Sen. Durbin learns about Erikson’s mindfulness research

The project in Chicago Public Schools classrooms is reaching more than 2,000 children over four years.

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin observed Erikson Institute’s work in the Chicago Public Schools firsthand during a recent visit to a classroom where our research is exploring whether mindfulness strategies can buffer toxic stress and help students focus on learning.

Assistant Professor Amanda Moreno, PhD, talks with Sen. Dick Durbin at Fiske Elementary School in Chicago.

The research project, led by Assistant Professor Amanda Moreno, PhD, will reach more than 2,000 children in high-poverty schools over four years.

The classroom lesson Durbin observed was about helping children feel a sense of belonging at school, underscoring the idea that school can be both hard and fun. He joined in, talking about how passing laws is also difficult and fun, and listened to the teacher lead a mindfulness technique that helps children remember they are not alone when school feels hard. The event took place at Fiske Elementary School in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood.

“I would say our efforts with mindfulness and social emotional learning fit with Sen. Durbin’s vision for preventing and mitigating trauma in children, families, and schools,” Dr. Moreno said. “He was clearly watching the kids carefully, and was concerned with how to make sure that kids who have directly experienced trauma get the extra help they need.”

The mindfulness research project, funded by the U.S. Department of Education and other Chicago-area donors, is being conducted with help from the Luster Learning Institute, designers of the Calm Classroom program being used in the study.

After watching the class, Durbin met with Fiske administrators and teachers, a Chicago Public Schools official, Moreno and Jai Luster, who founded Luster Learning Institute with his wife Joy in 2007.