the O P E N S P A C E project

Three innovative approaches to support learning

the OPENSPACE project

"We live in an age of anxiety."  For many children, parents, teachers, EAs and principals, anxiety and stress frame much of our daily reality. Studies point to anxiety as the root of depression, dis-engagement, autism spectrum and a myriad of other conditions. We all know and live the numbers. The OPENSPACE project offers 3 innovative projects to support learning.   ...     ian hepburn creator of the OPENSPACE project

1The 2-Minute Mindfulness Bell recording: designed for broadcast throughout the entire school to meet the need of transition from noisy environments (such as the cafeteria and playground) to the calmness of the classroom.

2Mindfulness Practice for Large Groups: designed for use with individual classes or with the entire school.

3One-to-one work with referred children: designed to support the individual needs of the child - as identified by teachers and the principal.

1      The 2-Minute Mindfulness Bell Recording

Designed for broadcast throughout the entire school to meet the need of transition from noisy environments (such as the cafeteria and playground) to the calmness of the classroom.

  • The recording consists of five pieces of original music intended for broadcast throughout the school at appropriate times during the school day.
  • Each piece begins with a single strike on the Tibetan bowl followed by 8 seconds of silence during which time students put aside work.
  • The students hear “We breathe in…..We breathe out….” spoken four times to the natural rhythm of the breath.
  • This is followed by soft music played at the same tempo as the spoken word.
  • Each piece concludes with a final “We breathe in….We breathe out” and a strike on the Tibetan bowl. Classroom work resumes.
  • The recording is available for purchase as a digital download ($29.95) for use in either USB or CD format.


Kindergarten: "Students respond very well to the routine and regular breathing. Good reminder to pause and breathe”. “Even my little ones look forward to the recording each day”.
Grade One & Two: "Very broad range of levels of engagement, distractibility and excitability; but overall beneficial."
Grade Two-Three & Three: "Really helpful to settle and calm after recess”.
Grade Four-Five (core): "I notice a difference in focus after ‘the Bells’. Would be happy to try this again in September."
Grace Five: "In the past, I would turn lights off, read to them, etc. just to calm them down. I always found the students very 'wound up' after our Wellness Break. I now enjoy the 2-Minute Mindfulness Bell and find it provides a moment of silence. All the students know what is expected of them. Thank you, ian."
Grade Five-Six: "As a re-enforcement - a gong/bell in the classroom as an attention grabber would be something I'd add to next year's routine". “The experience has been positive!”


In response to the question “Did the Bells and music help to make you more calm?”
79% responded YES,     11% responded NO,     8% responded NOT SURE
“I like when we do it (listen to the bells) because it calms me down”.
“I like the music because I feel like it helps me use my imagination”.
“When I hear it I feel good. The bells are the best part of my day”.
A comment from one student: "ahh, I needed that."

55% of kids report using the breathing techniques beyond school time.

Please see the article "Something to think about: Mindfulness in schools changes focus, learning and brings calmness" as published in The Review Newspaper.

Sample Audio Track: Piece #1 of 5 from the "2-Minute Mindfulness Bell"

2     Mindfulness Practice for Large Groups

This is designed to be used with individual classes, or with entire schools as a way of introducing Mindfulness Practice to students and staff. Rather than falling into some vague approach to ‘mindfulness’, O P E N S P A C E instructs students in the actual Practice of being mindful: moment-to-moment throughout each day.

The 20-minute duration is comprised of the following:

  • Directed breathing exercise (5 minutes) to calm and centre participants – “We are Here…and it is Now”...........flows into
  • Tai Chi (5 minutes) exercise for mindful alignment of body, mind, and breath...........flows into
  • Guided Mindfulness Practice (5 minutes) * feeling the Breath * opening to Seeing * opening to Hearing * opening to bodily sensations of Smell, Taste and Touch * awareness of the coming and going of thoughts...........flows into
  • Music Meditation (5 minutes) a time for calmness and reflection – accompanied by harp music
  • Students return to class work
  • Limited only by the size of the practice space available – such as classrooms or gymnasia, indoors or out
  • Limited to the driving proximity of Vankleek Hill


“Ian, I am a big supporter of what you have been doing in the classes. In a world that has to see concrete results sometimes the effects of what you are doing works within the individual and is not always outwardly obvious. I think most of the students appreciate the time spent with you. Thank you for helping to make the lives of the students better."   ...   Grade 8 teacher

“My class really enjoyed the presentation you provided. It most certainly had a positive effect on my students. After the session I could see their energy levels had calmed down and they seemed relaxed. I have attempted some sort of relaxation techniques with my classes every year I have taught. After attending your presentations I have a better idea what to do but I would love more guidance and direction. The private session with TD (one of the students) was a huge success. He often talked about the calming techniques he learned from you – that he would use when he was upset. Thank you again”.   ...   Grade 6 teacher

“Ian, I was very impressed with the class reaction to the Tai Chi/Mindfulness Practice activity. Yes, they did seem very attentive and responded favourably when we discussed it later. I could tell they had been listening to you while you spoke because their comments related to what you had said and done during the session. I also felt that the class atmosphere was calmer after you left”.   ...   Grade 7-8 teacher

“My son really likes it. He likes the Mindfulness and I think it’s really good for him. I’ve noticed a change since the March Break. He is less impatient and irritable. So happy to see the change."   ...   A mother of a grade 9 student taking part in the Mindfulness Practice class

3     One-to-One Work with Children
Referred by Principals and Teachers

Designed around the individual needs of children identified and referred by teachers and the principal. Depending upon the abilities of the child, several approaches are available such as utilizing the calming and centering qualities of the acoustic harp or the physicality of weaving with the Inkle Loom.

