Nicola Bone brings the art of mindfulness to our local Brisbane schools!

We are on a mission to deliver one million mindful minutes by the end of 2020 - Nicole Bone, Sound Off For Schools.

Meet Nicola the inspiring Founder of Sound Off For Schools! A passionate teacher making waves in our Australian educational system!

Meet Nicola the inspiring Founder of Sound Off For Schools! A passionate teacher making waves in our Australian educational system!

At Mini HQ we are passionate advocates of mental health and wellness. Our personal self-care practices include yoga, meditation and mindfulness exercises, and we have seen firsthand the benefits these can bring to daily life.

That’s why we knew that high school English teacher Nicola Bone, and her passion project, Sound Off for Kids, would be the perfect partner for Mini and our families. Nicola is changing the face of education by bringing mindfulness, contemplation and calm into the school environment.

Mini caught up with Nicola covering topics about mental health, mindfulness, education and how to implement mindfulness practices in our own homes.

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Nicola, tell us… what is Sound Off for Schools?

Sound Off for Schools is a mindfulness education program for students and teachers. It delivers practical and engaging strategies and practices through wireless headphone technology to help young people and educators carve out deliberate time and space to be calm, to contemplate and to learn the skill of being present.

What prompted you to start working with mindfulness?

The program started in my own classroom where I witnessed so many of my students struggling with the crippling effects of mental illness and, therefore, unable to learn, grow or thrive in a classroom environment.

I started with students in my high school English classes by beginning each lesson with six minutes of mindful meditation and breathing. Over time this allowed students to settle, clear their minds of worry or stress and gain clarity for learning.

How can mindfulness help kids?

In Australia currently one in seven young people aged 4-17 suffers from mental illness. This can cause hyper stimulation of the brain’s limbic system leading to the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ reaction. When this part of the brain is stimulated, the frontal lobe, which controls executive function (essential for focus, attention and learning) is offline.

The Sound Off for Schools program combines scientifically proven practices in cognitive neuroscience, educational psychology and pedagogical teaching to teach young people strategies to become more aware of their cognitive habits. They are empowered by knowing that their thoughts, at any given time, are a choice, and they can begin to navigate their way through the complex world they are growing up in.

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What is your mission at Sound Off for Schools?

Over the past 18 months, we have reached over 6,015 young people and teachers to cultivate over 342,760 mindful minutes in 51 schools. We are on a mission to deliver one million mindful minutes by the end of 2020.

Where can Mini families find your program?

Families can request an information pack via our website or bring the program to their P&F group meetings and suggest that their school implement it. Parents can also arrange a fundraiser event for their school that includes a Sound Off for Schools experience.

What are some ways our families can implement mindfulness practices in their homes?

Mindfulness practices can be implemented in the home as a daily ritual and time for reflection and calm. I would suggest starting out with a simple breathing time upon waking or before story time at night. Have your child place their right hand gently on the base of the belly, with the left hand resting on the heart and with their eyes closed, take three to 10 deep belly breaths (long and steady).

For older or more experienced children, a meditation ritual can be created using a candle, essential oils, poems or a family gratitude jar. The challenge is to make it a daily routine so that the practice becomes part of the family schedule.

What goals do you have for Sound Off for Schools in the future?

Phase 1: One million mindful minutes by the end of 2020.

Phase 2: Digitised content of the program for rural and remote schools to access all content by 2021.

Phase 3: By 2025, every student in every classroom in Australia picks up their own set of wireless headphones at the start of the school year, much like a textbook, to begin each school day with mindful moments to prepare the brain for learning.

Join Nicola by enlisting a school and becoming part of one million mindful minutes by the end of 2020. Reach out here or contact our team at mini Nanny Agency here, and we can hook you up!

Meet Jess Mcilveen of Kids Yoga Therapy: an incredible resource for kids with special needs

‘I am here to revolutionise the way we heal and transform the minds and lives of our children and teens with special needs and who’ve been affected by trauma.’ – Jess Mcilveen, Owner of Kids Yoga Therapy

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At mini Nanny Agency we understand the varied dynamics that can exist in different families, including the unique challenges (and joys!) that families with special needs children often face.

That means we are always on the look out for incredible resources for our mini families, and Jess, of Kids Yoga Therapy is one of the best out there! As a social worker and an incredible yogi, she’s tuned into the needs of kids who may struggle with anxiety, have special needs or been affected by trauma.

Here’s Jess’ story.

How did you find yourself as a social worker AND a yoga instructor?

As a child I was surrounded by depression, anxiety, suicide and addiction, which left me feeling helpless. This ultimately led me to becoming a social worker, as I wanted to be the guiding force for children who felt lost and alone.

After a few years working in Child Safety and Foster Care I realised that the services we were using weren’t teaching children techniques that could help them when they felt scared, fearful or angry.

About this time I started to have anxiety and panic attacks, which was utterly terrifying for me. I didn’t want to take medication so I committed to daily meditation and yoga. I was absolutely astounded when after a week and a half the scary sensations disappeared!

While travelling in Italy I came to the realisation that I no longer wanted to be a social worker. One day a friend said to me, ‘Why don’t you do yoga and meditation with the children you want to work with?’ My head began spinning. Could I really do that?

After some intense research, I booked my flights and enrolled in a Children’s Yoga Course. Kids Yoga Therapy was born two months later.

What impact has yoga had in your life?

When I started experiencing panic and anxiety attacks, I was terrified. I couldn’t eat, sleep or function and I was too scared to be alone with my thoughts.

Yoga and meditation absolutely changed my life. Once I started regularly practicing, the scary sensations disappeared. And now, when they show up again, I have tools that I trust and that I know work.

After my experience, I went through all the research available on the impacts of yoga and medication for special needs and trauma and it’s conclusive – it helps!


How do yoga and social work complement each other?

As a social worker I want to empower people to find solutions that work for them so they can live their best life possible, regardless of what they have experienced. Yoga complements this because it’s about finding the solutions within yourself.


How can yoga help kids who suffer from anxiety or trauma, or who have other special needs?

Yoga helps kids by reconnecting them with their bodies and bringing them back to the present moment. Yoga also works with breath, which is crucial in strengthening the relaxation response in the nervous system. This response is weakened when children have experienced trauma or anxiety.

Anxiety is future focussed, so bringing children back to the present moment with their body and breath helps reduce the anxious state of body and mind.


What kinds of programs does Kids Yoga Therapy offer?

Our main program is an eight-week whole family support package. This includes one-on-one sessions with the child, and access to the Parent Support Collective, which is coached by myself.


What impact has Kids Yoga Therapy had on your families?

The techniques I teach help kids face their fears. For example, a child who was attacked by a dog can now walk into a house with dogs without going into a fear meltdown.

We have also been able to help children who struggled to communicate their feelings find new methods to do so. And foster children who have participated in our programs now have learning tools to help them when they feel overwhelmed by the unpredictability in their world.


What is the most rewarding part of being a yoga teacher and working with kids?

Seeing children’s proud happy faces when they tell me how brave they have been in situations that previously would have left them overwhelmed with fear, and being able to support families during times of turmoil – these are the things that make me feel fulfilled as a yoga teacher and a social worker. Plus, working with children brings out my inner child, which I love!

If you’d like to know more about how Jess can help you or your family, she’d love to hear from you. Reach out here. And we always love to hear from our mini families at mini too! Drop us a line or give us a ring for a chat anytime!