Minds On Learning

Mindfulness Programs in Schools


What is Mindfulness?

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally" -Jon Kabat-Zinn

Why do we keep hearing about it?

  • Our students are witnessing/experiencing trauma and stress.
  • We have more students who are experiencing poverty: which can be the equivalent of toxic stress.
  • Even children from affluent households are experiencing high levels of stress.
  • Our external and virtual environments create distraction and overload.
  • With stress, the brain is altered, impairing learning and impacting behavior.
  • We know more about how the brain works.
  • The adults in our children's lives are stressed. Many of us live "in our heads."
  • In some cases, our school environment, routines, and procedures exacerbate stress.

What we know about stress

Stress negatively impacts the brain!

  • Affects the Hippocampus, which regulates emotions, and plays an important role in learning & memory
  • Causes the Amygdala to become over-reactive
  • Impacts development of Prefrontal Cortex, which is responsible for attention, problem-solving, planning, & self-regulation.
"Just Breathe" by Julie Bayer Salzman & Josh Salzman (Wavecrest Films)

How Can a Mindfulness Practice Impact Educators?

"For teachers, who are directly exposed to a large number of young people with trauma in their work, a secondary type of trauma, known as vicarious trauma, is a big risk." —Emelina Minero

"Teaching can be a stressful job — and so can being a principal. Practicing mindfulness can serve as a valuable antidote to the stress many educators experience in juggling the competing demands common during the school day. Patricia A. Jennings’s study on the CARE for Teachers program, published this year, suggests that mindfulness-based interventions can “increase teacher social and emotional competence and the quality of classroom interactions.” Mindfulness practice has also been shown to alter the brain structure of practitioners in positive ways, improve concentration and emotional self-regulation, and decrease burnout symptoms, among many other benefits."

Excerpt from NY Times Mindfulness for Educators

Why Practice Mindfulness with Students?


A number of studies have identified the psychological benefits, as well as positive changes to the brain. Research on academic improvement is emerging, as this article indicates. Implementing a consistent mindfulness program can:

  • Improve classroom climate -engagement, attention, participation, social behavior
  • Improve academic performance - focus, cognitive skills/executive function/working memory
  • Provide more self-control, self-awareness & insight
  • Reduce symptoms related to stress, anxiety & depression
  • Reduce test anxiety
  • Reduce suspension rates & teacher turnover
  • Reduce ADHD symptoms & hyperactivity

“We know that it is essential to teach students reading knowledge, skills, and strategies explicitly, but too often we forget that it is also essential to develop students’ curiosity, compassion, courage, and other personal and social values..." —Nell K. Duke, University of Michigan

What if...

  • We could see mindfulness as naturally integrated into our literacy programs? Into learning? Reading can be the gateway to building empathy, understanding, a sense of self, emotional resilience!

  • In each classroom?

  • What if we embedded qualities of "super-readers"

    • Belonging

    • Curiosity

    • Friendship

    • Kindness

    • Confidence

    • Courage

    • Hope

mindfully into our classrooms and reading programs? If we want students who read and learn with intention, confidence, and persistence; with stamina and reflection, we have to teach them how.

What might it look like?

  • Mindful Moment during morning announcements (or throughout day)

  • Short, inexpensive

  • Integration in PE/Health, advisory, or other elective

  • Integration into Positive Behavior Support/Restorative Practices

  • Natural integration into classroom culture in all content areas

  • Lessons/activities for attention, emotional control, positive self-concept, positive interactions

  • Might include yoga and stretching

  • Lunch or After School Club

What ideas do you have?

How do we get started?

There are a number of ways to get started, depending upon whether you are an individual teacher or are an administrator planning a more comprehensive building-wide initiative. My initial advice is to start small, and take your time. Think pilot, do your homework. Lead with the willing, provide experiences, and simply communicate to all stakeholders!

Helpful Resources


Programs & Resources for Working with Students


Mindful Schools

Mindful Teachers


Still Quiet Place

Kids Yoga Monthly

Navigating Social & Emotional Learning from the Inside Out This elementary-based report by the Wallace Foundation provides guidance on program adoption, highlighting 25 leading SEL resources, including MindUp.

Mindfulness Articles & Information

Information, research, examples, and strategies relative to the benefits of mindfulness practices in the educational setting, particularly in K-12 schools.

The Crim Foundation

Provides resources and training in mindfulness and yoga for classrooms.

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