MakerMinds: An exploration of making and mindfulness pedagogies
Edmundson Kistruck, Joanne
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In this doctoral research, I explore how making and mindfulness pedagogies interact when carried out in a single curricular intervention (MakerMinds) and, in particular, how making works to engage students in mindfulness content and encourage their independent use of mindfulness tools. Using an ethnographically informed approach to research, I report on the experiences of 24 grade four students in MakerMinds, an eight-week long school-based program blending mindfulness training with maker education implemented at a local elementary school in April and May of 2019. As mindfulness has been used for several decades in clinical and non-clinical settings to promote mental health, there now exists an extensive peer-reviewed empirical literature on the many potential benefits of mindfulness-based programs. Schools provide an ideal venue through which to promote mental wellness, and currently there is increased interest among educators and administrators in providing mindfulness-based programming within school contexts. However, related research with school-aged children is limited and the problem of how to engage them fully in mindfulness programming remains open. The purpose of MakerMinds is to engage young students in mindfulness by integrating mindfulness content with the constructionist approach to learning found in makerspaces. Weaving together these disparate pedagogies challenges traditional mindfulness training methods, immerses students in deeply creative work, and encourages them to practise using mindfulness tools while making life-sized human models that both reflect and develop their understanding of how those tools work. Qualitative data from multiple sources revealed a range of positive responses to the program, as well as a number of insights into the potential benefits of this unique combination. The program was successful in engaging students in mindfulness content and encouraging their application of mindfulness tools as needed in their daily lives. It also positively impacted their conceptual and experiential knowledge of mindfulness and helped students to develop an agentic awareness of themselves as persistent, problem-solving makers and nascent mindfulness practitioners. I conclude this dissertation with a discussion of the programs limitations and the challenges of successfully implementing makerspace pedagogy and mindfulness training in any school setting.