The Harp

• Where there is physical capacity, simple playing techniques, patterns and songs are combined with improvisation to give the child a sense of accomplishment and pride.
• If the child has limited motor skills, the harp may be tuned to the pentatonic scale which gives immediate rewards of relaxation and a sense of accomplishment without the more advanced skills required to perform set pieces.
• As stress and anxiety are often limiting factors in a child’s development, Vibroacoustic Harp Therapy may be offered to the child to encourage relaxation and a sense of well-being. For more information please visit:

The Inkle Loom

• With some children, a different approach may be more useful. In this case, children are taught simple weaving techniques using a small Inkle loom. The loom is designed to produce a narrow band of fabric suitable for a guitar strap, wrist band, bookmark, Ninja headband, etc. The simplicity and physicality of the weaving technique is calming and produces a unique article which is kept by the student.

  • Limited to the driving proximity of Vankleek Hill

What one parent wrote to the principal at Grenville Elementary School:

“I would like to thank you for including my son in the Grenville Elementary School harp programme. My son absolutely adores playing the harp and this has not only benefitted him musically, he has more confidence in himself and is proud of what he has accomplished. The thing my son says each Wednesday morning is “Yay! It is harp day!” I am very grateful that he has this opportunity and I hope he will be included in this programme in the years to come”.

Parental consent is required before one-to-one work proceeds.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is your background? My name is ian hepburn. I live in Vankleek Hill, Ontario. I hold Associate of the Royal Conservatory of Music diplomas in Piano Performance and Piano Pedagogy (A.R.C.T.) and have taught piano and harp privately for more than 40 years. I am one of the founders of the Vankleek Hill Music Festival - a registered non-profit organization of private music teachers in the Vankleek Hill area - now in its 30th year. I am also the originator of the Music & Arts Summer Camp - now in its 20th year. For many years, I have been a recording and touring musician with the group Imaginary Heaven. We recorded three CDs with international distribution.

I have been a certified Vibroacoustic Harp Therapy practitioner since 2006 and introduced VAHT to Hawkesbury & District General Hospital (HGH) in 2007 (the first hospital in North America to offer this therapy to patients). In 2008, I was awarded the first ‘Recognition by the Medical Staff’ award at HGH. I have presented numerous ‘Healing Harp’ workshops at Algonquin College in Ottawa, Ontario.

In 2013, I began my work in schools. It has been a fascinating experience and led to the creation of The O P E N S P A C E Project.

In 2017, I completed the ‘Mindful Schools’ course.

In 2018, I embarked upon an exciting collaborative music project which brought together 4 schools representing 3 school boards and two languages - a first for our community.

In a kind of half-life, I am a handweaver and have exhibited my work in solo and group shows across Canada and internationally – receiving the Canadian Guild of Crafts ‘Award for Excellence’ and a First Prize at the Canadian National Exhibition.
Central to my life and work is my two decades of Zen practice. In all things, the question that gets me out of bed in the morning is "What would happen if.....?"

How has your worked evolved in the school system? In 2013, I received a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to support a 2-year whole-school student enrichment project which introduced students to simple harp techniques and improvisation for purposes of relaxation and anxiety reduction. Almost immediately, referrals came from principals and teachers looking for innovative support in their work with students facing a variety of difficulties. This became the central concern of the project.

The work was further enriched in 2015 with the introduction of Mindfulness Practice. Instruction has been given to single classes and, in several cases, to the entire school. Schools include Pleasant Corners Public School and Vankleek Hill Collegiate Institute in Ontario; Grenville Elementary School, Laurentian Elementary School and Lake of Two Mountains High School in Quebec (Click here to view a PDF copy of the article from the Spring 2017 issue of CAP Magazine - Canadian Association of Principals - "Healing Harp & Restorative Drumming - A Pilot Project at Grenville Elementary School").

Expanding further, I composed, recorded and released 'The 2-Minute Mindfulness Bell' recording in October 2017. This was in response to the needs of teachers and students to facilitate the transition between the noisy environments of the cafeteria and playground and to embody the needed calmness of the classroom. As of January 2018, students in four schools (with a combined total of 1000 students) listen to the recording several times a day.

What are the 3 modules and how are they different? Each module is designed for a specific purpose: The 2-Minute Mindfulness Bell recording addresses the transition between noisy environments (cafeteria and playground) and the needed calmness of the classroom and is intended for broadcast throughout the entire school. Mindfulness Practice for Large Groups introduces and encourages the benefits of this practice. It has proved beneficial on both the individual and classroom level. One-to-One work with referred children – has proven its benefits through the building of self-confidence and expanded self-control of individual children. These modules are not mutually exclusive. Several schools offer all three while some several use one or two combined.

Reference is made to Vibroacoustic Harp Therapy, as used in one-to-one work. What is it? VAHT is an energy therapy similar to, yet different from, Acupuncture, Reflexology and others. Within the context of One-to-one work, it is used to relax and calm the individual. For further information, please visit

Can the 2-Minute Mindfulness Bell recording be ordered separately? Yes. The recording may be ordered and used on its own or in conjunction with an introductory session in the school.

the OPENSPACE project
ian hepburn
P.O. Box 731, Vankleek Hill, ON K0B 1R0
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