Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present in the moment. There is no wrong way to be mindful, nor any right way. It merely involves accepting the world and one’s self in the condition of the moment. This is a simple concept in theory that is challenging to understand in high-stress times. Luckily, AmeriCorps State member Pamela Salen sat down with us recently on our podcast Mindfulness In the Classroom to help guide all listeners to understanding.
Pamela holds an AAS, BFA, and Ph.D. in Visual Communication Design and a Diploma in Psychology and Well Being. She joined our team as a Mindfulness Coordinator with El Rio Health as an AmeriCorps State volunteer. Through El Rio Health, she obtained a Mindfulness Instructor certification to teach the “Create a Healthy Tomorrow: Stress Strategies for Children” curriculum. During her service, she has taught third, fourth, seventh and eighth-grade students at four schools in Tucson and is currently teaching second and third-grade students at two Tucson schools. Because there is so much to discuss about this topic, we followed up with her to chat more about how mindfulness has influenced her career as an artist and academic and what brought her to AmeriCorps.
Arizona Serve: What is your background in Mindfulness both as a practitioner and academic?
Pamela: Mindfulness is a practice of observation and shifting our attention and awareness back to our core truth, our body. For the past 20 years, through formal and informal art and design education, I have been learning how to see, notice, and investigate the inter-connectedness between the internal and external experiences of life. My 2015 thesis “The Novel Encounter: Visualizing Memories of Home” explored the complex relationship between place, memory, factual documentation, and visual narratives. My recent education in Positive Psychology and Wellbeing put in motion my focus and passion to help others re-learn how to see and savor that sense of wonderment when we first notice or become aware of something new. Every moment presents itself an opportunity to pause and really observe through our senses what is happening without judgment, but with openness and curiosity.
Why did you decide to take the step to join AmeriCorps?
After nearly a decade of living in Australia, I moved back to the US in April 2019 and to Tucson in August 2019. I’m in a state of transition and shifting my career objectives toward a focus on well being by using my skills and knowledge to do deeper meaningful and purposeful work. The timing feels right. I feel it’s important to support and serve the community by my giving time and my sharing skills. I was immediately attracted to the Mindfulness Coordinator opportunity as it aligns with my values to be a positive influence and to make a positive difference to children’s lives with the ripple effect of family and community life.
To hear more and get a small taste of mindfulness in practice, HERE
In a few short months, Pamela has practiced Mindfulness with third graders at Santa Clara Elementary School and seventh and eighth graders at Challenger Middle school. Of the 25 third graders, Pamela says, “ I observed an increased level of engagement, attentiveness, and self-regulation. Several students stood out as positively benefiting from the lessons and activities.” Of the Challenger students, 71 percent indicated that the lessons had stuck and that they would use one or more mindfulness techniques that they learned. These observations dovetail with a growing body of research that finds that mindfulness in the classroom
- Has a positive impact on psycho-social health and well-being: depression, anxiety, stress
- Improves self-regulation
- Enhances impact on relationship skills, empathy, self-compassion and self-care
- Improves the ability to aim and sustain the attention
- Enhances various aspects of executive function
- Helps develop meta-cognition skills
- Improves measured academic performance
To read more about Mindfulness in the classroom, visit Mindfulness in Schools.
Pamela Salen is a creative practitioner and mindfulness instructor and coach. Her image making practice includes: analogue and digital photography, ink drawings, artists’ books, paper sculptures, rock art, and collage that capture emotional and psychological aspects of the everyday and as a new way of seeing and reconstructing experiences. From 2010 to 2019, Pamela was working as a Lecturer in the Design Department at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. She taught the fundamentals of design to advanced design concepts, creative thinking and problem-solving classes, and play-based learning workshops.