Our terrific Kidspace intern Amanda contributes this blog about her experience here since September:
It was hard to imagine six months ago, during the stress of final exams and scrambling for post-graduation plans, that my first full-time gig as a college graduate would have turned out to be so relaxing. Especially when I was looking only at jobs that involved working with kids.
But here I am, listening to ocean sounds all day long at my desk. And Iâ€™ve been meditating more often in this past month than I have in my entire life. Did I mention that this counts as work?
My newfound internal serenity is thanks to the theme of Kidspaceâ€™s current exhibition, Under the Sea. More specifically, thanks to the work of one of the featured artists: Deborah Wing-Sproul. (For some reason Johnston Fosterâ€™s Life Psychotic seriesÂ which features three large, menacing sharks with very threatening teeth, inspires a somewhat less peaceful mood, however much I admire it.)
Wing-Sproulâ€™s Tidal Culture Part III: Latitude 65.570N/Longitude-37.890W (Greenland)Â is an hour-long video that plays on loop in the gallery throughout the day and is the source of the soothing ocean noises. I know now that should I ever have problems sleeping, listening to ocean noises are definitely NOT the way to go. They would definitely prove counter-productive, most likely inspiring me to wake up and get some work done out of habit rather than successfully inducing sleep.
Yet itâ€™s not so much the gentle waves that have inspired my sense of calm so much as the introduction of â€śmindfulness practiceâ€ť into my work routine. During our school tours, thereâ€™s a moment when the ink is drying on the studentsâ€™ art projects and we lead them behind the black curtain to the movie area. More often than not theyâ€™ve been eyeing this part of the gallery from the start, tempted by the sounds and visions of what might lie behind the curtain. Thereâ€™s usually a moment of disappointment, however, as the students discover that this is not exactly an action-adventure movie, followed by questions like: â€śThis is the movie?â€ť â€śWhen does it start?â€ť â€śYou mean nothing happens???â€ť
But then something does happen, though not in the movie itself. Something almost magical. We ask them to sit up tall, take a deep breath, and then remain still for sixty seconds. When the minute is up, the group dynamic has shifted a little: middle schoolers who might have been just a little too cool to talk about the other artworks interrupt each other excitedly to share their experiences, and rowdy students with attention deficit problems ask to try it again, but this time for longer (the record so far is five minutes. Five minutes of still and silent 4th-graders! When was the last time you sat without checking your phone or scratching an itch or adjusting your weight for five whole minutes?). One girl even announced that her kneeâ€”which had been injured from slipping in the ice while trick-or-treating this snowy Halloween â€“didnâ€™t hurt anymore while she was meditating. (Check out this article if you donâ€™t believe me that this works!)
I donâ€™t think weâ€™ll ever make it up to the full hour that Wing-Sproul commits to her meditationâ€”our school groups are only here for two hours after allâ€”but Iâ€™d wager that, based on how this mindfulness practice has helped clear my own head, itâ€™s helping our students focus better and become more stress-free, too.