Center for Peace Through Culture (CPC) / <b><b>LifeSchool</b>™</b>
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For children and adults, LifeSchool™ deepens the capacity for self-awareness and self-expression, leading to greater confidence, compassion, and creativity.

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CPC's LifeSchool™ Project

The Center for Peace through Culture believes that the best way to build a peaceful world is to develop a society in which all individuals learn the skills to lead mindful, peaceful, and compassionate lives.

The LifeSchool™ program brings this philosophy into schools.

Sadly, today many children live in a culture of too much violence, junk food, and screen time, with too little of the nurturing attention necessary for growing up with a strong sense of self. Too many are traumatized by the time they enter kindergarten.

Teachers are also stressed. Lack of funding, pressure to raise test scores, overwhelming paperwork, long hours with inadequate pay, traumatized students, and the difficulty of balancing work and home life can all contribute to classroom environments fraught with tension, tedium, frustration, disappointment, disconnection, boredom, and more. Since test scores are now the primary standard for evaluating students, teachers often must focus on tedious repetition of basic academics, stripping away opportunities for children to learn about and express themselves, to engage with peers, and to bring curiosity and joy into the classroom.

We believe that teachers are the key to changing classroom culture. Teachers need skills to manage their own stress in order to create a calm and peaceful classroom. They can teach these same skills to students (hundreds over the course of a career), who are then better to grow socially, emotionally, and intellectually.

LifeSchool trains teachers to “put on their own oxygen mask before helping others” by learning the science of the mind-body connection and techniques such as mindfulness, breath awareness, breath control, meditation, nutrition, movement (yoga, Taekwondo, and dance), reflective writing, and more.

Numerous studies have shown that mindfulness training can help both teachers and students regulate their attention and emotions. Many K-12 schools across the country, including all those in Massachusetts, are now required to help their students develop these Social and Emotional Learning skills.

LifeSchool™ trains not only classroom teachers, but subject teachers working across grades, paraprofessionals, principals, counselors, and more. Thus we begin to shift the entire school’s culture. Adults and children discover deepened capacity for self-awareness, self-expression, and self-regulation, all leading to greater confidence, compassion, and creativity. Classrooms become calmer for everyone, and more conducive to learning and performance, with a heightened sense of peace, creativity, and community.

Teachers become role models using skills that empower their students. Teachers are better able to directly address students’ needs with compassion. Teachers and students alike discover increased self-esteem and well-being, and more resilience in dealing with difficult situations. With these changes, teacher burnout is reduced, and job satisfaction and retention increased.

Our unique approach also fosters deep connection among the teachers and students who participate. The program’s impact deepens as we continue to work with each school over years, while teachers hone their skills and reach increasing numbers of students over time. More than just a mindfulness program, LifeSchool™ is a comprehensive approach to supporting skillful living and learning that brings out the best in both students and teachers, so together they can create a safe classroom environment, develop strong physical and psychological self-care, and make shifts that ripple out to benefit their futures, their families, and their communities.

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The Conte Community School Pilot Project

The Conte Community School in Pittsfield, Massachusetts is among the lowest performing 5% of Massachusetts schools. With 379 students and 29 teachers, 85.5% of students are categorized “high needs,” 75.9% are economically disadvantaged, and 14% have disabilities. Parents are often unemployed or suffering from addiction. Children like those in the Conte School are not prepared to learn.

Most professional development programs work with teachers for just a few days, but studies have found that the best way to make lasting lifestyle changes is to work regularly with a small, supportive group. After our immersive learning program during the summer, CPC faculty work with teachers for months on regular mind-body skills groups adapted from an evidence-based model developed by the Center for Mind-Body Medicine.

Teachers make deep lifestyle changes that reduce stress, calm reactions, enliven their teaching, and more. Once teachers have integrated their new skills into their lives, they are ready to focus on integrating these skills into their teaching, both by shifting their behavior and classroom culture, and by working with students to explore the skills their teachers have just learned. For another six months, CPC faculty work closely with teachers to support these processes.

To complement the teachers’ work and reach even more schoolchildren, CPC faculty also join the afterschool program to work with students on mindfulness skills and creativity that nurture the whole person. This gives students the added bonus of learning directly from CPC faculty experienced in the skills their teachers are just beginning to learn and pass on to them.

Optimal learning requires engaging both the right and left brain, so programming for both teachers and students includes movement, artistic expression, and mindfulness practices seamlessly interwoven into intellectual and cognitive development.

Instead of a set curriculum, LifeSchool™ gives each class of students the opportunity to express themselves and the uniqueness of their class by working with their teacher(s) to co-create a project that reflects their values and creates a living, growing, authentic, learning community for all.

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The Compassion Project

The Compassion Project marked the first time the Center for Peace through Culture worked in the schools.

CPC faculty worked closely with a teacher who observed a lack of empathy and compassion in her 5th grade class, to create an integrative project to address the issue.

The project began by building self-compassion, then expanded to compassion toward classmates, and finally to compassion in daily life. The class explored the definition of compassion and practiced active listening, respectful language, and consensus decision-making. They researched famous peacemakers, wrote poems and essays, acted in skits, created prayer flags, and made a compassion tree with each leaf describing an act of compassion witnessed or enacted by a student.

The project culminated in a Compassion Fair with student-designed booths celebrating compassion with younger students in their school. One student in the class wrote about compassion, "It is a force greater than anger or greed. Even the tiniest acts of compassion can make the world a better place… Two minutes may not make a great impact on your life, but it could change someone else's."

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