Minds On Learning
Mindfulness Programs in Schools
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.
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
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
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"
What might it look like?
Mindful Moment during morning announcements (or throughout day)
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!
- Article: Implementing a Schoolwide Mindfulness Program
- Book: Cultivating Mindfulness in the Classroom
- Webinar: Building Sustainable Mindfulness Programs in Schools with the Flint, MI Crim Fitness Foundation’s Program Director of Mindfulness, Sarah Sullivan; Program Manager of Mindfulness, Tom Hauer; and Yoga Ed. CEO Brynne Caleda (43 minutes, May 2017)
- New York Times: Mindfulness for Children
- Is Mindfulness Meditation Good for Kids? Brian Resnick's thoughtful and thorough article regarding evidence vs. hype. Great questions for parents to ask regarding Mindfulness Programming.
Books for Use with Students
Programs & Resources for Working with Students
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.
Information, research, examples, and strategies relative to the benefits of mindfulness practices in the educational setting, particularly in K-12 schools.
Huffington Post: Schools Use Mindfulness to Reform Student Behavior
Mindful Magazine: How to Avoid a Poorly Designed School Mindfulness Program