The second Habit of Heart is Be Grateful and we know that focussing on an ‘attitude of gratitude’ can be transformative for our students and indeed our schools.

Linking ‘Gratitude’ and ‘Mindfulness’ can open up great opportunities for powerful teaching in your school. Here is an idea to foster creativity, collaboration and prosocial awareness.


This idea comes to us from 2 of my favourite places – The Greater Good Science Centre, Berkeley (where I attended the Summer Institute in 2017) and The Centre for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin- Madison. Together, these universities developed a mindful photography curriculum study.

Most students in our schools have access to iPads, cameras, phones, tablets or laptops. Imagine using our devices to reawaken a sense of wonder and gratitude as we take time to look at our world, focussing on the present.

According to Jon Kabat Zinn, “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

Students can be encouraged to pause, notice and be present in the moment. We can teach them to practise non-judgemental awareness as they explore their school environment. We can enable our students to reflect on the things that bring them joy – and photograph them!

Teachers could open up this activity in a range of ways depending on the needs of the students.

Photographs could be

  • shared on Assembly during a quiet time of reflection.
  • used in a journal for reflection
  • part of an art or creative lesson
  • part of a ‘Thank You’ list
  • used to create prayer spaces
  • part of an RE Unit on Creation
  • used in a photography club to foster friendship, belonging and connection – maybe a sort of school RE Instagram page or similar

Linking mindfulness and photography could be a powerful tool to reawaken a sense of wonder and joy in your student body.  Link this to your religious education programme or your Chapel programme and you have abounding opportunities for fostering positive emotions and developing a sense of connection and belonging.

What is more, fostering a mindful photography practice that develops an attitude of gratitude and feelings of joy and appreciation is something that can last an entire lifetime. What a gift for our students!

“We often rush through our busy lives without truly noticing or appreciating all the beauty that surrounds us. As the Centre found, mindful photography is a creative way to cultivate focus, deep seeing, and gratitude that both students and adults can carry with them into the rest of their lives.” Emily Campbell