American child spending 5 to 8 hours a day in front of a digital screen.

Did you know?

The Average American child can identify 1000 corporate logos but can’t identify more than a handful of plants and animals native to their region. We’d like to change that!

]“Right now, in the second decade of the 21st century, preparing our students to be good environmental citizens is some of the most important work any of us can do. It is for our children, and our children’s children, and generations yet to come.”

— US Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Sep 2010

HeartFirst Education core values:

Mindfulness   Self-Awareness   Social Awareness  Responsibility Sustainability   Emotional Intelligence Compassion  Kindness Creativity Innovation Technology  Knowledge Community Tolerance Philanthrophy  Wilderness

The mission of HeartFirst education is to help bring whole-child education into every school, starting right here in Appalachia. We want to incorporate mindfulness, social and emotional learning, and environmental education into the classroom! Our goal is to design curriculums and resources for educators and parents as well as to start a charter school in Kentucky with a strong educational emphasis on mindfulness, social and emotional learning, and environmental education.

As they say, ‘It takes a village”. HeartFirst education is actively looking for parents, teachers, educators, therapists, environmentalists, and other professionals with a passion for transforming the educating system who want to help us succeed in our mission. Please reach out by emailing heartfirsteducation@gmail.com