Written by A Wild Dove | Photographed by Eric White
It all began with three ladies and a passion. In 2001 Anne Desmond, Jennifer Ford and Courtney McDowell sought to follow their dream of bringing yoga to kids by teaching the practice in school gyms and classrooms. At the time they had a smattering of classes in a few public schools. Then 9/11 happened. In the wake of the unimaginable impact the event had on kids nearby, they were asked to teach yoga in 10 schools near Ground Zero to help both students and teachers release stress and manage emotions. From there, Bent on Learning formed. “It was our trigger moment,” said Anne. “We had no plan at the time but rose to the occasion and grew from there.”
Knowing what we know about the benefits of children doing yoga (read: IMMENSE), we sat down with Anne to talk through Bent on Learning and its incredible philosophy...
Bent On Learning - First, we want to reach as many children and teens as possible and schools are the most efficient way for us to do that. More importantly, we want to help schools educate students in the body and heart, as well as the mind, and offer regular opportunities to move, breathe, relax, and connect to their inner lives. Yoga readily connects students to their bodies, hearts and minds, teaches them how to release stress, control thoughts and manage their emotions. Learning these skills is equally as important as learning math and science and is critical to kids' success academically and in life.
A Wild Dove - OK so we think the WORLD of Bent on Learning. Can you describe the program and is there a singular method or philosophy?
THE KIDS SAY IT BEST...
New Design High School
A Wild Dove - What are some of the differences you've seen in children who've gone through the program?
Bent On Learning - In a recent study of our program, 83% of our high school students showed significant gains in positive youth development. While most students showed improvement in self-management and positive identity, which we could expect from a weekly yoga program, the most dramatic change was seen in academic self-efficacy. Meaning that after just one semester of Bent On Learning, students with the lowest confidence in their ability to attain academic success improved the most!
A Wild Dove - Is there any upcoming news or events?
Bent On Learning - We have an event on May 4th, where Ruthie Fraser will share excerpts from her book, Stack Your Bones, and offer simple lessons for body alignment, coordination and awareness that can be done anytime, anywhere. Guests will learn fun ways to befriend their bodies and move with ease throughout their lives. Here is the ticket page with all details: Inneractions.eventbrite.com
A Wild Dove - What's next for Bent on Learning?
Bent On Learning - We currently have 50 schools on our waiting list and are gearing up for significant growth in the next three to five years. We are hiring a new Director of Development and will be launching a growth campaign in the very near future!
A Wild Dove - That’s incredible! So tell us, how can readers get involved and support the program?
Bent On Learning - They can visit our website at bentonlearning.org to join our mailing list or make a donation. They can also contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to share ideas on how they'd like to get involved. We currently have openings on our board and are always looking to grow our junior board, the Yoga Professionals Committee.