Mindful brains in schools
This entry has been selected as a finalist in the
Activating Empathy: Transforming Schools To Teach What Matters competition.
This project also has a Changeshop where you can read more about its latest progress.
Go to Changeshop: Mindful brains in schools.
Mind-controlled video games for learning meditation & compassion.
About Your Organization
United States, CA, Berkeley, Alameda County
Country where this project is creating social impact
United States, CA, Palo Alto, Santa Clara County
Is your organization a
Your role in Education
The type of school(s) your solution is affiliated with
How long has your organization been operating?
Less than a year
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Select the stage that best applies to your solution
Start-Up (a pilot that has just begun operating)
How long has your solution been in operation?
Operating for less than a year
The Need: What problem are you trying to solve?
Traumatic stress affects millions of students in a culture where bullying, fear and issues with self-esteem are far too commonplace. Over a period of months and years, chronic stress can lead to stunted academic achievement and poorer physical and mental health outcomes.
The Solution: What is your solution? Be specific!
Mindfulness and meditation are scientifically validated tools for resolving many of the issues in teen lives most difficult to address through traditional pedagogy. Unfortunately, the practice of mindfulness is completely absent from mainstream youth culture. Current attempts to use popular media to encourage meditation training amongst teens has been viewed as out-of-touch with modern entertainment standards and largely rejected by youth.
Rather than taking existing video game designs and attempting to “chocolate coat” didactic material into them, we bring experience with emerging technologies that can be used to create entirely new genres of video games that are both completely novel experiences to youth and naturally lend themselves to training mindfulness. By designing video games that use E.E.G. brainmapping technology as the primary input device, rather than a traditional hand-controlled console controller, we can create first-class entertainment games.
The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include your primary activities
Kids can play these “mindful games” either at home, after school or in a traditional classroom environment. Users simply put on the headset and load the game application, where their environment and progress is then controlled by their mental states. Current early prototypes using this technology include Star Wars themes where Jedi control of objects is based on the player’s concentration levels. Anthropomorphic flora that grows and responds to a player’s para-sympathetic nervous system. Characters that only respond favorably when the player approaches them in a mental state proven correlated with compassion and empathy. By attaching these and other novel mechanics to interactive game worlds, we can sculpt the players experience to bring them into a range of positive mental states.
The headset reads the child’s attention/meditation levels on a second-by-second basis, acting as a novel and exciting interface into the mindfulness game. After the game play is finished, or assigned “homework” levels have been completed, teachers can optionally review the students attention and meditation scores to make sure they are engaging and benefiting from the application fully, helping them learn alternative focus and mindfulness techniques if necessary.
The Marketplace: Who are your peers and competitors? Identify others also working to address the needs you are and what differentiates you from them. What challenges could these players pose to your success or growth?
companies like emindful.com offer MBSR or mindfulness-based stress reduction courses to adults, and various neurofeedback clinics offer meditation and attention training to kids, but no one offers it to them directly and in a medium (games) that they understand.
Now that you have thought out your entry, help us pitch it.
Define your company, program, service, or product in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]
We are a mindfulness and attention game for kids that comes with a brain-sensing headset.
Identify what is innovative about your solution in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]
We use cutting edge brain-state sensing technology, built with advisors from Stanford, UCSF and Brown University, to create fun games.
This Entry is about (Issues)
What has been the impact of your solution to date?
We have begun planning early pilots at local Bay Area locations, but are early in the process and have no concrete results yet.
What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?
We want to teach how to be more present, aware and mindful to kids around the country in a scalable, economically self-sufficient way. There's no reason to stop with kids, though- adults too could benefit from the decreased stress and anxiety that have been shown through scientific research of mindfulness, particularly mindfulness based stress reduction.
What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?
The hardware to sense the brainwaves costs approximately $100 per device. We plan to find ways to subsidize these devices, allowing administrators to buy a dozen devices in bulk, for example, and then re-use them for multiple classes.
Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact
We are planning our first pilots already across the Bay Area, informing our early design and development goals.
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Set up and succesfully complete at least one 8 week mindfulnes course
Analyze data around what worked, what didn't work, and practical implementation details we've learned
Use these early pilots to drive larger, institutionally-backed programs across a broader geographic area.
Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone
Eventually, we believe we can make mindfulness-training games genuinely popular with kids and adults, driving further adoption
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Prove the model
Iterate on the design and game mechanics of the first mindfulness game we've released
Identify which groups to target next, and build a new game or iterate our current one to address that market.
Founding Story: We want to hear about your "Aha!" moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution's potential to change the world [125 words]
In early 2011, Rohan had been doing meditation neuroimaging research at Harvard University in the laboratory of Dr. Sara Lazar. In his spare time, he had been trying to create a mindfulness game on his own with limited success.
One of his meditation lab colleagues happened to be teaching a mindfulness based stress reduction course around the same time. Ravi, who had been working as a research manager in the MIT Teacher Education Program since his master’s work in educational game design, attended the mindfulness course and through the instructor was introduced to Rohan. They both immediately saw the applications of the designs he had been working with for mindfulness games and began collaborating.
Tell us about your partnerships
We have partnered with RockHealth, a Harvard Medical School and Mayo Clinic associated non-profit healthcare seed incubator. www.rockhealth.org
What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section? [75 words]
We already have a team of developers. We would like to be able to hire a child-game professional artist and at least two school counselors or teachers to help us tailor our game to the "real world" of middle and high schools across the country.
Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list